After filming in India, we hopped on Jet Airways to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Our assignment — to cover a story on sexual harassment, a common phenomenon in this South East Asian country.
I took a big risk on this mission because I didn’t have an entry visa for Bangladesh and was advised to pick it up in New Delhi because approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not been granted prior to departure from New York to India. Unsure of how this would unfold, I boarded the plane for New Delhi.
Fortunately, the day before we left for Bangladesh, visa approval was granted for cameraman, Joaquim, and me.
As if that wasn’t enough to cause anxiety – the young women who granted us permission to follow their story pulled out at the last moment. A few days earlier, I had a premonition that this might happen and asked the attorney representing the women to find alternative characters. Emran, our local fixer, together with the attorney, found a second character — a young university lecturer — who had an amazing story to tell.
But it didn’t end there. We arrived in Bangladesh on Sunday, checked into a hotel, and immediately met with UN officials for a briefing. They told us that we couldn’t film on Monday due to anticipated political protests. This would cut one day from our 8-day schedule. Needless to say, we accomplished our mission. See clip.
By GILL FICKLING
When I asked fifteen year old Lupita what she would like most if she had all the money in the world, she told me “a toothbrush”. Lupita is one of the thousands of kids who live in the dangerous environment of the Mexico City streets.
Official estimates cite just over 3000 young people in their teens and twenties; many believe the figure to be ten times higher. I was in Mexico City recently with cameraman, Patrick Fries, to shoot features for “21st Century” and for the launch of the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) global initiative to mark the world’s population reaching 7 billion in October 2011. As the world becomes ever more crowded, the trend is a movement of people from rural areas to cities creating vast urban sprawls like Mexico City. With a population of over 20 million, it is now rated as the eighth largest mega-city in the world.
By Francis Mead
A brave woman uses a small camera to capture what is happening to her: she discovers she isn’t safe in her own home. (excerpt)
After a year of rumours Nuriya Khalikova was forced from her home – to make way for a new park in the centre of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. Because of her film, activists picked up on her case – and now her plight, along with that of hundreds of others, has come to the attention of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights. The city authorities in Baku say they offered adequate compensation to evicted residents, but Nuriya disputes this.
I travelled to Baku with cameraman Richard Gibb and we filmed there before the story made international headlines. We found Nuriya to be a strong and articulate woman, a survivor who’s determined to move on with her life.
Baku itself is booming on the back of Azerbaijan’s plentiful supplies of oil and gas – and the country has seen a huge reduction in poverty over the past decade, as well as a massive increase in construction. We were agog at the chic, very expensive shops in the city centre, and at Baku’s elegant architecture.
Watch out for the full story which we’ll shortly be releasing for 21st Century.
by Mary Ferreira
For a long time — more than five years — I’ve had a burning desire to produce a story about the plight of elephants around the world. According to CITES, elephants appear on Appendix II of the endangered species list. While in India filming stories about women and population growth, I was able to capture some elephant footage and record a few interviews.
But it wasn’t an easy task since we had to wait, almost in hiding, to spot the elephants. These gentle giants are so intelligent and alert that they sense when humans are on their heels and they simply keep moving. Fortunately, we found them eating tea leaves in one of the tea gardens in Assam — an area close to the border with Bangladesh.
Our friends at WWF helped us track the elephants, shared photographs with us, and accompanied us throughout our elephant chase. But one day, we had to cross the river because villagers told us that the elephants had just passed through damaging rice fields and other crops in the neighborhood. In a very tiny wooden canoe, more than 10 people with camera gear, boarded in an attempt to find the elephants. It was frightening but no one thought of the danger since we were all excited to finally get some footage of the elephants hanging out in the nearby forest. On the way back the cameraman, Carlos, suggested that we cross the river in two groups. We took his advice and returned safely.
On a previous shoot in South Africa, the team was also able to film elephants for one day. Experts believe there’s an over-population of elephants in that country. The real argument is whether there are too many elephants or if, in fact, a rapidly growing human population is encroaching on land once known as elephant territory.
Can elephants and humans co-exist in a sustainable way? Our friends at WWF believe that it’s possible. Final video coming soon…
by Mary Ferreira
Our team traveled to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bihar to film a story about India’s growing population.
Experts believe that India will overtake China and become the most populous nation on the planet in two decades. Coping with so many people will be challenging for policy makers as more and more people leave rural villages for big cities, like New Delhi, to find work and improve their lives. The most recent census puts the current population at 1.2 billion.
