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Report on the Yallah Film Festival

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[TECH 24] Hello, I'm Rebecca Bowring. Welcome to this special edition of Tech 24. [Rebecca BOWRING - Twitter: @rbowringjourno] Coming up in the program, from Tunis to Cairo, Damascus to Benghazi they've used their mobile phones as weapons for change. [YALLAH FILM FESTIVAL] The Yallah Film Festival celebrates the creativity of Arab Spring activists. Tech 24 takes you behind the scenes to where culture, democracy, and technology collide. In Arabic, yallah is a rallying cry meaning, "Let's go!" It's also the name of a unique film festival based here in Paris. Now, the idea behind the venture is to be a space on the Internet where pro-democracy activists such as young filmmakers can share their stories and experiences of the Arab Awakening. The competition is open to three categories of short movie: fiction and documentary, both three minutes long, and films recorded by mobile phone of one minute. Let's get more information on what it's all about from the event organizer, Bruno Smadja. Yallah Film Festival, first of all, is born from two points of view. [Bruno SMADJA - Organiser, Yallah Film Festival] First of all, my company created seven years ago, from seven years a mobile film festival, because we considered that young creators can use their mobile camera to create new films and to have no limit in terms of budget. And looking to what's happening in the Arab countries, we wanted to use this opportunity to create Yallah Film Festival to give opportunity, visibility, and promotion to young Arab creators. And the project is not for profit, and you can send in your contributions until September the 19th. Then they will be judged, and the winner will be honored at a special awards ceremony in the Arab World Institute here in Paris a month later. Eric Olander from France24.com now joins me in the studio to discuss this a little bit more. So through the use of cheap and freely available technology like mobile phones or digital cameras, what are these filmmakers able to tell us about events in the Arab world that maybe the professionals can't? Their side of the story, and that's very important. This is really a natural progression of what began last year in Tunisia [Eric OLANDER - Twitter: @ericf24] when technology played a central role in the overthrow of these governments. It's hard to say that technology was the reason why these governments fell, but it was a very important factor in all of it. And so what we're seeing with the Yallah Film Festival is really the continuation of the building of an narrative. What actually happened and who said what? That depends on who you talk to. [YALLAH FILM FESTIVAL - Stories of the Arab Spring told by mobile phone] Mubarak had one narrative, the Americans have another narrative, the media has a narrative, and now, through this very low-cost technology, young people have their own narrative that they can create and really try to shape history as it's being recorded. So it's an expression of perhaps a personal ideology. But it is low tech, as you say. What about the quality of these films? You don't need high technology to create high quality content. That's really one of the misnomers here. You're seeing some amazing things just on YouTube and Vimeo and some of these video sharing sites. People are using low-cost cell phones, low-cost cameras to tell really compelling stories. And at the end of the day what the Yallah Film Festival is about and what this kind of content is about is telling a great story. It doesn't actually require a lot of technology. Let's take a look now at one of the clips that's been submitted. It's based in Morocco and was filmed by Ghassan El Hakim. [To go down marching or not?] [Will you be in the street on April 10th?] [Yes I will] [I will. What about you?] [Me? No I won't] [I will] [You will?] [Yes I will] [Not me] [You'll go down marching?] [No I won't] [I will/I wont] [You'll take the street?] [I won't] [well, you've said it yourself; you won't go down on the street; Enjoy your meal] [We will not take the street and we will not give up] [No concessions] So Eric, that's quite a good example of what we've been talking about. Sort of a low-key technology is used. A very compelling exchange, though. How would they have made that film? Clearly this wasn't done on a big budget. Obviously the lighting and the sound didn't have anything of what you're used to seeing on normal television. But that doesn't matter, because it's the story that's so important, the interaction between those two characters which is so important, the dialogue between those two characters. So my guess is that was probably done on a simple digital video camera, maybe even a cell phone-- you know, an iPhone has HD video capabilities-- a little bit of lighting. But more importantly, the director there was focusing on the relationship between those two characters, and that's what this is really all about. For you and I, we can access this dialogue because of the subtitles, which you noticed there. And this film festival is also trying to break down language barriers, isn't it? What kind of technology is it using to do that? This is a very social film festival. Again, these are social networks in part that are responsible for the revolution, so the organizers of this festival went to the open Web to help with the translation. So they're using the tool called dotSUB that is an open source translation. That means people all over the world contribute to the translations. Kind of think of it as a WikiLeaks for translation. And so in this case there was English, but also they're starting to put Mandarin Chinese in, there's Spanish in there as well. And so that's another neat functionality of this, because a big part of this festival, which again I really like, is the fact that you can share all of this across languages, across cultures, across platforms too. Isn't privacy an issue here given the very sort of delicate subject matter? How is the festival trying to conceal people's identities? And in fact, if you're a contributor to this, what dangers might you face recording, documenting what's going on in Arab countries? There is a dark side right now, and there's no doubt. And this is getting actually worse, as we're seeing in Syria where the government is going to great lengths now to torture people for Facebook accounts and to follow those networks around. So there are some grave consequences for people in certain countries who try and tell these kinds of stories. The organizers, Bruno and at Yallah, they say that you can submit a film anonymously. So you don't have to identify your location, your name, your age, or anything like that. That by itself does not protect you, though. Simply uploading a video from a certain country can also reveal your identity, what computer you used, what networks you used to do that. So one has to be very, very careful in this day and age depending on what country you are in terms of how you access festivals like this and how much publicity and privacy you want to give up. Thanks as ever for being with us, Eric Olander, and thank you to you for watching this edition of Tech 24. A reminder, of course: If you do have a short film that you've made about goings on in the Arab world, then please do submit it to the Yallah Film Festival. You have until September the 19th, and the address is www.yallahfilmfestival.com, all one word. Also, a reminder to find us on the social network facebook.com/TECH24. It's there in English and in French. Eric's Twitter feed as well is definitely worth checking out @ericf24, or you can follow me tweeting about many things, including what's going on in the tech world. My address is @rbowringjourno We leave you now with the anthem of Tahrir Square. What better way to end this program? When the Egyptians singer Amir Eid turned his camera on the nexus point of the Egyptian revolution back in February, he never would have dreamed that it would have been seen by over a million people on Facebook by now. It's made in solidarity with the protesters, and it's called The Voice of Freedom. It's become, in fact, the theme tune of each new pro-democracy rally taking place not just in Cairo but across the whole country. So we'll leave you with that. Stay with us. And we'll see you again next week on Tech 24. [More news on FRANCE24.COM]

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 46 seconds
Country: France
Language: English
Views: 2,479
Posted by: alexmobilevent on Aug 18, 2011

Great show on the Yallah Film Festival by the Tech 24 team (France 24 Channel in French).
a lot of frequently asked questions are answered here by Festival Director Bruno SMADJA.

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