Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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642: Chi-ki Kids

By Jessica Ocheltree

Global Lives Project
An international documentary effort aims to take a snapshot of our world

Photos courtesy of Global Lives Project

Imagine you’re a 9-year-old girl living in the Shatila Refugee Camp in Beirut, where basic infrastructure is lacking and clean drinking water hard to come by. Now imagine your father is fighting hepatitis C and unable to work, leaving your mother as the sole wage earner and you as the caretaker for three younger brothers. Having a little trouble picturing what that must be like? Well, an international collective of filmmakers, designers, architects and activists called the Global Lives Project (GLP) wants to help you understand it better.

GLP is in the process of recording 24 hours in the lives of ten people—including the 9-year-old refugee Jamila Jad—who represent the world population in terms of geography, gender, age, income and religion. The goal, says founder and executive director David Evan Harris, is to reshape how we “perceive cultures, nations and people outside [our] communities by collaboratively building a video library of human life experience.”

“I was lucky enough to spend eight months living and studying international development in Tanzania, India, the Philippines and the UK,” Harris continues. “Part of [what] stuck with me the most was sharing the experience of daily life with the families and individuals. I wanted to bring that experience to people who didn’t have the same opportunities to travel abroad as I did.”

Harris has picked up local support from Irene Herrera and Ron Carr at Temple University Japan, who worked on the most recent shoot in Lebanon and also on a project in Tokyo in 2007. The subject of the latter was Rumi Nagashima, a college student and Girl Scout leader left temporarily wheelchair-bound by a car accident. “Following the life of Rumi not only gave us a perspective on the life of a female university student in Japan, but also an opportunity to show the facilities Tokyo offers for physically handicapped people,” Herrera says.

“Rumi was a great subject because of her ability to overcome obstacles placed in her way,” Carr recalls. “I shot most of the wheelchair scenes and had to run with her in the August heat. She did her best to put me to the test.”

Running with a camera is not the only challenge the filmmakers face—the footage is shot for a grueling 24 hours straight, an experience Carr describes as “exhausting and exhilarating.” For the Lebanon shoot, they had a full day of preparation beforehand and ran workshops on digital photography for the kids in the camp afterward, so they basically worked for five consecutive days. But it may be just this unusual production style that makes the project work. “Normally, you would never film 24 hours straight nonstop, [but] what I like best about the approach is that it is observational and gives us a fly-on-the-wall perspective,” Herrera explains. “The viewer is later able to peek and co-experience a day in the life of that person.” 

To date, nine of the ten shoots have been completed. In addition to Japan and Lebanon, subjects were filmed in Indonesia, India, China, Malawi, Brazil, Serbia and the US. The remaining shoot is yet to be decided, but will take place this year somewhere in South Central Asia.

Along with the wealth of information and images on the group’s website, the GLP’s finished product will be an innovative traveling video installation. To create an immersive experience, the exhibit will feature high-definition screens that stretch from the floor to the ceiling. Ten separate screening rooms show the unedited recordings of each subject, and in another room visitors can see all ten screens at once. Wireless headsets track the visitors’ movements through the exhibit, providing them with the corresponding soundtrack for their location.

While some may wonder about the effectiveness of such an anecdotal approach to storytelling, Herrera sees the value of putting diverse points of view out there as a resource. “As consumers of media in today’s world, we need to work hard to deconstruct our stereotypes and always make the effort to see a little further down the line, research a bit more, and truly find different sources before we make up our mind about events happening around the world.”

For more information on Global Lives Project, see http://globallives.org. To get involved or to find more detailed information on the individual shoots, see
http://globallives.org/community.

Village Voices

■ Are you having troubles with your feline friends? The members of the Cat Chat group, run by local animal welfare activist Tracey Tanaka, are here to help. Cat Chat hosts a monthly meeting where people can come with their questions, concerns or just a story to share. There is no cost for the group’s advice or coffee, although it’s recommended that people bring some snacks or drinks to share. Participants can also join in the discussion about future projects the group will undertake to improve conditions for Tokyo’s kitties and their two-legged friends.

Aug 23, 2pm. Free. Nearest stn: Mejiro. Contact Tracey Tanaka at 070-5582-6750 to RSVP or see www.meetup.com/www-savethekitty-com for more information.

■ Ozone might not seem like the hottest topic for a get-together, but when you consider that the gas is used in everything from food safety to wastewater treatment to medicine, you can see why it warrants so much attention. The 19th Annual Ozone World Congress brings together scientists, engineers and end users from all over the world to talk about the recent advancements in and applications for ozone technology. The four-day event includes presentations and exhibitions, as well as organized tours to sites around Tokyo where ozone technology is being applied.

Aug 31-Sep 3. Registration ¥60,000 (¥10,000 for students). Tower Hall Funabori, 4-1-1 Funabori, Edogawa-ku. Nearest stn: Funabori. www.io3a.org JO

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