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What’s trending in open air cinema in Eastern Africa in 2015

Pius John Mbeshere (in the middle) (photo from his Facebook profile)

Pius John Mbeshere (in the middle) (photo from his Facebook profile)

Following the publication of our post about developing the culture of Open Air Cinema in Tanzania last week, our long-time friend in the Eastern African nation, Pius John Mbeshere kindly shared the results already obtained over there.

Given Pius’ experience of work for FilmAid International on the border with Burundi and with Openair Media Communications offering mass screenings of awareness-raising films, it was an enlightening conversation.

What is your history with Open Air Cinema?

History started in 2007 when for the first time I heard about Stuart Farmer, president of Open Air Cinema in the United States. We exchanged emails between me and Open Air Cinema through FilmAid International answering questions with regard to equipment that Open Air Cinema was willing to donated to FilmAid International. In July 2007, we gave a warm welcome to Stuart Farmer who landed in the country with his donation of high-tech outdoor equipment in Kibondo (refugee-populated district in western part of Tanzania).

Discussion between me and Stuart gave me a full picture of what Open Air Cinema is. Together with Stuart and my technical crew, we held several lovely events in a refugee camp — twice a week for two weeks.

In 2008, I got an opportunity to visit Open Air Cinema Global HQ in Utah and worked in different departments as well as accompanied Open Air Cinema event’s team, helped set up and operate equipment. Memorable and notable events were Bridal Vail Falls Film Festival –proceeds from which benefit Rwanda Cinema Center — and one event in Hollywood.

What are the most exciting moments you had around the outdoor movie screenings in Tanzania?

Before I learned about Open Air Cinema, we had great moments when for almost five years we would project film onto a big screen tied up on two mounted containers or sometimes using a flat-bed truck. It was tiresome to install the whole system but it was exciting to entertain, educate and advocate issues through the use of films in Tanzania.

The most exciting moment came when in 2007 I started communicating with Stuart Farmer — I call him ‘my role model’ — about his intention to introduce new outdoor cinema technology to Tanzania. This was an unforgettable moment when my technical crew together with Stuart inflated a giant Open Air Cinema outdoor movie screen before an excited crowd in a refugee camp. Everyone: kids, youths and the elders were totally amazed by this technology and a mass of people attended this event.

In 2008 refugee operations in western Tanzania were reduced and gradually phased out by the government of Tanzania. Stuart Farmer invited me to visit Open Air Cinema in Utah, where he donated to me a set of outdoor screening equipment. I took it back home. We established a small media firm called Openair Media Communications.  We managed to host some free outdoor movie events using this set of equipment specifically working with Embassies (2010 FIFA World Cup final match England vs USA  at UK embassy in Tanzania) and other development institutions such as Under the Same Sun, Medecins du Monde, USAID and Media For Development International in Tanzania.

2012 – 2014. Openair Media Communications secured a project called “Giving the Voice to Youth at Risks” that was funded by Tanzania Media Fund and Medecin du Monde. One of the exciting moments during this project was that a community of drug users got an opportunity to raise their voices before the government and community at large on issues concerning their daily life. We filmed and interviewed the drug users, edited the film and projected it onto our Open Air Cinema outdoor screen in Dar es Salaam, the capital city of Tanzania.

What are the fields and communities that can benefit the most from Open Air Cinema technology in Tanzania?

Entertainment and education. Communities that can benefit from Open Air Cinema technology are refugees. There is another influx of refugees from Burundi coming back to Tanzania due to unstable security in this country. Tanzanians who like sports and games and development projects.

But according to my experience and knowledge community will benefit a lot through establishment of social business/entrepreneurship projects (development projects in general) where we will focus on solving community’s problems while doing business. This is where we can bring in Open Air Cinema Foundation.

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Open Air Cinema gives visibility to Eastern European film-makers in Israel

Open Air Cinema travels to the Middle East to support our European team during the first ever Ukrainian Film Week in Israel (October 8-13).

Ukrainian Film Week in Israel

Open Air Cinema Outdoor Film Festival in Israel

Most titles to be shown are not yet released internationally, fresh from their festival premieres.

