Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/Environmental awareness in Syria
Franco and Francesco arrived on Sunday evening and on Monday morning we started shooting (this was possibly a mistake! I should have given them some more relaxing time).
The first project we were going to cover was an environmental awareness programme. It was linked with a wider cooperation programme between the Water Authority of the Damascus Region and the European Union. We had scheduled two locations: a school and a Mosque. Both institutions had agreed to be the hubs of environmental awareness building among the general public on the challenges of sustainable utilization of water resource and on the importance of each person adopting a responsible approach to water utilisation.
The school children had been preparing a nice programme through which they became “ambassadors” of environmental ethics within their own communities. At school,they had been preparing newsletters, posters, leaflets, banners: and they had been rehearsing for small performances on the streets and bigger performances in the theaters; They occasionally also organized public community events where they performed and distributed information material they had prepared. It would have been ideal to be there on one of the days when children met their communities and played the role of "ambassadors". But our schedule was not coinciding with such a day. So, we had to limit to visit to the school, interviewing teachers and children while shooting at them designing their posters.
In the afternoon, we went to the Mosque. The Imam of the mosque was a very learned and committed Muslim scholar. With energy and commitment, he told us about the Muslim ethics of respect for nature and society; that it was a duty of the true believer to share resources amongst the community for ensuring the well being of fellow human beings; and that it was the duty of the true believer to respect nature as a creation of God that expressed His benevolence to humanity. And so respecting creation was respect for the Creator. "Everything on earth is a gift of God which we must share in a spirit of brotherhood".
The RAI colleagues were enthusiastic about the “Ecological Imam”. But they remained quite unconvinced about the school stuff. Not even an interview with the EU expert, on the scope of EU funding for the whole water management development programme of the Damascus Region, was as attractive for them. I tried to explain, to our RAI colleagues, the importance of linking the whole component in a unique vision of ongoing cooperation and dialogue; that EU would give us access only to the most glamorous components of the project only if we tried to be true to the whole story. It appeared as if they formally agreed to cover the idea of development projects. But, in fact, they were already considering only what was ‘glamorous”. They said that they could have pretended to film the “socially needed” passages without actually filming them. I insisted that they shoot all that we were seeing; then only could they utilize what they needed and I would have utilized what I needed. They seemed unhappy with this solution. I then told them that I would have taken an additional camera-person with me from the next geographical location. But that for Syria and Lebanon they would have had to cover it all. Francesco (the journalist) agreed. From then onwards, Franco (the cameraman) had a constant sulk; feeling victimized that he had been asked to work more than what he considered as necessary.
Since then, I tried to gradually bring Francesco on board the vision of the complexity of cooperation activities and the need to tackle the whole story. And in this effort, I encountered both success and failure - as the unfolding story of this documentary will tell you.
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