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senorjosh.comOctober 2003: → Mon. 10/27
more posts in this category: journals
10.26.03:    |    October 2003    |    10.28.03:
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site b
October 27, 2003
last thursday i was given permission to take a new digital video camera into one of Cape Town’s poorest slums, to make a short documentary film of one man’s efforts to “bridge the digital divide”. at 9am friday i squeezed my head into a helmet and climbed on the back of my subject’s motorcycle. twenty minutes earlier, having realized that i had no idea how to make a documentary (other than “using the camera”), i had taken the advice of an online guide on “video for change: a practical guide for activists” and tried to make a storyboard. this is what i ended up scribbling in my notebook:
  1. talk to andy [the motorcyclist/digital divide bridger]
  2. talk to other people
  3. take pictures of the school
  4. do other stuff
afterwards i drew a bunch of arrows to show how i could creatively reorder 1-4 for dramatic effect.

we were headed to “Site B” in Khayelitsha. the creativity with which the government named the slum is indicative of how much the government cares about its residents. one of the most people-dense places in the world, the housing in Khayelitsha is a colorful mass of tin and dumpster scraps, jerry-rigged to keep out the rain and wind. in Khayelitsha, the appearance of a motorcycle is rare enough; the appearance of two white men on a motorcycle was such a spectacle that we had forty or so children chasing us down the streets. when we got lost and had to retrace our footsteps, the children went mad with the excitement of joining in our game of “chase”.

after a few games of chase and some other unplanned sightseeing we arrived at our destination, Esangweni Primary School. the story i was there to document is actually quite amazing. andy, having realized that the exorbitant dialup rates were beyond the means of Khayelitsa’s schools, devised a way to give schools ‘offline’ internet access. every day the kids write emails and request web pages; at the end of the day their requests are downloaded onto a handheld USB device; that night the USB device is plugged into a live broadband connection in the city where data is up- and downloaded; the following day the kids get their incoming email and requested web pages. this is andy's website.

the story was great; the problem, again, was that i didn’t know how to document. that, and the fact that the undersized motorcycle helmet left me seeing spots, i didn’t have a tripod (i am not coordinated enough to ask questions and hold the camera at the same time), and there were only 45 minutes of battery left in the camera.

in the end, i balanced the camera on a stack of student notebooks and focused on objective 2 of my storyboard. first, i talked to a couple of the teacher’s favorite students. these kids were talkative and had some interesting things to say, but were constantly laughing at their gesticulating friends behind me. it turns out bunny ears is not a uniquely american phenomenon. when the kids got too giggly for camera, i tracked down a few kids in the computer club. “the purpose of the computer club”, one of the members informed me, “is to talk to people that are interested in the computer club.”

in general, the interviews (all 45 minutes of them) were hit and miss. the kids were kids; the principal was rather timid; the teacher talked so fast and willingly that he had answered all of my planned questions in response to, “Could you please tell me who you are and what your position is at this school?”

proudly, i met the objectives set forth in my storyboard. as soon as bridges (the organization that lent me the camera) gets the necessary editing software, i'll try and piece together 5 minutes of cogent footage. with any luck, the video will be posted at tv.oneworld.net, and www.bridges.org. if that is to happen, however, i think i must first get very creative with those connecting arrows.

Posted by senorjosh at October 27, 2003 09:23 AM | TrackBack
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