The outdoor movie screenings are scheduled to entertain crowds in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Ashkelon and Haifa. To grace the screen along with numerous modern flicks is Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, a 1960s movie classic from Eastern Europe by Sergei Parajanov, an Armenian film doyen.

Supported by head of Ukrainian State Film Agency Pylyp Illenko, the film initiative is expected to boost the level of inter-governmental film cooperation between Ukraine and Israel. And this is on the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, in the shadow of Open Air Cinema’s 16′ Screen. The outdoor screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions where the viewers will be given a unique chance to hear from some of the most prominent film-makers from Eastern Europe.

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Open Air Cinema Foundation contributes to community building in Ukraine

Open Air Cinema Foundation continues to support the most transformative community initiatives in Ukraine. One such event took place in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in August. Up to 400 people gathered in the downtown square commemorating social activists who gave their lives during 2014 Euromaidan protests.

Contributed by Open Air Cinema’s Ukrainian correspondent, Nicholas Bazanov and Andy Kozlov

Film Screening in Ukraine. Maidan Heroes Square

Open Air Cinema Home 16’ System. In the Square of Euromaidan Heroes. Graffiti by depicts an assassinated Euromaidan hero Serhiy Nihoyan (in the background).

Open Air Cinema Home 16’ Outdoor Movie System was a great match with the location. Helping the screen to create the cozy atmosphere were improvised chairs made of palettes and bean bags. The audience was treated to a free glass of Ukrainian red wine and snacks.

Kyiv Audience at the square

Cozy atmosphere at the outdoor screening in downtown Kyiv

Young Ukrainian filmmakers chipped in their short films about outstanding Kyivans with the aim of fostering in the viewer a sense of pride for their neighbors. This type of films is something that Ukraininans can’t watch on TV or online because it’s hard for indie filmmakers to make it into Ukraine’s mainstream media.

Screen in the woods

400 people gathered around Open Air Cinema 16’ Screen in downtown Kyiv. August 2015

Open Air Cinema Foundation was happy to take part in this event. We not only supported community building activities in Kyiv but also gave visibility to up-and-coming filmmakers in Ukraine.


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Disaster Relief Trials SF

While working on our Bicycle-Powered Cinema over the summer, we spent a good deal of time with some of the best and brightest minds in the cargo bike industry. One of those bright minds is Mike Cobb, proprietor of Framebuilder Supply, welding superstar, ant-load level cargo bike enthusiast, and creator of the Disaster Relief Trials.

Mike was disappointed with the response to hurricane Katrina and decided to do something about it. He envisioned teams of cargo bicycles working together to deliver supplies, medicine, and information to people who need it. He saw how cars and trucks couldn’t always reach areas that needed help and that gasoline availability couldn’t be relied on in these extreme situations. Thus, in 2012 the cargo bike powered Disaster Relief Trials (DRT for short) were born in Portland, OR.

A disaster drill in the form of a cargo bike competition simulating a day 4 supply run. Your neighbors need help- do you have a cargo bike?

The idea is to simulate a day four disaster scenario supply run. An earthquake or other disaster is said to have hit four days ago, and riders must race through a 30 mile self-guided course tackling obstacles, carrying heavy and sometimes delicate supplies, and solving problems they might encounter during a real disaster scenario situation. It’s a proof of concept that Mike hopes will grow into an integral part of disaster response around the country and so far the energy and excitement surrounding the event has been overwhelmingly positive. Trials have already taken place in Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, and Seattle with even more cities slated for next year. The events have drawn major media coverage and nods from government organizations like FEMA.

DRT Competitor

A rider tackles a water obstacle while carrying important cargo at the SF DRT

October 19th marked the 25th anniversary of the disastrous Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, and the first year for their own DRT event. The event was sponsored by Xtracycle with support from Rock The Bike, 2 Meter Critical Mass Amateur Radio, and Open Air Cinema.

