A short month

Today we sent a copy of the footage from Majuro (RMI) to our production company “Studio Kalliope” in Potsdam (Germany). The little package in the video below has it all. It contains 8 hard disks, each with 5 TB of video material and audio recordings, therefore 40 TB of data and an HD proxy on two additional hard disks. If one were to watch all video recordings without interruption one after the other, one would need more than two weeks to see it all, we have calculated. The package is now on its way to Hawaii. From there it reaches a postal distribution center in the US and then it flies across the Atlantic to a cool european fall, where a DHL messenger will one gray autumn morning hand it over to Maria Kling at the garden fence. Good trip, small package! Do not get lost.



On the 2nd of December we start our journey home. We will use the remaining time for the rough cut, for the completion of some videos for this blog and of course for the preparation of our departure. We leave a large part of our equipment in the country. We donate it to the groups with whom we performed the film workshops, so that they can continue to work with the medium of film after we have left.

A short month remains for us to say farewell to this peaceful, friendly and always summer-warm world. It’s hard for us to say goodbye. Especially the people we met thru our joint work that we came so close to, they will be missed. We will probably have to come back soon. What else?


A Story of good Water

With our workshops, we always make small trips. The voyage told below in the video leads us to the island of Kolol En. We accompanied Jina David, an environmental activist and Councelmen. Together with a group of young people, Jina tested the water quality in the island’s rain reservoirs and at the same time taught the young people how to provide clean water in the future. Jina’s project was made possible by Jo-Jikum and KIO.


Stewards of the Environment

For a week, our team member Christina Schulze accompanied a research team led by the Marshallese scientist Mark Stege in their work on the Maloelap Atoll. From this week she brought you a little movie titled “Stewards of the Environment”, which already gives you some of the narrative style and moods of our future movie.

And 13,070 kilometers away from the Maloelap Atoll, the Potsdam (Germany) based musician Marc Schicker composed the music for her video while watching it. Have fun watching and listening.

The work of the research team around Mark Stege has been made possible by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the Marshall Islands Conservation Society.


Uncertainty Relation

It was low tide and we went out into the lagoon. We had spotted 3 children sitting like little dots on a small sandy elevation in the shallow water. We wanted to get near and see what they were doing, greet them with “Mauri” and take a few pictures. When we arrived, we saw that they were digging for shells in the mud, collecting them in their plastic bowls. In between they again and again jumped into the azure shallow water for some refreshment. The oldest of the three boys may have been 7, the youngest hardly 5 years old.

We say “Mauri”, but hardly get noticed. Only one boy gives us a broad smile. We stoop down and start digging too. Viviana and little Maira are soon successful.

The oldest and most eagerly digging boy may have thought we had earned some encouragement and gave us one of his shells which was much bigger than the ones we had found. We thanked him and silently dug on. The boys did not speak English, we did not speak I-Kiribati. Slowly the flood came in, bubbling around us. It was time to leave. Even for the boys. Christina and Claudia had already reached the shore, the water was rising. Mark was following them, carrying the Camera protected on his shoulder. I carried Maira on my arms. Also the boys started for the shore. The ground was strewn with pieces of coral and with sharp edged empty shells. We imitated the walk of the three boy, slowly feeling with the feet for a way, following the elevated sandy patches beneath the water. Soon we would reach the shore, no danger was thought of.

Suddenly the three boys started to throw themselves with impressive jumps forwards and backwards into the deep waters around us keeping their breath, pretending to drown and then emerging out of the water, giggling. The smallest was hectically struggling in the water. The oldest swam beside him and was still laughing out loud. Mark looked back calling something unintelligible and turned to come back. The third boy dived for a long time, much too long. Gunnar grapped him and got him out of the water. The boy seemed panicked but otherwise OK. I kept an eye on the other diving boy. The seconds stretched. Something had happened to time. Somehow it wasn’t right. Nothing was right anymore. I took the panicking boy from Gunnars’ arm. The water was now almost 5 feet deep. I carried the boy on one arm and Maira on the other and made as fast as possible for the little elevation. It was now covered with water, the bowls of the boys had been long washed away, while Gunnar was wading to the diving boy to get him out of the water.

I put the children down to the ground, the water just coming up to their knees. They clung to my legs. I saw that the third boy had reached the shore, obviously he could swim. But the boy that Gunnar brought lying limp in his arms was hardly breathing if at all. Foam had gathered around his mouth and nose. His eyes were empty. In our misplaced bubble out of time we shook the boy, pressed his chest and his back. Some breath came back. Then Mark arrived and took over from Gunnar, shaking the boy again and again while Gunnar was pressing his chest. More foam came out. But there was no dry space, we could neither put the boy down nor could we press his chest with enough power or try respiration. But being now three adults we could make it to the shore.

Gunnar took the boy, foam was running again out of his n ose and he started crying like someone would cry in his sleep. He was alive, just. But indeed he wanted to get to sleep and Mark, wading behind Gunnar, started to slap the boy gently in the face, crying: “Wake up, dont’ you sleep!”. And in the direction to the shore Mark was yelling: “We need help! Get us some fresh water!”

