Documentary with Syrian Refugee: Fadia Afashe

Our documentary making process was an incredible experience, each of us grew as individuals as we learned how to bring our own qualities and knowledge to the team. One of the hardest aspects was getting started with the entire project, being a group that had never worked together before, especially on such an emotional project, was a bit intimidating. However, as soon as we got things started every step continued to fall into place, and our strength as a team continued to grow. The idea of creating a short documentary on a Syrian refugee came from our editor and director, Johnny Rafter. Prior to the project Johnny had worked on an award winning SBIFF film. Shaina Goel is also an experienced film maker, who also was simultaneously working on a film which was screened at the SBIFF. As for me, Kassandra Gutierrez, I am a news reporter with experience in covering film events, real life stories and conducting one on one interviews.

As a group, we met consecutively to plan for our shoots and brainstorm our overall goals for our project. We then took a trip to Los Angeles, to meet Fadia Afashe, the main subject of our documentary, for the first time, and sat with her for a couple of hours, to interview and film her. J

Johnny Rafter, shot directed and edited the film. During our first shooting session he set up the set location and filmed the interview, making sure sound levels and shots were all intact. Rafter, went down to Los Angeles for a second time to film Afashe in a painting studio, where he was able to shoot some b roll of Afashe painting for the documentary. After these two sessions, we also filmed our music talents, SiJie Loo, Ziyad Marcus and Salem Khattar. Once we had the complete footage, along with the music, Rafter started to edit parts together and come up with what we see now, a moving and emotional piece of art in its whole.

During our first filming session, despite it being her first time, Shaina Goel conducted a powerful and emotional interview with Afashe. Goel, acted as a natural throughout the entire interview and was extremely relatable, making Afashe feel comfortable and asking questions that followed what she was saying. During the music recording session, Goel also helped with setting up the set and making sure the necessary equipment was available.

I, Kassandra Gutierrez, worked on contacting Afashe, as well as our musicians and working out scheduling shooting sessions and locations with our artists. I also had the opportunity to ask Afashe some questions as part as the interview. During the music recording session I too helped with the set up, and was in charge of the sound levels throughout the performances.

The process of this project was a great experience, as we all learned new things about ourselves, Goel was able to execute her documentary filmmaking and interviewing interest, Rafter was able to create a documentary similar to his inspiration, My Aleppo, and I, Gutierrez, was able to practice sound levels in film and bring my fields of studies together, film and music.

Documentary with Syrian Refugee: Fadia Afashe

Cairo Drive Screening Review

The Cairo Drive screening was a great way to grow knowledgeable about the dangers and driving culture in a city as populated as Cairo. The film was appealing in that it had several levels of emotions, which allowed the viewer to go on a sort of rollercoaster and view the different perspectives and stories from drivers and pedestrians getting from place to place in Cairo.

One of the most sad parts in the film was listening to the story of the young girl who was hit by a car and passed away. The story was a great addition because it emotionally draws you into the documentary and makes you sympathize with the family, and it makes you realize that such thing can happen to anyone in Cairo or in any big city where someone is trying to cross the road.

I really liked the last scene of Cairo Drive, and I think the best part was that it was all real footage that was not staged. In the ending scene a man gets hit by the car in which Sherief Elkatsha (the creator of the documentary)  is filming in. Although things get tense and the passengers and driver are in a very serious and scary situation, the camera keeps rolling and we can listen to some of the discussion happening in the scene. Being able to watch this made the experience of watching the documentary a very memorable one because I was able to watch the use of footage that could have been questionable to the audience and to the people involved in the chaotic moment.

Watching the film after having talked to the director was also a very interesting and fun dynamic. It was great to be able to have talked to the filmmaker, even before getting to watch his film. Sherief was very open to questions and elaborated on the subject matter one wanted to discuss, regardless the topic.

After watching the film I feel as if I have vicariously gotten a glimpse of the intense and chaotic driving scene in the city. Being able to watch that alongside real life stories and situations was also very helpful to visualize scenarios both through imagery and emotion. Overall, I really enjoyed the film and the overall experience of the screening.

Cairo Drive Screening Review

Saudi Arabia: A Generational Divide

This weeks readings were very informative on the variety of groups and happenings in Saudi Arabia. The reading was very well organized with its content and structured in the way it presented its informative. The piece was very relevant to today’s happenings and contains a great amount of details on the regime. I really enjoyed reading the piece and liked how it had focus on human rights.