We were excited to get involved with the DRT and support it by developing a pedal-powered leader board for the event. The leader board software was developed by Sam Beveridge and has been open sourced on github. A big thanks goes to Sam who donated his time and expertise to make this happen. The leader board is powered by our Cinebike and a local web server. We hope to roll it out (pun intended) to other events next year.

DRT leader board

Spectators look on as the results come in.

During the event, local ham radio operators were stationed at the headquarters and at each of five checkpoints. When a rider came through the checkpoint, they would receive instructions from the operator, who would then relay their time back to headquarters. The HQ operators would then relay the information to our leader board station. Everyone could watch as the race progressed and see the real-time status of each rider. Amazingly, the entire operation took place without reliance on the power or communications grid.

In a real disaster scenario the leader board could be used to provide information about missing persons, supply and relief locations, important messages, or just to keep people’s spirits up with an entertaining film.

Leader board station at the DRT

Ham radio operators relay information to the leaderboard.

You can see the final results of the San Francisco Disaster Relief Trials on the DRT website.

We are excited to be involved with the Disaster Relief Trials as races roll out throughout the country and beyond. Keep an eye out for events in your local area.

A disaster has struck, your neighbors need help, do you have a cargo bike?

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Open Air Cinema Foundation: MAP Foundation’s Media Campaign Reaches Out to Burmese Migrant Workers

One thing we’ve discovered in our first three months in operation here in Southeast Asia is that there are countless organizations looking to communicate with the communities they serve. Since most organizations work in rural areas often lacking electricity and other services, it is never easy to relay public health messages and information to those in need.

One example is the MAP Foundation serving the Burmese migrant community along the Thai-Burma border. MAP has created a series of cartoons to inform Burmese migrant workers how to avoid accidents and sickness in the workplace. These videos can be easily found on the MAP Foundation website and YouTube.

The Open Air Cinema Foundation aims to take vital media similar to this video series into Burmese migrant communities along the border. In partnership with local NGOs such as the MAP Foundation we use our outdoor projection technology to reach communities that normally would not be able to connect with these messages.

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Open Air Cinema’s Screening of Haitian Presidential Debates in Camp Carrefour, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

outdoor movies haiti

Last night was our fourth outdoor movie screening of the Haitian Presidential debates, this time in camp Carrefour, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Mayor of Port-au-Prince invited us to screen the debates within the city courtyard, and the fire department assisted in security and setting up the screening. We have a few more inflatable movie screenings of the first round of debates, and then we’ll be showing the second round in advance of the elections on Sunday.

The local production crew is learning the OAC Cinebox outdoor movie system well, and set up last night without much assistance from the OAC technicians. The portable movie screen, outdoor projector, and outdoor speaker system were setup with ease. Overall the production went very well, and several hundred Camp residents attended and watched the debates.

Today will be screening the debates at camp Champ-de-Mars, right in downtown Port-au-Prince. We anticipate thousands of locals to be in attendance at tonight’s screenings, and we look forward to updating the blog with images and a report with how things went. Below are some images from last night’s outdoor movie screening at Camp Carrefour.

outdoor movies haiti

outdoor movies haiti

outdoor movies haiti

outdoor movies haiti

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Open Air Cinema’s Screening of Haitian Presidential Debates in Camp Villaembetta, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

outdoor movies haiti

Today marked the third day of the screening of the first round of the presidential debates, today in camp Villaembetta in Port-au-Prince Haiti. The outdoor movie screening was as successful as days past, as we worked with FilmAid International and crews of local Haitians in producing the event. Each day’s screening requires meeting with the local camp leaders and receiving permission to screen the debates, as well as arranging for a proper location for the setup of the inflatable movie screen and system equipment.

Camp Villaembetta was about 45 minutes away from our operational base, and we began setup around 3 PM. For a moment we thought the weather would bring rain to our event, and so we were prepared with tarps and plastic to cover the outdoor projector and outdoor speaker system if it started to pour. Luckily, we only saw a very slight drizzle, and all of the equipment remained safe and in working order.

