Documentary School

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Photo credit: ‘1001 Inventions’ (www.ibnalhaytham.com)

Twinning War/Conflict Cities by using Documentary Film…

 We must remember that in time of war what is said on the enemy’s side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace. (Walter Lippmann)

Nowadays, documenting humanitarian issues in post-conflict/post-war countries by using film requires more than knowledge of the general film making techniques. It seems not enough to have studied a Documentary/Filmmaking School. More than this, the human approach of the filmmaker is defining the quality of the final product. It is for this reason that we set up our Ibn Al Haytham Documentary School. We see more through our lenses, by looking with the eyes of the heart, by using empathy and involvement, in a time where this is needed most. We don’t know what is happening in Syria and Bosnia if we don’t hear their stories. By using film as a medium we bring stories from war zones closer to others in e.g. The Netherlands, US, France, or other fortunate areas. Storytelling then becomes something more than filming a ‘talking head’. In most cases, the scenery in post-war/post-conflict regions is different for filmmakers. Sometimes their safety is at risk, and everything happens ‘on the road’, or the person interviewed cannot be reached anymore because of the deteriorating circumstances. There are several barriers that filmmakers face in reaching scenes for their story. Therefore, our techniques for education will be ‘on the road’on hands information from our local and international trainers (e.g. Syrian filmmakers in Istanbul and Gaziantep, Lebanese filmmakers in Beirut; Bosnian filmmakers in Sarajevo and Srebrenica). We will travel for 2 weeks to the post-war/post-conflict country. Before that, the participants will also receive trainings on scenario writingcamera techniques, (digital) securitymontage techniques, etc. After the filming journey ends in the field, we will also assist on the production of the final product. Eventually, we will screen all the films with e.g. the themes ‘Missing Persons‘, ‘Women in War‘, ‘Remembering the War‘, ‘Imagining the Post-War City‘, ‘The New Generation after the War‘, ‘The Role of the International Community during Wars (UN etc.)‘, in several film festivals in Gaziantep, Sarajevo, Beirut, Amsterdam and Istanbul. After all, these themes are re-curring in almost all the mentioned war zones (Syria, Bosnia, Lebanon, etc.). By making cross-national comparisons, we will understand the themes in more depth as human stories that have universal aspects, while they are also unique and specific to a certain region or country. 

We shoot movies in war and conflict zones.

 Guidebook

Together we will produce a guidebook on how to make documentaries in war/conflict regions. This will also be published on our website as a toolkit for other documentary filmmakers around the world. It is a combo pack of documentary filmguidebook and web platform, all created in cooperation with global participantstrainers and experts to be capable of dramatically increasing the distribution of sharper professional training and quick reference, as well as lessons for documentary filmmakers. Given the difficult and sensitive nature of the task, we will also include recommendations for safety, (digital) security, and how to record and share information more ethically. With this module we believe we can prepare documentary filmmakers not only to consider how to contribute to the sensitive quest for documenting humanitarian issues by using film, but also the more universal and less sensitive task of contributing to the global community’s clearer general understanding of what happened in these post-war/post-conflict regions.

 Vision

We want to produce documentaries about different humanitarian issues in the world that touch people’s hearts and make them think. Within this frame, ignorance is what we oppose, and compassion is what we seek to find as storytellers. We want to stand in the middle of the society. After all, all art forms come from the hearts of the community itself as an expression of the soul. Our community is sometimes a village, sometimes a region, and often time it comprises the entire world. Most of all, we aspire to be filmmakers who are a reflection of societal topics that are present at that moment (as our documentary filmmakers will be of various origins and countries, while representing the different layers of society). After finishing a series of documentaries (as e.g. our series on Sarajevo, Beirut and Gaziantep) we will organise gatherings and film festivals in several parts of the world during the screening of these films (among others in Sarajevo, Istanbul, Gaziantep, Beirut etc.).

 Aim and Strategy

The aim of this Documentary School is to educate young film- and documentary makers to shoot movies in (post-) conflict or (post-) war zones. The training method is very practical, as we will go to the field to directly film all together, with a professional trainer, for two full weeks. Before we leave, the participants will be trained in (digital) security, scenario writing, sound, montage and film techniques. After we return from the journey, the group will edit their films individually or in groups (depending on their preferences).

For more information on our Documentary School’s upcoming documentary journeys, please click here!

Finally, it is important to explain more about the name of our Documentary School. Who was Ibn Al Haytham? Why the name ‘Ibn Al Haytham‘? Watch this short fragment of ‘1001 Inventions’ to find out: 

Ibn Al Haytham revolutionized optics, taking the subject from one being discussed philosophically to an actual science based on experiments. He rejected the Greek idea that an invisible light emitting from the eye caused sight, and instead rightly stated that vision was caused by light reflecting off an object and entering the eye.

By using a dark room with a pinhole on one side and a white sheet on the other, he provided the evidence for his theory. Light came through the hole and projected an inverted image of the objects outside the room on the sheet opposite. He called this the “qamara”. It was the world’s first camera obscura.

If you want to learn more about Ibn Al Haytham’s contribution to optics and vision science (also camera obscura etc.), then please click here!