Posts Tagged ‘documentary production’

NY Times Highlights Subject of Film Produced by V&V’s Principals

June 5, 2013

Having started filming the documentary Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean back in 2006, the JEMGLO production team was excited to see The New York Times today refer to the cooperative of Christian, Jewish and Muslim coffee farmers who comprise the documentary subject. The principals of JEMGLO, producer/writer Ellen Friedland director/DP/cinematographer Curt Fissel, are also the principals of Voices and Visions.

Highlighted in the Food section, the Times noted that “J.J. Keki, a Jewish Ugandan coffee farmer…enlisted Christian, Jewish and Muslim farmers to form a coffee cooperative. The result: Delicious Peace Coffee (Mirembe Kawomera), which comes in a nutty-tasting light roast, a rich dark roast and decaffeinated.” The Times’ mention coincided with the launch of a Smithsonian Folkways recording on CD produced by Rabbi Jeffrey Summit of 16 songs by the farmers titled Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda. 

The first version of the documentary, narrated by actor Ed O’Neill, was released in 2010 and screened at over 35 film festivals internationally, including many prestigious festivals, and won a number of meaningful awards. This past March Ellen, Curt and several additional members of a production team, returned for a fifth trip to the cooperative to videotape updates (link to the blog), including a qualitatively improved standard of living thanks in large measure to Fair Trade wages paid to the farmers by their coffee buying partner, Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

delicious peace, documentary, smithsonian, new york times, uganda, fair trade, interfaith, fair trade coffee, jewish nonprofit, documentary production

The documentary is available to educational institutions through the Video Project. In addition, socially-conscious media company Specialty Studios is distributing Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean by organizing Delicious Peace Parties where the film is screened and Fair Trade coffee and chocolate are enjoyed. Please contact them for more information!

The Miraculous Reality of Fair Trade Coffee Farming

March 11, 2013

Our first trip to Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op, located in the village of Namanyoni on the outskirts of Mbale, Uganda, was in 2006. The co-op had been founded just two years earlier, the idea of regional leader JJ Keki who sought a market for local farmers’ coffee as well as a way to overcome historical religious-based intolerance. A year after their establishment – also a year before our arrival – they had signed a deal with Fair Trade coffee buyer/roaster/seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Fort Bragg, CA.

We went there as a film production team with the goal of creating a documentary about this inspirational farming collective. Still only one year into their arrangement with Thanksgiving, they had just begun selling a small amount of coffee; the first shipment was a single shipping container. We spent several days becoming acquainted with the farmers, and they opened up to us, inviting us into their homes and lives.

One farmer housed 25 children. Only a fraction of those were biologically related; the others were children of parents who had died of AIDS or other causes, or who were otherwise unable to take care of them. Another farmer showed us the graves of three of his children who had passed away, all from malaria. He did not have money to take care of many of the nutritional needs of his extended family, including children and grandchildren. Everyone complained about a lack of funds to send their kids to school. While public schools exist, families are required to pay for books, uniforms and school lunches – an impossibility for many who are poverty stricken.

Simply put, the needs were overwhelming.

And yet, the farmers had been fortunate to find a Fair Trade buyer. Fair Trade guarantees a minimum and fair price, despite the international fluctuation of this commodity market. It also enables farmers to receive a second payment if the quality of the coffee is very good. Mandating egalitarianism and democracy on co-op boards and in the general running of the organization, Fair Trade additionally gives farming cooperatives a “social premium,” enabling them to support local community projects.

fair trade, coffee, uganda, mbala, africa, farmers, documentary, nonprofit

I write this now from Mbale, where we have spent the last five days with the Mirembe Kawomera farmers. It is almost seven years since our first visit. The school-age children of the farmer whose residence was home to 25 now all attend educational institutions. The farmer whose children suffered from unhealthy diets talked about his new-found knowledge of the four food groups, and how his large family is conscious of – and able to – partake in that diet on a daily basis. He has a new home that is covered with an iron roof to keep out the rain rather than the thatched roof that leaked, and his house even has some furniture. Not one farmer complained that his or her children were not able to attend school. And the co-op used its social premium to help build a new wing on a local public school that had become overcrowded.

When I asked the farmers to tell me about problems the co-op still has, each one – interviewed independently — answered the same thing: A thief broke into their warehouse and stole 15 bags of coffee.

Of course, that is awful – every bag represents a huge expenditure of hard work as well as profits. But then, thieves are everywhere. There was no additional complaint.

Pretty good support for the value of Fair Trade. And an important reminder to consumers who have buying choices that not only satisfy their caffeine longings but also have the ability to change individual lives.

My job – when I work on a documentary — is to be a producer, not a marketer. I look for objective facts. In this instance, the argument for the benefit of Fair Trade could not have been more compelling.