In addition to screening the presidential debates, we also showed several films about voting, hygiene, and camp life.  The residents of camp Villaembetta were particularly excited to view their favorite Haitian comedian after the debates and short films. There were times when the entire audience erupted in laughter and cheer as (ironically), the comedian pretended in a skit, to be a presidential candidate, and found himself in several silly situations.

Overall, we are very happy with how the screenings are going. We are looking forward to implementing a few additional media items to the programming. Tomorrow we will have a live video camera on hand, as we will be inviting residents of the camp to come up in front of the audience and share their stories.  We will also feature a live storybook reading by one of our lead technicians who has been working with the camps for months in reading books to the children. We are excited to update the blog with how tomorrow’s events turn out.  We are thrilled that the technology of Open Air Cinema’s outdoor movie systems can bring educational opportunities and a moment of joy to the residents of the refugee camps whose lives were devastated in the earthquake that struck Haiti over a year ago.

outdoor movies haiti

outdoor movies haiti

outdoor movies haiti

outdoor movies haiti

outdoor movies haiti

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Open Air Cinema’s Screening of Haitian Presidential Debates in Camp Accra, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Haiti outdoor movies

Tonight we completed our second day of screening the Haitian presidential debates via outdoor cinema in camp Accra, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The outdoor movie screening was a huge success, with an estimated 2,500 audience members in attendance. The event started off by showing the short film we created in camp Accra itself. The audience was thrilled to see themselves on the big screen, as the film highlighted many of the community members and their daily lives. The crowd erupted in cheers as one resident after another was highlighted in the documentary. We are going to continue to screen the short film at the beginning of each outdoor movie event in the camps over the next week.

For tonights screening, we used the OAC Cinebox system again, and it worked flawlessly, helping us to have a successful screening. Local Haitian animators or MCs led the event with charisma, keeping the audience excited throughout the screenings. We ended the evening off with a screening of a short film by a comedian that is loved my many Haitians. The crowd erupted with laughter and cheer as they watched one of Haiti’s favorite comedies.

We have been training local crews to assist in the production of the outdoor movie screenings, as we have several days next week where we’ll be producing multiple events in one night. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but look forward to continuing to promote democracy and safety in the camps of residents whose lives have been devastated by the earthquake of more than a year ago.

Below are some images of tonight’s outdoor movie screening at camp Accra in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Haiti Outdoor Movies

Haiti Outdoor Movies

Haiti Outdoor Movies

Haiti Outdoor Movies

Haiti Outdoor Movies

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Open Air Cinema’s Filming of Camp Accra in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

outdoor movies haiti

Young residents of camp Accra in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Yesterday we continued our filming of camp Accra in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Open Air Cinema and FilmAid International produced a film of camp Accra to be shown tonight as we screen the presidential debates to the camp. We will continue to screen the footage before each of the outdoor movie events over then next week as we work with the different camps around Port-au-Prince.

Here are some images of camp Accra as we gathered footage and sound for the film. Keep checking back on the blog over the next week, as we’ll be updating as we continue each day.

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Open Air Cinema’s Outdoor Movie Screenings of the Haitian Presidential Debates: Camp Lycee Jacque 1er

outdoor movies haiti

Screening of the Haitian Presidential debates at Camp Lycee Jacques in Port-au-Prince Haiti. March 10, 2011

Tonight was the first outdoor movie screening of the Haitian presidential Debates at Camp Lycee Jacques 1er in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Overall the evening was very successful. Stuart Farmer from Open Air Cinema led productions operations and we were able to hire a team of local Haitian assistants who have worked with FilmAid International for past projects in Haiti. The Haitian Presidential outdoor movie screenings were funded by USAID, and part of the project is to employ locals in the operation, therefore giving back to the community in a more significant way.

Micheal Morgenstern, operations manager from FilmAid was also present to assist in making a successful screening. The team arrived to the camp at noon, and began to setup the inflatable movie screen system near the entrance of the camp where there was a large clearing. Yesterday we rented a van to transport and store all the equipment in, and we decided it would be best to project out of the back of the van for security and ease of use (see image below). The Open Air Cinema Cinebox system made setup easy, as the projector and audio visual console was all setup and ready to go. The setup went so quickly and efficiently, that we actually had a couple hours to spare before screening time at 6pm.