The scholarly piece also talks about the rest of Kashgari, and those who were for and against his believes and actions. Towards the end of the piece, it mentions that the majority of supporters were the younger generation, even though they disagreed with his conclusion. The younger generation had intellectually understood what Kashgari wanted to do as far as freedom and liberation. The togetherness was evident in the amount of signatures that came together for Kashgari. It is mentioned that over two thousand six hundred were conducted, which included both male and female. the coming together of this generation is an example of ways in which media and a collective group effort has came together to make a difference. I found this piece of information to be very important because it does take a collective effort in order to make a change, and some of the most long-lasting campaigns must have require to have a strong foundation with a group of individuals who will go on to fight and preserve the legacy and change they stand for.

The piece also continues to mention that there is a strong divide between the younger generation and the older generation. This too was exemplified through the group of individuals who were for and against Kashgari. The divide of the generations can show a lot about the dissonance in the particular generation’s believes. The idea that there is a difference in thought between each generation can show the progression of the evolution of the thinking with the younger kids growing up. It shows that the way in which kids interact with society has changed, and the way parents raise their kids has changed, as well as the idea’s the new generation has adopted and agreed on.

I believe that wit the collectiveness of the people, the fight for the better in these countries will continue to happen, and with time there will continue to be a great deal of progression in each and every aspect the people continue to fight for.

Saudi Arabia: A Generational Divide

On Sexual Harassment Statistics

After reading the harassmap power point it was very inspiring to see the changes going on in Egypt to make the environment a safer place. The use of technology is a great way to keep up to date with device usage, which make help more accessible to the general public, and victims of sexual violence. Once a victim texts the provided phone number they will receive information on further assistance and additional counseling and psychological services. This is one of the features I found is very important. The fact that action is being taken, even after the act of violence, means that the programers of the site are willing to care for these victims for months to come, or until they are cScreen Shot 2016-02-22 at 1.10.46 AMompletely healed. Another good thing about this helping resource is that it is not only available to the victim but the victim’s friends or anyone who wants access to it. If someone felt slightly offended, uncomfortable, or was mildly verbally or sexually assaulted, does not matter what the extent is, they can still receive mental consolation and help.

One of the interesting facts that I came across while looking at the powerpoint is that 45% of assaults are made by men, meaning the other 55% are made by women and children. I think there is a slight lack of information on what age these children are who are responsible for these assaults. I also believe the information canScreen Shot 2016-02-22 at 1.11.10 AM be described more specifically, and it may be interesting to see what percentage of women exactly are committing the crimes, and what percentage of young males, and their ages. It would be helpful to know the age of the “children” who commit the crimes to get a better perspective and insight. The fact the statistics of women and children were combined, was not merely a fact, but I believe was geared to create an emotional effect, to open the eyes of readers and make it clear that the assaulters were not only male. However when discussing statistics I believe there is no need to combine “children and females”, but rather have a specified statistic for each gender and age.

While reading the first article, by Chelsea Young, I also came across a lot of discussion on how females were affected, as Young described how the women were assaulted whether or not they wore a hijab, or despite how they were dressed. What was really astonishing is that the article really focused on explaining how women victims are taken care of, and it was centralized on female case descriptions. However, I would really like to see how the male victims are treated, and read more descriptions on the cases of these male victims. I found this a bit of an inconsistency which did not correlate with the statistics shown in the previous powerpoint, which stated that only 45% of assaulters were male. The way in which the information is presented can be reformulated to be more inclusive of all the victims and their different cases, whether they are male or female.

Overall the movement is great, it is important to make sure all victims who access the hotline are getting professional help, and that the information and statistics are getting out there to hopefully stop and show the seriousness of sexual and verbal violence.


On Sexual Harassment Statistics

The Fight for Internet Freedom and Accesibility

It is astonishing to me how easily people fighting for simple online freedom and accessibility can be held captive and punished for doing so. After reading the pieces I have come to realize that there are many talented scholars and organizational groups who have been working together to ensure that there is an online outlet which can help activists speak out, build their own ideas and become more knowledgeable and rounded human beings.