Two men from the shore came to meet us. “Don’t sleep”, they said in I-Kiribati to the little head resting on Gunnars shoulder. Almost 40 people were waiting on the shore and 3 bottles of cold drinking water. Exhausted Gunnar was kneeling in the sand, still holding the boy in his arms. The boy wouldn’t drink but Mark just sprayed the ice cold water on his head and neck. This made him gasp and finally the salt water mixed with white foam streamed out of his lungs to the relieved cheering of all people around. “Look, the boy can breath again”, Maira said to me. I clasped her tightly in my arms.

Later, back at the car, we looked to our laughable injuries on our feet. Walking to the shore we had not heeded any corals or shells anymore. The siren of the Ambulance was wailing.

What had we done? What damage had we caused? Surely, this 3 boys had been out regularly at low tide. Even if they could not swim, they knew the sea. Again and again we talk about the three in our team. We had put them in jeopardy. Because of us, they had stepped beyond their limitations and abilities. We were the mischief-maker in their world. This was an instance of the uncertainty relation: nothing can be watched without being influenced and changed and you never know if it is for better or worse.

It was our first important overall lesson. For us and in this place. We need to take much more caution and be very careful in what we do and in our meetings with the people, whom as documentary film maker we want to encounter with respect and may not to expose to danger. (Viviana Uriona)

In principle: holidays

On January 4, 2018, our small team for the Kiribati Project arrived at the small airport on Tarawa. After three days of travel, we were finally there.

When the plane was still in the air, we had flattened our noses against the windows. In the midst of the azure blue vastness of the Pacific Ocean, which we had flown over for hours from Fiji, there was suddenly some pieces of land deep down there. Circular the shape, the tiny atolls arranged themselves on the caldera of an ancient volcano. Hard to imagine that there should be space enough for the landing of the jet. But there was space and we landed noisily. The thickest heat shot through the open hatches. After we had crossed the runway on foot and finally came to the customs office, the young officers began to use their mobiles frantically. From the office of the President they received the information: “Send them all back to Fiji.”

What happened?

Already in the spring of 2017, we had taken care of the necessary papers for our work. The presidential office issued us a “clearance” in June that recommended everyone on the islands to support our work. On the basis of this kind letter, we had raised money for the project, received support from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kiribati Consulate im Hamburg, Germany, purchased equipment, booked flights and applied for a ten-month visa at the Ministry of Migration of the Republic of Kiribati.

However, the ministry informed us by mail a few days before Christmas that our “clearance” only applied to three out of four of us (in the meantime, we had brought Christina into the team and told the local authorities all about that) and visa approval was impossible for us – altogether. When we asked the presidential office to adjust our clearance, they also declared it ineffective. Local politics had changed, we learned from friends from Kiribati. After many bad experiences with foreign filmmakers, the Ministry of Justice was asked by a new president to come up with new guidelines for approval a work – which may take considerable time.

What should we do? Our flights were booked. Our apartments were subleased or terminated. Claudia’s unpaid leave with her employer had begun and would last only for 10 months.

Time was running up. So we flew. (Friends we later met on Tarawa informed us, that that was the correct decision. The motto, they said, is, “Go and talk to the people. Everyone is listening to you here when you stand in front of them.”)

So we flew: twelve hours from Düsseldorf to Singapore. After eight hours of waiting almost as long again to Fiji and from there after three hours to Tarawa – and from there almost back to Fiji, where we were to be deported to.

The young officials seemed a little embarrassed by the presidential order. They looked at us with concern and argued with each other. They provided the little Maira (4 years) with cold water. And they were always on the phone. All the time. Again and again. Until there was suddenly said that we could stay. The next day, however, we should report to the Migration Office on time at 10:00 am. With whom they spoke and who spoke for us, we still do not know.

Friends from Kiribati patiently waited for us for two hours in front of the airport in the blazing heat. In a convoy they drove us through the unreal bright day along the only main road to the small shady house under coconut palms we had rented. On the ride, they joked and laughed a lot. They said, we just learned the most important lesson: patience. The second lesson, they said, were already the last one: It would be important to always be respectful and friendly. That is exactly how we will be treated if we stick to the rule.

Armed with these two lessons, we entered the migration office the next day and took the first step forward. We could legally continue to stay – as tourists, until the government has decided on our work permit.

So now we are forced to be vacationers in paradise. Which was basically the plan anyway. When Maria of the production sent us on the trip, she said: “ake your time. Get used to the climate and customs. Talk to the people. Find out what they need and who cares about your workshops. Build a network. Confederate. ”

That’s exactly what we are doing these days. And it is always overwhelming how much friendliness and helpfulness is brought to us in conversations. A few holiday photos and holiday stories Mark Uriona put on his blog. Click here! We’ll keep you up to date on how things are progressing.

They do not give way to the waves

Together with the filmmakers kameradisten we have been working on a new full feature film for cinema since the beginning of 2017: we call it the Kiribati project. It will be (again) a participatory film. We gave it the working title: “The do not give way to the waves.”

The film will be shot and edited together with the people of the islands of the Republic of Kiribati. Kiribati is located in the central Pacific. Due to the melting of the poles, the rising sea level threatens to flood the islands in historical short time to come. But the future of the republic is still unwritten. Not a few believe that it will inevitably sink. Others think the islands can be saved. For our film crew, Kiribati is also a symbol, a warning to the world. If we do not finally learn to treat our planet with respect, it will put us in front of unimaginable difficulties everywhere. The flood in one place is the drought in another place.