In addition to the outdoor movie screenings of the Haitian presidential debates, we screened several instructional videos about hygiene and camp life. We documented the day’s events through photography below. We will continue to update the blog with our activities in Haiti in the coming days.

outdoor movies haiti

Residents of Camp Lycee Jacques in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

outdoor movies haiti

OAC's Stuart Farmer works with local Haitians to produce screenings of the 2011 Haitian Presidential debates in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Outdoor Movies Haiti

Camp Lycee Jacques residents wait for the screening of the debates to begin.

outdoor movies haiti

Camp Lycee Jacques residents wait for the screening of the debates.

outdoor movies haiti

Camp Lycee Jacques residents watch the Haitian presidential debates.

outdoor movies haiti

Camp Lycee Jacques residents watch the Haitian presidential debates.

outdoor movies haiti

Projection of the presidential debates out of the rear of our rented van.

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Bangkok, Thailand: MTV Exit and OACF Screen ‘Intersection’ at Youth Center

The other day we posted about the screening of ‘Intersection’ at The Hub Youth Center in Bangkok. It was a great event organized by Childline Thailand. But we didn’t yet provide much background information about the animation or about MTV Exit, the campaign that actually produced it.

The MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) campaign is a multimedia initiative produced by MTV EXIT Foundation (formerly known as the MTV Europe Foundation) to raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking. The MTV EXIT Foundation is based in Southeast Asia and has been working since 2004 to raise awareness about human trafficking in the region. They have produced a number of music videos and TV spots to inform youth about the problem. Starting in 2008 they staged a series of concerts in Cambodia (see above), Nepal, Vietnam, East Timor, Thailand, Laos and a number of other countries in the area. The MTV Exit team is preparing for another round of concerts over the next two years.

Most of the victims of human trafficking come from smaller villages and rural areas. These areas do not have ready access to media. OACF looks forward to working with MTV Exit to carry this important content to those will benefit most from seeing it.

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Bangkok, Thailand: OACF Joins MTV Exit for the Opening of The Hub Saidek Youth Club

UNICEF estimates that 900,000 primary school-aged children in Thailand are either not in school or are not enrolled in school at the right age, and even more children are missing out on a secondary school education. Also, an estimated one million children have no birth registration documents. Without these it is much harder for them to claim their entitlements to education, healthcare and legal protection from abuse.

Childline Thailand Foundation (CTF) runs a nationwide 24-hour telephone helpline with an easy-to-remember number – 1387. Childline provides its services for any child under the age of 18. The foundation works with various government and NGO stakeholders to safeguard the rights of every child as outlined by the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC).

Yesterday CTF hosted the grand opening of a new center in central Bangkok near the main railway station. The youth club’s projects are aimed at children and young people ranging from ages five to 18 and experiencing the following circumstances:

  • Homeless/sleeping rough in the Pomprab District
  • Struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction
  • Living locally but experiencing abuse or a difficult home environment
  • Not actively enrolled in school
  • Facing difficulties in school / struggling with education
  • Struggling with loneliness

The Open Air Cinema Foundation was invited to provide two screenings of ‘Intersection’, an animated short produced by the MTV Exit campaign. Most of our equipment is presently en route to Bangkok from Laos, but we were able to provide two projectors and other essential equipment for the event. OACF is looking forward to partnering again with Childline Thailand at The Hub to show more movies to the youth.

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Open Air NGO Film Festival: Concern Worldwide in Lao PDR

Concern Worldwide in Lao PDR

I wasn’t expecting to get much done today because it is a national holiday leading into an extended weekend. But after seeing the office for Concern Worldwide’s Laos office just down the street from my hotel I decided to stop in to take a look. Turns out that the staff were all in office today, including the regional director from the main offices in Ireland.

