THE PROJECT: This documentary is done as part of an Oxfam International competition to advocate against small arms by showing their impact on social and economic development. All of us living in Burundi, we are able to see this dreadful connection first hand, in every day life. So we decided to participate, and this is how we came up with: "Bang for your Buck." READ MORE

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Join the fight to regulate weapons by sharing your story.

This week, Oxfam International premiered its latest advocacy effort for arms control and violence prevention with a unique new project called

The project allows you - yes, you! - to send in your videos and links to form part of the movement to curb violence globally.

What? How? One wonders whether only those with funds, nice cameras and training will be able to contribute. But filmmaking is getting easier every year with community centers, libraries and universities sharing their tools, and the project really is open and accessible to almost anyone.

You can be anywhere from 7 to 157 years old, computer illiterate or living in a rural area, but if you have a good point to make which persuades a few people at the local college or library with access a simple camera, you can contribute to the movement. If not, then hey, just enjoy the films on the website and tell friends about it and what it means for preventing violence.

To kick off the Shooting Poverty project this year, Oxfam called for youth around the world to submit documentary film proposals, selected the top three, and then had a producer fly out to meet them with funds and equipment to make the short films.

Last night Oxfam premiered the winning films at the Tribeca Cinema. Under the guidance of Executive Producer Oistein Thorsen and Producer Lucas Gath (Sins of My Father), the films included: Grosso Calibre, a film on illegal funk written about violence in Brazilian favelas by Guilherme Arruda and Ludmila Curi, journalists from Rio de Janeiro; Bang for Your Buck, about the plague of grenade killings in Burundi by Seth Chase, a media producer, and Brice Blondel, a UN political affairs guru; and April 6th, about how battles between Indian security forces and rebels have led to many families losing breadwinners to assassination, by Chandam Netraj.

In the former film, Grosso Calibre, we meet MC Smith, a Brazilian funk performer who's attitude simply does not quit. Rapping about how drug dealers ignite fights with the police, who then over-retaliate by laying siege to entire neighborhoods where the dealers are holding out, MC Smith performs on a line similar to that of American gangsta rappers who are simultaneously against gun violence and the hawks in the government, yet in contrast are outspoken champions of macho, tough-guy gun culture. Curi, a charismatic intellectual full of vitality who produces video journalism, and Arruda, a shy and thoughtful news editor, have already considered approaching other funk musicians in the favelas for a deeper feature version of their film.

Bang for Your Buck features Teddy Mazina, a Burundian human rights advocate and reporter who wakes up with a rifle next to his bed, combs out his hair and reports stories about how the after-effects of the civil war in the 1990s are still killing people.

For those readers who are interested in hearing more, HELO Magazine (where I work) was given exclusive behind-the-scenes with the filmmakers this week, the product of which will be added to and the DVD promo for the project.

To participate in Oxfam's latest anti-violence campaign, check out the site at Then, bombard your congresspeople with links to the films. Encourage them to support the latest US and UN arms control efforts.

Photo: Daniel J Gerstle (Guilherme Arruda and Ludmila Curi in Brooklyn).