Bassel Khartabil’s story was an example of one of these scholars who have pushed for a broader border on virtual world access. In the ‘Captured in the line of duty’ section of The Guardian’s online newspaper on Khartabil’s accomplishments, captivity, whereabouts and some information on the Creative Commons, we read about Khartabil’s success in introducing his encoded formulation that worked to make the Firefox open-source web browser available in the arabic language.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.47.05 PMNot only was Bassel Khartabil’s work brilliant but it lead to making the Creative Common’s organization more widely known, as he gained recognition from several other respectable sources and projects. The piece continues with explaining that Khartabil was able to provide input for a developing project called New Palmyra Project.

The continuation of Khartabil’s work, even while being in custody, shows his integrity and determination to help expand the online world in his country, and work towards making the internet a free source for all. The fact that Khartabil took the risk to work towards a meaningful cause even after being behind bars and captured, exemplifies a true heroic and brave figure, because it is a demonstration of someone who has fought for his beliefs, even in extremely dangerous situations.

It is heartbreaking to see that someone so talented, self driven, be incarcerated and killed, as speculations have suggested, since he has not been seen or heard of for quite some time now. The article finishes off with a memorable statement. It mentions that there needs to be more people in the society such as Bassel Khartabi, who are willing to fight for change. In my opinion, I completely agree with the statement that was made at the end of the piece. Although, scholars and activists should take extra precautions regarding their work, the world will not change without those who are willing to put themselves at risk to be the change they want to see in the world. People, such as Bassel Khartabi, are the ones who will strive, die and provide the change this world needs. With the brains, intelligence, and good hearted actions of these people it is safe to say the world may be changing, and internet accessibility as well as the right to speak up and find your own voice, in countries which prohibit that, may be expanding.

The text was inspiring, yet a bit scary. Being punished for working hard on something you believe in, expanding and creating access to more sources for the people all over the world, seems unfair to me. However, seeing someone follow their beliefs despite the possible consequences is very inspiring, and makes you realize how anyone with the will can help make a change in this world.

The Fight for Internet Freedom and Accesibility

A Review on R-Shief

At the beginning of the quarter I attended the R-Shief conference ran by Professor Laila Sakr at UCSB’s Social Sciences and Media Studies building. The conference was very informative, inspiring and eye opening all at the same time.

I found understanding the beginning of the talk a bit intimidating, as it was a process for me to conceptualize the technical terms and processes used to explain the website and software building procedures. Another part that I found a bit intimidating was the fact that the website is all in arabic, meaning I, or other people who don’t speak arabic will not have access to viewing the site’s information. However, this simple fact is very respectable, as it is about a team standing their ground, keeping true to the language and origin of the site, and not conforming to any main stream form of translation, only to make it more widely accessible. A restriction such as this may even inspire someone to learn the language, and work to preserve or inspire a community who may want to focus on keeping the language alive for a longer time.

As the talk unfolded, I found the work these intellectual and passionate individuals were doing very inspiring. Since they have been working on creating a website from scratch and using it to gain digital information which could help for further research, and data collection. Hearing the group speak and explain their work and what their website does made it seem possible to create a database online platform of your own, of course with the proper training, knowledge, experience, and outlook.

As I was feeling inspired and astonished to be seeing the behind the scenes of website and database collecting process, a couple of the audience found the new information they were finding to be intimidating and a bit dangerous, if the information were ever to get into the hands of someone who would use it for the wrong reasons.

During the talk R-Shief presented how they collect data on who tweeted or said certain things about certain events, specifically the Egyptian Revolution, and
store it for research and prediction purposes. The idea that someone is watching and collecting information on what you are posting seemed to be frightening to some people. Although, I do agree that the fact the public has access to my information can be scary, I am completely aware that what is posted online is public and made widely available to a large number of companies, and people, spynot only R-Shief. However, it becomes worry some when you may be punished for something you posted online if the information and your public post gets into the wrong hands or is seen by the wrong set of eyes.

As long as access to this information is used only to do research and not for punishment of any sort, I don’t see the harm in being spied on by an online data source. It is important to always keep in mind the risks that come with posting certain things and to review your privacy settings if you want your information to remain private, otherwise there is a virtual world which has access to every click you make, and anything you tweet or post, as it is important to use a collection of postings to make predictions, research and worldwide improvements.

A Review on R-Shief

Beirut Garbage Crisis

There are plenty of things we as americans take for granted and don’t realize the hard work and dedication that goes into planning and creating a safe and healthy environment. We look over the small things, like the privilege of being able to take our garbage out and know it will be taken care of, not worrying about where it will be stored or that we will ever have to see it again in our lifetime. However, it is not always as easy as taking your trash to the dump or taking it out to your apartment complex dumpster in other countries.