I only briefly introduced myself and gave a quick rundown of OACF’s plan to organize a regional NGO film festival later this year. As Concern Worldwide has offices in Cambodia and Laos we’ll be looking to see if we can find some way to work together to inform communities throughout the region about their work.

The Organization

Concern Worldwide is a non-governmental, international, humanitarian organisation dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. We are a non-religious organisation; we respect the beliefs of all people in Lao PDR. Concern Worldwide has its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.

Concern Worldwide has been working in Lao PDR since 1992 providing development assistance to the Government in a number of provinces.

Concern Lao’s vision is of a country in which the basic needs of the people are met and in which everybody has access to the resources and opportunities necessary to lead healthy, fulfilling and peaceful lives.

Concern Lao’s mission is to improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable and ensure that their basic needs are fulfilled in a sustainable manner. This will be achieved by enhancing communities and individuals access to and control over resources; by strengthening the capacity of government and civil society to meet the aspirations of the people, and by promoting pro-poor policy making and participatory processes.

Concern Worldwide is guided by these core values:

  • Development is a long term process
  • Greater participation leads to greater commitment.
  • Environment must be respected.
  • Equality is a prerequisite for development.
  • Governments have primary responsibility for poverty alleviation.
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Open Air Cinema Foundation Returns to Laos

I’m on a train passing over the Mekong for a return visit to Laos. The Open Air Cinema Foundation is looking to connect with the coordinators of the risk education programs at the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and UXO Lao.

There are still many active bombs and munitions leftover from the Vietnam War. Our goal is to work with these organizations to take our outdoor cinema systems into the villages to educate villagers and children how to report UXO when it is found, and avoid injury.

I’ll be visiting the offices of both organizations tomorrow and will be updating here on the blog as I go along.

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OACF at the Lifescapes Film Festival: In the Middle of the Bridge

Since the Open Air Cinema Foundation has its beginnings in the town of Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border, this film was particularly interesting to us.

Shortly after the defeat of the September Revolution in 2007, hundreds of monks tried to flee to foreign countries. Some of the leaders landed in Mae Sot, where they remained hidden underground.

The starting point for the film is based on the consequences of the Saffron Revolution that each of the protagonists has experienced in a different way.

The film focuses on the one hand on the personalities and motivation of these men, who take responsibility for one of the biggest democratic movements of our times. On the other hand the film tries to find out more about the situation and life in Burma, a country that because of its closed border policy does not allow any access to show the reality.

One year later: We meet the monks at JFK airport in New York. A further getaway into a world that couldn’t be stranger, torn out of context.

About the Directors

Karin Dürr and Carolin Röckelein work in the fields of documentary film and video artworks including room installations, stage design, video and sound compositions. The Gipfelfilm network, founded in 2003, is a collaboration between these two artists.

They have been working together with different film production houses and various artists, musicians, dancers, composers and writers. Their working process includes: concept and script, cinematography (HDV), directing and editing (Final Cut Pro).

Both studied communication-design (Diploma) and Visual and Media Anthropology (MA) and have been working in Berlin since 2007.

In 2004 they co-founded Aug.eNwald e.V. (non-profit association) and the artist and design group PopUpShop. They recently have been working closely together with Ensemble für Städtebewohner (Vienna/ Berlin), and on their own documentary and scientific projects dealing with different cultures and social grievances in a political and personal context.

Their films were shown on Arte TV (Germany and France), in different independent German cinemas (i.e. in Bamberg, Berlin and Trier) and on Film festivals in Germany, Japan and India (Cinéfleuve Saarbrücken, DOK Leipzig, GIEFF Göttingen, Kyoto shortfilm festival).

Their Video-artworks and installations were shown in various galeries and festivals, i.e. in Mannheim (‚Wunder der Prärie‘ – international festival for theater, performance, dance and arts), Frankfurt a.M. (Frankfurter Modemesse), Luxembourg (Lx5), Zürich (gallery MÜ), Trier (Cybergärten und wirkliches Grün, Kunstakademie), Berlin (English Theatre), Traunstein (Kunstraum Klosterkirche ) and Vienna (Radowanhalle, Hotel Fürstenhof).

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