Thoughts on Berlinale. Thoughts on Libya

I have just returned home from 12 days in Berlin and I am exhausted. After screening the film at the Kino Sputnik I immediately spent the last week at a conference exploring ‘Art as Cultural Diplomacy’, something that the 72 Hour Movie unwittingly fulfilled by arriving in Australia via the Irish Embassy and using an international crew. I am now planning to describe myself as a cultural diplomat instead of a filmmaker in the hope I can have more money, immunity and WikiLeaks as a promoter.

In all seriousness, whilst we were all taking on the challenge in Melbourne, we were actually engaging with new people from different places and exchanging ideas about our beliefs. We asked everyone to think differently about the process of filmmaking and what we could achieve collectively. I would argue this is actually cultural engagement as opposed to political diplomacy, but seeing as the Irish Embassy proudly hosted us (the Irish Film Board weren’t so proud), we can take pride in our new political status.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, I believe that the greatest asset about the digital ‘revolution’ and the ‘democratization’ of media is NOT that every wannabe can imitate Hollywood with a Canon 7D DSLR. The greatest thing is that these tools can spread new ideas – helping us connect and communicate with one another in ways that were never previously allowed or feasible with traditional media. We can work differently, we can tell different stories and see different perspectives.

I am simultaneously excited and scared about what I currently read about Libya. I am excited that people have the courage to rise up, but I am scared for my friends there. I made a film in Libya in 2007 with small consumer MiniDV handicams. It was a film that could never have been made if I had waited around for traditional funding streams to stump up cash and then stamp their own ideology on top of it. The film is quite simply how I subjectively saw things whilst I was there. It is not my favourite film; in fact it is probably my worst. It is at times miserable and self-indulgent and I apologise for that. I cringe at some of it and I’m proud of other bits. Filmmaking is a learning curve and I have always learnt more from my mistakes than I have my successes.

I want to selectively share the film now on the basis that deeper understanding is necessary in these difficult times and that traditional media will always have their own agendas; Libya is a political hot potato. This film is about cultural engagement and I hope that it offers a new perspective that isn’t perhaps reflected currently in the media. The film has recently been unavailable for viewing as I am currently in the process of re-cutting a documentary about the Sahara in general, but I am sharing it now, for two weeks, in light of the recent news. I have password protected the film for the sake and safety of the people in it, but will share it with you if you write to james (at) hellocamera (dot) ie



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