Quick Interview in Dushanbe

Lost a little momentum on the blog but we’re going to push on.

After my trip to the hospital I met a local who handles some of the programs at American Corners – a cultural center located in Dushanbe dedicated to bringing American culture to Dushanbe.

We chatted a little bit about Dushanbe,  American Corners, and what its like to live in Dushanbe.  I was taken with how frustrating it can be to live in a “re developing nation” –  a term I heard used a few times in Tajikistan.  Tajikistan was industrialized by the Soviets during their 60 year rule.  When the Soviets left a lot the industry left with them and an economic vacuum opened in their wake.  The country’s 5 year civil war only compounded the issue and as a result a  lot of intelligent and educated people remained in a country with little industry to sustain them.

My friend “Bob” studied Russian literature in Khujund and eventually made his way to Moscow but was eventually forced out of the country by a capricious and arbitrary visa issue.  Bob was really friendly and clearly highly educated. If he lived in a developed nation he would undoubtedly be doing very well for himself. In Tajikistan he does the best he can in a difficult situation.

I have a small technical issues in the video.  I’m still adjusting to my 5D/H4 setup and inadvertently misplaced some synced files. As a result I’m forced to use the camera mic for a portion of the interview.

BobNazibaev Int from dcdocumentary on Vimeo.

American Documentary Showcase

Last year Ian Cook and I finished a short documentary called Corner Plot.

The film explores the life and work of Charlie Koiner, a 90 year old man who tends to an urban farm in downtown Silver Spring. Check our our website for more info: http://www.cornerplotmovie.com

We submitted Corner Plot to a whole whack of film festivals and one very special program run by the State Department: the American Documentary Showcase. The Showcase is part of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – a branch of State Department dedicated to “advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives through educational and cultural programs that enhance mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other nations”

Click on the following link for a write up in the NY Times about the program: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/movies/16docs.html

It sounds very official but what it boils down is this: Once a year the State Department sends independent documentary films – and their creators – abroad to educate and inform on “the American Way of Life”. As far as I’m concerned, this is a good thing, a very good thing.

Documentaries have always been powerful tools of propaganda. In the 30s American documentaries were political pieces created to sell Americans on the New Deal polices of the Roosevelt Administration. In Britain John Grierson was creating documentaries to appease class tensions and propagate a unified United Kingdom. Canada went so far as to create the National Film Board, an organization explicitly created to foster a sense of national identity in a new and culturally unsure nation.

But times have changed. For better or for worse an entire genre of documentaries have become accessible to a wide swath of the population. Lower cost production technology has created new opportunities for more diverse stories and storytellers. The beauty of the American Documentary Showcase is that it culls the very best of documentary film and promotes a diverse body of work that illuminates the American experience from many perspectives. And many of those documentaries are pretty critical of the US. I think the idea is that by having the State Department promote documentaries that shows warts and all – we demonstrate what a free and open society we really are. That is a powerful message in countries with limited freedoms.

We’ve come a long way.

I’ve had the opportunity to screen some excellent Showcase films.

Click on the following links for more info on some of my favorites:

http://www.ufva.org/showcase/films/2011/ifatreefalls

http://www.ufva.org/showcase/films/2011/postergirl

http://www.ufva.org/showcase/films/2011/freedomriders

I’m Leaving Town!

Welcome to my 1st blog post!

A few quick facts.

My name is Andre Dahlman.  I am a documentary filmmaker living in DC. This will be my first attempt at a blog.  Bear with me.  I’ve got some interesting projects on the horizon.  Once I get through the learning curve, this’ll be a blast.

This blog begins with the story of my trip to Tajikistan but it’s my intention to continue blogging on all things documentary upon my return.

Stay tuned.