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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Blog posting written by Abby Sophir, Television-Radio ’14, FLEFF Intern, St. Louis, MO
It is hard to believe that FLEFF week has come and gone! Now that I’ve had some time to let the week sink in, several ideas from the films and panels stick out in my mind.
One of these is the question: How does one film in another country without exploiting the native people?
Both Rodrigo Bellott, casting director of Even the Rain, and Jeremy Levine, director of Good Fortune, offered insight into this question.
In Even the Rain, the extras that were cast were from Bolivia, where the film takes place, and many had fought in the water wars themselves. Rather than a bunch of foreigners coming in and telling the Bolivian’s how to portray what happened, the filmmakers listened to what the natives had to say. The director incorporated these people’s ideas and personal experiences into the film to make it more realistic and more of a collaborative effort.
Another thing Bellott mentioned that really caught my attention was that these extras did not want to be paid with cash for their work on the film. Rather, they believed that everyone in the community should benefit-- since those who weren’t acting had to compensate for the childcare and work of those who were. They asked the filmmakers to pay for a water well and other things that would benefit the community as a whole. The people of Cochabamba value community above all else and it was crucial that the film crew respect this request.
After the screening of Good Fortune, directer Jeremy Levine also talked about maintaing good relationships within a community where you are filming. Especially in a circumstance like the one in Kenya, where American companies were coming in and robbing the people of their water, the filmmakers has to be extra careful not to exploit the community and become one of the “bad guys”. In order to do this, they kept their crew extremely small, usually only two people, to eliminate any intimidation factor. They also got the community members involved, having them hold boom microphones and ask questions to those being interviewed.
The sensitivity these filmmakers paid to the local peoples and culture created environments of trust. Without this mutual respect, the production of these extremely powerful films would not have been possible.