Whole Foods’ Do Something Reel Film Festival

December 21, 2012

Watch. Think. Act. These three verbs succinctly sum up the mission of the Do Something Reel Film Festival. Presented by Whole Foods Market, this festival is designed to highlight films that inspire change in their audiences. We were thrilled to learn that Whole Foods selected Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean as its Do Something Reel film for the month of December.

The film, shot through our nonprofit Jemglo over several years in Uganda, tells the incredible story of the Mirembe Kawomera coffee cooperative, the members of whom are Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Once at odds with each other, these three groups joined together to build economic development and foster peace in their region. This interfaith message of cooperation has spread to other villages in Uganda as well as to the United States, where the Mirembe Kawomera farmers have partnered with Fair Trade buyer, Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

do something reel film festival, whole foods, whole foods market, whole foods little rock, fair trade, coffee, documentary, uganda, interfaith, holiday, party 
The focus of the Do Something Reel Film Festival is to provide “provocative, character-driven films that focus on food, environmental issues and everyday people with a vision of making a world of difference.” In addition to offering the film, Whole Foods has arranged for a number of its stores to host live screenings. One of these screenings is taking place at the Whole Foods store in Little Rock, AR on December 27th. We’re looking forward to seeing how this community responds to the inspiring message of the film and plan to report back with reactions.

If anyone is interested in hosting a live screening, socially-minded media company Specialty Studios is organizing Peace Parties around the film and the coffee that inspired it. It’s a great way to spread the Fair Trade message while enjoying delicious (and fairly traded) coffee and chocolate and other Fair Trade products with your friends and family.

do something reel film festival, whole foods, whole foods market, whole foods little rock, fair trade, coffee, documentary, uganda, interfaith, holiday, party

Photo of the Week

August 17, 2012
Voices and Visions principal, Curt Fissel, took this photo while shooting Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean with our nonprofit documentary production company, Jem/Glo:
Photo, Uganda, Sunset, Africa, Video Production, Documentary Production
Earlier this week, we sat down with Curt to discuss the art of photography.

Photography Q & A with Curt Fissel

August 15, 2012
To celebrate the launch of our new Instagram account (voicesvisions), we sat down with our director of photography, Curt Fissel, to talk about the art of the photograph.
What inspired you to go into photography in the first place?
My mother loved art. She exposed me to art from an early age and she gave me my first camera when I was five years old.

What is your continued source of inspiration?
I take hours of video and thousands of photographs a year. I’m always inspired for the perfect shot, and probably I still haven’t found it yet. There was one shot that came close, but I’m still searching for it.

Delicious Peace, Video Production, Documentary Production, Corporate Video, Nonprofit Video, Coffee farmers, Uganda

This photo was taken during the filming of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean

That’s the photograph that made me the happiest in the last many years.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring photographers, what would it be?
Really concentrate on composition. You need to take in all the elements of the frame; that’s your easel, so everything in that frame is important. Don’t be afraid to look at things from a different perspective. The angle of the shot and the lighting are important, but it all starts with composition. You have to pay attention to foreground and to the position of the frame. When you miss the composition, don’t use that shot. Also, be critical of your own work. If the shot is bad, figure out how to do it right the next time. You’re only fooling yourself if you can’t criticize your work.

How has technology like Photoshop changed photography as a business? As an art?
Digital has changed everything. Art has evolved along with the technology. It’s cool to use Photoshop for advertising and I do believe in adjusting levels and sharpening, but I don’t believe in manipulating the true image. I shoot full frame, I don’t crop. I know people do it, but I believe in the art of composition. I’m not trying to be a snob, but certainly there is something to taking a photo that stands on its own.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start learning Photoshop?
Lynda.com is a good tutorial website.

What is the first thing you do when you get a new piece of equipment?
I sit with the owner’s manual until I’m comfortable with the workings of my new camera. As soon as you think you know everything, you’re hosed. Problems generally can be solved, and those manuals are made for something. Make sure you know the camera you’re using, the limitations and the exceptional features.

If time and money were no issue, where would you go and what would you shoot?
I’d like to spend a few months traveling through Uganda and shoot a book on birds on Mount Elgon.

Some background on Curt: he began his career as a news cameraman with an NBC affiliate station, then moved to NJN (PBS) where he became Chief Photographer and Manager of News and Documentary Staff. He has also freelanced for outlets including HBO, CBS, ABC Nightline, CNN, YES Network, America’s Most Wanted, and Voice of America. For the past 15 years he has directed, photographed and edited eight documentaries for national PBS audiences, international film festivals and other global events as well as for multiple award-winning corporate video production company Voices & Visions Productions.