Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Documentary Tackling Shark Finning Seeks Crowdfunding Help

The ocean has fallen foul to the ravages of human appetites including whaling, excessive fishing draining stocks, and the practice of corralling dolphins for captivity or food as depicted in the chilling documentary The Cove. Philip Waller's documentary, Extinction Soup looks to expose yet another slice of oceanic savagery, shark finning. Writer, producer and director Waller is looking for funds through crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo to cover post production costs for a film that looks set to highlight and bring about legal changes to curb shark finning, a practice that could have devastating effects on the environment.

Shark finning is the practice of capturing sharks and sawing off their fins before casting the now mutilated sharks back into the ocean. The fins are usually sold to restaurateurs to be used into he delicacy that is shark fin soup. The sharks carcasses are discarded back into the ocean dead or alive, with many going days even weeks dying painfully from their wound. It is estimated that around 70 million sharks per year are mutilated and killed for this dish despite being illegal in many parts of the world. Californian filmmaker and adventurer Philip Waller has teamed up with activist and shark swimmer Stefanie Brendl to make Extinction Soup. On board to help bring this important project to the masses is producer Sidney Sherman, whose own success with crowdfunding saw the short film Reboot come to life, and Reboot alumnus Travis Aaron Wade serving as co-producer. The team are hoping that the film will expose practice to a worldwide audience and educate as well bring pressure to the world's governments to bring about effective legislative changes to end shark finning.

Filming has completed thanks to self-funding by the filmmakers but requires a lot of post production work. The funds being raised through IndieGoGo will be used to cover this cost. The sum of $30,000 is being sought to produce the film's music, graphics and titles, audio mixing as well as licensing costs, and none of it will be used to compensate the filmmakers. If the campaign is successful then the makers are aiming for Extinction Soup to be released around May 2014.  To date the campaign has raised over $25,000 but with less than ten days left till the deadline the race is on to find the remanding funds.

In return for their pledge donors will be in line for various rewards starting from the usual thanks and acknowledgments from the filmmakers to digital downloads and DVD copies of the finished film, signed and exclusive merchandise. Those with over $1,000 to invest will receive the usual rewards plus producer, creditors as well as invitations to festival screenings. For the top end investors, i.e. $10,000 or more, they will be flown to Hawaii for a free shark tour courtesy Stefanie Brenda. It should be noted however that this will mainly be for US investors. Most importantly however investors can feel satisfied in helping bring an important film to fruition, one that aims to significantly reduce this cruel practice or even bring it to a halt through a global legal intervention. For more information and to make a donation please visit the campaign's IndieGoGo crowdfunding page. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

[Gallery Post] Nelson Mandela - Thoughts from an Idealistic Student

As a youngster growing up in the eighties I knew all about Nelson Mandela and the struggle against the brutal Apartheid regime from news reports. I was helped along in my growing knowledge by the music of my era, songs often commenting on events around the world such as Free Nelson Mandela by Special AKA and Gimme Hope Jo'anna by one of my favourite artists Eddie Grant. I soon came to learn about this great man who in attempting to lead his people to freedom (sometimes through questionable means) was arrested and convicted of various crimes and sentenced to four life sentences. Like any aspiring idealist I greatly admired Nelson Mandela, who passed away aged 95, an inspiration to his people and others fighting for their freedom around the world.
Image Credit; Ben Sutherland
So what did Nelson Mandela mean to a spotty teenager whose interests mainly featured breakdancing, martial arts, and girls along with the typical (yet infrequent) teenage rebellion against the parents? I was raised to believe in equality for all and that any form of bigotry based on skin colour, nationality and religion was unacceptable. Hearing all about the treatment of black South Africans at the hands of the white led Apartheid regime at the time my conclusions about them were obvious. Mandela fascinated me as at the point I was becoming politically aware he had already served over 20 years in prison under very harsh circumstances. Having read and heard his story and how he remained defiant in the face of such brutality not to mention the call to action he inspired, I realised this was a man who was not only a voice but also an icon for the much needed change in his country.

As the fight against Apartheid evolved to include the support of politicians and celebrities the world over, I grew from wide eyed school boy teen to a college student full of ambition and idealism. I believed in the right to protest and the right to speak out and as such attended many demonstrations. The anti-Apartheid movement grew into an international movement of sanctions, and boycotts of South African produce (not one Cape apple passed my lips). Through this movement I witnessed Mandela grow into a symbol of Freedom for South Africa and like so many was caught up in the whirlwind of his pending release. I watched, like millions of others, as he walked out of prison, quite spry for 71 after serving 27 years in prison, with a big smile on my face. I wasn't the only one, as Mandela was smiling, holding hands with his then wife Winnie, and waving to the crowds. It was a momentous occasion as I knew then, with his release, there was sure to follow the downfall of Apartheid. 

A few days after his release I attended a demonstration against student loans in London's Hyde Park. Of the many speakers lending the voice of solidarity was one of the founding members of the ANC and former Mandela cell mate Denis Goldberg. He talked of that moment broadcast all over the world, the moment that had me smiling, where he walked through the neighbouring towns to greet the people who come to witness his release. It seems this move was more symbolic than I realised. Mr Goldberg explained that as they were being escorted from the court rooms to prison the guards had taunted Mandela about how the only way he would leave his dank concrete cell would be feet first. I don't think at the time there was ever a more potent symbol for freedom than a black South African walking out of prison, alive and healthy in defiance of his sneering gaolers 27 years later crowds of black and white South Africans alike cheering his name. 

The rest really is history; Apartheid was dismantled, South Africa held its first true open elections and Mandela became the first black President elected to office. During the decades of struggle for freedom from oppression to see it finally become a reality must have had many South Africans weeping for joy (and perhaps even a few for sorrow) for days maybe even weeks on end. If it were a dream I don't think any of us wanted to awake from it. Mandela was no saint, and he was far from perfect but he had the courage of his convictions and he never wavered in the face of such fierce and brutal opposition. Mandela defied his oppressors and put his country onto what he hoped would be the path to freedom and equality for his people, passing away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones and with the adjulation of much of the world in his corner. RIP. 
For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others - Nelson Mandela