After reviewing the photojournalist’s picture collection of the trash crisis protests of August 2015 in Beirut, Lebanon I was really shocked with how the entire situation was handled. I simply do not understand how the government can afford to pay for police enforcement to be present during protests, but does not take the time to spend that money on cleaning up the trash piled up in the city. Although, the government might not be completely responsible for the dumping of trash in the city, as it may be careless citizens who have no other place to put their trash in, I strongly feel it is the government’s responsibility to be authoritative and do what they can to prevent the dumping of trash in public city areas, and to make specified and proper dumping areas available for the community.

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Nairobi, Kenya (July 2015)

While in Kenya this past summer there was a situation where we drove down to the city and saw trash piled up at a round about in the city center of Nairobi. The situation was very disappointing and I could not help but to feel upset and frustrated with the people who were dumping the trash and creating this mess. After reading through this article and researching more on then crisis, I came to find that there isn’t necessarily something wrong with the dumpers, or a specific someone to blame, but a communal problem among the people, the law enforcement and government organization on the disposal of trash. It takes a collective effort among the three branches of the city mentioned above, to be able to stop such an unsanitary and disastrous habit, and to stop creating circumstances that lead citizens to dump trash into public city areas.

A difference that I see from the two major cities in these two countries, Nairobi and Beirut, is that the city of Beirut has community members that definitely care and are willing to protest until justice and improvement has been notable in the city. Not that the Kenyan community is not willing to do that, or are at all careless about the hazardous situation, but in my time there I was not able to witness any protests or hear any commentary by the locals about the garbage crisis. On the contrary, I witnessed my American hosts explaining to her local employee the importance of keeping her own home space clean, and how dumping trash is unsanitary and dangerous for the children around. Although these two cities are different, and the situations and reasoning for the garbage crisis differs, there is definitely a need of improvement, not only in the community members in some cases, but in the way government makes disposable garbage areas available for the city.

Beirut Garbage Crisis

Finding and Expressing Your Voice

Every one of the speakers yesterday was very influential and motivational, and had their own unique stories to share. Each was fighting for their own cause, and it was a great experience to get an insight on the research and projects they were working on.

During the “Radical Democrats and Legacies of Combat: Strategies and IMG_3962Movements” speakers, from 1:30-3:00, a speaker Ranwa Yehia, gave a great talk on the amazing project
she has been working on for years. During her talk, titled “Pre-and Post 2011: Building Communities Around Expression and Critique”, she spoke about the yearly project she works on, a summer camp which allows about 60-80 students from the age of 12 and 15 to find their political voice and express themselves through a source of social medium.

After her talk I was able to talk to her and she walked me through the steps in which these children-young adults, find their political voice. She says, during the first couple of days of the camp, when approached to ask to share their opinion, the students first try and respond with the answer they think is “correct”, however when they realize that they don’t need to agree with others on political views and controIMG_3951versial topics, they rebel and try to to find ways to act out. However, soon enough each individual does start to find their personal believes on issues, they then join a project that seems appealing to them and they learn how to express themselves to the art of media making.

She also explained how although the forms of media used to express the opinions of these young students might sound familiar to us, for example making a short video, to the kids the projects are foreign, as they come from communities which usually do not have the equipment to allow them the chance to make these sorts of projects. However, throughout the camp they realize that they can still be political activists free of cost, wether it be spreading their knowledge among community members, protests, etc.

I think what made me so intrigued by Ranwa Yehia’s project is that through media and art these students are able to find and own their political voice, not just for the time of the camp but for their whole lives. Although they come from communities which may not allow them or give them the opportunity to express what they think and feel, the camps are a way to make that happen. I believe it is important to not be silenced, wether it be vocally, or even holding on to certain social values mentally. It is essential that children  and young adults are given opportunities, such as Ranwa’s camp, to learn about different technological resources there are to mediate your voice, and above all to find your voice. Exposure to technological equipment also allows the students not only to grow vocally but to grow knowledgeable about advancements in general equipment used to make art and to express a thought or tell a story.

Finding and Expressing Your Voice

Cultural Knowledge on the Internet

As emphasized in last weeks readings, the power of social media is greater than we might think it to be. In this weeks readings the importance of social media and the use of internet sources throughout Herrera’s reading was also a topic of great importance.