For this story, we found our main character, Ranjeet, working at a construction site in New Delhi and convinced him to visit his relatives back in Bihar and to reunite with his son who remained with his grandparents in the village. Eventually, Ranjeet decided to bring the little boy back with him to New Delhi. We decided to join Ranjeet on the train to film the journey. It was a long ride – about 12 hours – before we arrived at our destination but we were able to capture hundreds of striking images and get a sense of what life is really like for the poor.
While following Ranjeet, it was so crowded on the platform that it was difficult to keep up with our camera crew. Fortunately, after most of the passengers left the terminal, we were able to find each other and regroup to complete the story.
by Mary Ferreira
We visited India to film a few stories for UN Television at the end of 2010. One of the pieces dealt with the plight of widows in the Holy City of Vrindavan where most widows settle, waiting to die. It was indeed heart wrenching to see how some widows struggle to survive in the streets.
We followed one widow who now lives in an Ashram founded by Dr. Mohini Giri, an activist, who fights to end poverty and hunger in India. Dr. Giri also works closely with widows offering them a better life.
During this shoot, we visited several places — New Delhi, Agra, Vrindavan, Bundelkhand and Varanasi. The distances between each location were hundreds of miles apart requiring travel by car, train and plane but it was a rewarding experience because of the wealth of footage we captured while there. It was quite a hectic mission.
We also found out that in northern and central India, the Act of Sati (self-immolation) still occurs occasionally even though the British banned the practice in 1829. Later in 1987 the Indian Government ratified the Sati Prevention Act.
However, Dr. Giri continues her fight to improve the lives of widows but it’s often a challenge convincing them to leave the streets for a more comfortable life. Some of these women believe that it is their destiny to suffer in widowhood until death calls.
Our nimble team comprised of cameraman, Joaquim Vieira; fixer Sachi Maniar; driver Mr. Singh; and producer Mary Ferreira.
Link to full story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfA5LBOMdKk
Link to radio story: http://goo.gl/BYBsr
By UNTV Producer, Gill Fickling
A short trailer for the forthcoming feature for 21st CENTURY “Gabon: People of the Forest”
Cameraman Antonio Tibaldi and I were on assignment in the rainforest of Gabon, to make a story about the pygmies.
When we came to the first flood in the narrow path through the dense forest, we duly stripped off our boots and socks, and, amidst fears of water-borne disease and snakes, waded in. The water was refreshingly cool, the sand underfoot unexpectedly soft. Accompanied by our charismatic local UN security guard, Eric, we had set off that morning with pygmy hunters to film their hunt.
We had long-ago lost sight of the men — on arrival at the edge of the forest, they had forgotten our existence and shot off at a brisk trot along the over-grown path. We “townies” were left panting in their wake, abandoned to a cacophony of birdsong and the occasional buzzing of bees. As the hunters were supposed to be the subject of the film, this caused certain concern. And so did the knee-deep water that suddenly stretched endlessly along the path. At the NEXT flood, no shoes-off this time — having finally caught up with the hunters, we couldn’t risk losing sight of them again. As Antonio plunged straight in, boots and all, I suddenly felt myself scooped up onto the back of Eric who could not stand by and watch a woman get her feet wet!
Declining his chivalry at the next flood, I also plunged in fully-shod and we continued like that for several hours, as we filmed the hunters. The sensation of the water oozing between by toes inside my boots was surprisingly invigorating. But sadly, the outcome of the hunt was not so positive — one pigeon to be shared amongst the four families. (more…)
Khalid Al-Jhani was, at one time, an explosives trainer for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and now he’s leading an almost normal life. How could that be?
It’s quite a story – one that UN producer Francis Mead explored in Saudi Arabia with videographer Antonio Tibaldi. Together they filmed a short documentary which focuses on how and why people leave terror groups. In recent years Saudi Arabia has developed an innovative rehab programme for people like Khalid Al-Jhani – and their new approach is drawing attention from around the world.
Here, in a short extract from the UNTV documentary, Al-Jhani describes being on the run with Osama Bin Laden not long after 9/11:
Francis and Antonio met Al-Jhani – and found him charismatic, engaging and funny. But he was involved with the world’s best-known terrorist, and became an expert in electronic circuits for bombs. He told many stories about his time in Afghanistan, his 4 year incarceration in Guantanamo, and the pioneering Saudi rehab programme for young men accused of links with terror groups.
In this brief clip, Producer Francis Mead says that Al-Jhani’s story provokes questions about the motives of young men who end up with terror groups:
Moscow’s a huge modern metropolis with cool clubs and classic tourist attractions – but what’s it like to live there if you’re blind?
This is a one minute trailer for a forthcoming documentary focusing on the lives of people with disabilities in Russia from UN TV producer Francis Mead.