In the scholarly article, titled Youth and Citizenship in the Digital Age: A View from Egypt by Linda Herrera, we read how the young people of today are refers to as “wired youth” as opposed to kids who are being dumbed down because of the internet, and we come across several personal stories of people who have found their way of expression and sociability through resources the internet provides for them.

Herrera spoke about the lives of many people who used the media sites, such as Facebook, to branch out, video games to find happiness social medand a social life, and blogging as practice for a  professional career. In particular the story of Haisam, introduced in Phase II: Cultural Revolution, caught my attention, and is a prime example of how the internet can expand someone’s cultural knowledge of countries different from their own, and help someone kick off their professional career as journalists, who at first might have only been interested in simply informing their social media followers of the election news happening around them.

In the piece it is mentioned that Haisam’s life was transformed after the internet, “For Haisam, the computer was ‘like a gateway to heaven.” Not only was the internet a way for 24 year old Haisam to explore new music, cinema and enrich his knowledgeculture in different cultures, the internet also lead him and friends he met on online forums, who were also interested in lyrics and music, to convert 125 years worth of Arabic music into digital format, “If not for their labor, this music might have been lost.”

As, both a cinema and a music student I greatly appreciate people who are interested in learning about cinema, and lyrical content of music. Even more so, as a music student who primarily studies middle eastern music, it is because of people like Haisam that I can study musical arabic theory with listening examples, which help me test hearing and allow me to practice distinguishing different maqams in traditional arabic songs.

Not only have people like Haisam been able to experience a “cultural revolution”, but they have also been able to make their own culture and news available to people around the world.

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For my project I am interested in creating a website, the topic of my choice is unclear so I am open to ideas. Designing a webpage has always been something I’ve been interested in doing and I do feel having website design experience is beneficial and useful. For now I’m thinking a webpage where people can share news pieces of around the world, with emphasis in Egypt and countries where revolutionary uprisings are happening. There can also be a section where one can learn about cinema, music and arts of different countries. My idea definitely needs some refining, so if anyone is interested I’d be happy to hear opinions and additional commentary.

Cultural Knowledge on the Internet

Together: Social Media

Social media has been a way for people all over the world to connect, and in Egypt’s case for a revolution to be made possible. Throughout the readings, we came across pieces which have helped m
e understand the potential of social media and its social_media_people1outcomes. In “We are all Khaled Said” we see how social media has worked to bring together teens and people of all ages who have been fighting for police brutality to be stopped among the youths.

The second article, “We Are All Revolutionaries Now: Social Media Networks and the Egyptian Revolution” by David Faris, as opposed to giving just one in depth explanation of a certain situation, tells us more about the effects in general about social media websites. I found the piece being very helpful to help me understand how effective social media can really be. As a user of social media for mostly socializing reasons, I never knew what other ways social media can be used, and even though I have came accross pages involving people of similar political interests, I hadn’t known how important and essential this medium is to keep pushing forth and connecting people to work together to keep striving for social movements.

This article breaks down how Facebook and Twitter have played a role in theimages Egyptian revolution, and how it has been able to give the opportunity to novice activists to engage in a change as well. The article says, “Finally, Social Media Networks are fully comprehensible and usable even to novice activists, needing nothing beyond standard computer literacy (and sometimes not even that).” It is essential that Facebook, twitter and social mediums be accessible to people all over the world, so people can express their beliefs, and come together easily. Accessibility plays a big role on how effective a site may be, as it may be reached and followed by many people around the world at any time. For example, for myself, being able to access the WAAKS Facebook page has helped me become more aware of revolutionary happenings around the world and more informed on police and government brutality in Egypt. Had I not been able to publicly access the webpage through a click of a link, I may have never been informed, and thus would have to seek out other places to follow honest news.

The article also makes a point that using social media is also low cost, “Furthemore, the applications of Social Media Networks are extremely low costs, usually carried within the total cost of accessing the Internet and purchasing the necessary equipment (i.e., laptop, iPad, cell phone).” Along with easy access to web pages, low cost is also important if a site wants to be accessible to a great number of people.

In both articles the media is proven to be a source of connectivity and political activism. As long as we have accessible active social voices circulating in the media, people will be able to be more informed and participate or be a contribution to revolutionary change.

Together: Social Media