Win a travel documentary scholarship to the Amazon

Gap Adventures and National Geographic are teaming up to give one aspiring filmmaker the chance of a lifetime. The two organizations are giving away a film scholarship that will allow the recipient to work with veteran film producer Trent O’Donnell, who will mentor the budding documentarian in the art of making a film, while exploring the depths of the Amazon Rainforest. And once the project is finished, the film may make its debut on the Nat. Geo Adventure Channel, an opportunity filmmakers often wait years to get.

This scholarship is open to anyone, whether you’re a film student or not, with the only requirements being that you must be at least 18 years of age, and hold a current passport. You should also have a healthy sense of adventure, a love of films, and be reasonably fit, as there will be some jungle trekking involved.

All applicants are required to make a 3-minute video, in English, based around the theme “Local Encounters”. The video should demonstrate your love of adventure, and show how your “encounter” changed your perspective on the world. A panel of judges will review the entries, looking for originality, the ability to tell an engaging story, and a passion for filmmaking. Once your film is complete, upload it to YouTube and head over to to fill out the scholarship application. From there, you’ll complete the process by embedding your film and telling the judges about it in 200 words or less. The deadline for entry is August 1st.

The winner won’t just get the opportunity to make a film with Trent O’Donnell. They’ll also receive a flight to Quito, Ecuador sometime in the last two weeks of September, where they’ll have the chance to explore the Amazon with O’Donnell and Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of Gap Adventures. They’ll actually stay in the rainforest with the local Quichua tribes, learning about their way of life, and creating a film on sustainable tourism.

To find out more about this great opportunity, click here. Then go blow the dust off your video camera and get filming. Who knows, you might be on your way to the Amazon in just a few short months.

North Korean film festival has begun!

If you just happen to be in Pyongyang for the next week, check out the city’s film festival. It opened yesterday at the People’s Palace of Culture, with the opening ceremony followed by a screening of “The Great Devotion (2009, the year of dramatic changes).” The festival’s fare is predictable in subject matter, but it will give you a leg up on the film junkies who brag about
Sundance and Cannes.

The festival, which begins on February 16, 2010, is set to last 10 days. According to a report by the Korea Central News Agency, North Korea’s official news outlet, those attending the film festival “will watch documentaries showing the undying feats of General Secretary Kim Jong Il making an endless forced march for field guidance, regarding President Kim Il Sung’s idea of believing in people as in Heaven as a maxim at cinemas and halls of culture in Pyongyang and various local areas.”

Some of the films being screened are “A White Gem,” “The Country I Saw” and “White Birch of Paektu,” as well as “other feature films dealing with mental power of the servicepersons and people of the DPRK creating a history of new great surge under the uplifted banner of devotedly defending the leader.”


Lindsay Lohan investigates India’s child trafficking industry

So, after many differing reports on what Lindsay Lohan was doing in India (including ours, when we heard gossip that the whole thing was a liecation), the rumored BBC documentary previews, such as the above, are starting to appear.

Lohan indeed went to India in December 2009, allegedly to investigate both sides of the rampant child trafficking trade, from interviewing the parents in poverty with little choice but to sell their children and turn a blind eye to what happens to them to meeting survivors of the horrible industry, which regularly leads to physical and sexual abuse, as well as slavery.

According to a press release by the BBC:

As Delhi proudly prepares to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Lindsay meets young boys who work 16-hour days under the constant threat of beatings, for a fraction of an adult wage.

To find out why a parent would send their young child away to work, Lindsay travels to rural West Bengal, where the picturesque Sundarbans belie the abject poverty made worse by annual floods.

Lindsay meets a reformed trafficker who would make a quick buck luring young girls away from naïve parents with offers of gainful employment.

In Kolkata, Lindsay visits a shelter where young girls promised domestic work for India’s burgeoning middle classes were trafficked into brothels and forced into prostitution.

While we’re not sure Lindsay Lohan has the skills or qualifications for in-depth investigation, she’s definitely raising awareness about child trafficking, and for that we commend her. The topic is especially relevant now, as India is currently considering legalizing prostitution. If you’re interested in helping child and human trafficking survivors in India and around the world, visit, where you can purchase goods which keep survivors employed, learn how to host your own home party or community event to raise awareness, sponsor a child, and more.

The Drifter documentary now on DVD

Drifter Trailer from Poor Specimen on Vimeo.

The Drifter film just finished it’s autumn tour around the United States and is officially making its way around the adventure and surf circuit. The film centers around the writings of legendary surfer Rob Machado and his time spent in the South China Sea, exploring, learning and well, drifting. More potently, however, the topic strikes home for any long term traveler or lover of the Pacific Island culture, and having been there myself I find the film engaging.

With what appears to be a limited tour and release, tracking the film down to see in theaters may be a bit of a challenge, but if you’re inspired enough by the trailer to order the DVD, it looks like a solid documentary.

[Via The Cleanest Line]

The Bookmobile: swapping stories and hitting the road

It’s appropriate that at Litquake — the recent week-long celebration of books in San Francisco — I’d find out about unconventional ways of honoring the written word.

I came across the Bookmobile, parked on busy Valencia Street with its doors open wide, inviting visitors to come inside.

‘Is it a library or a bookstore?’ I wondered, trying to categorize it so I could understand it. The thing is, it’s neither.

It’s a truck that’s empty inside, except for wooden shelves on each of the side walls, which are filled with books. The concept is simple and brilliant: step inside and get a book. In return, they don’t ask for money. They ask to videotape your response to the question “what book influenced your life?”

Creative and thought-provoking, right? Even better, the Bookmobile will soon put its wheels in motion to reach people in small towns along the Lincoln Highway. It’s set to leave San Francisco in April and arrive in New York City in mid-May.

At the helm is founder, Tom Corwin, who has had success as an author, music producer, and film producer. And if you think the driver looks familiar, you’d be right. Along the way, different authors — including Amy Tan, Tom Robbins, and Dave Eggers — will be joining the road trip and taking their turn at the wheel.

At the end of the project, Tom will combine the interviews with a history of the Bookmobile and create a documentary, appropriately named “Behind the Wheel of the Bookmobile.” He hopes to finish the film by spring 2011.

“Books influence our lives in ways too often untold,” says Tom. “Our trip is designed to tell some of those stories while our back roads route connects the project to America’s literary history.”

You can only imagine the stories waiting to be told — both by people along the Lincoln Highway and the authors themselves. They’re likely to be as varied as the books out there. Already in the archives is the story of Ralph Eubanks, the Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress, who recalls being thankful to visit a bookmobile during his childhood. As an African-American in Mississippi, he could get books there, when he couldn’t get them at the library.

The Bookmobile on this trip is authentic, alright. Until recently, the “Old Gal” made her rounds of the suburban Chicago area for 15 years (and 70,000 miles) to bring books and the love of reading to children and adults. Bookmobiles have been used as mobile libraries for towns without library buildings and for people with difficulty accessing libraries — the first U.S. bookmobile ran in Maryland in 1905.

Books have already been donated by libraries and publishers, but what the project could use now are money donations (from $35 for ‘buy a mile’ to more for ‘buy a state’).

If you’re not on the cross-country route, you can still be a part of the Bookmobile experience. Submit the story of the book that influenced your own life (in 200 words or less) to the Bookmobile website. And follow along via the website’s blog and interviews, or get updates on Twitter and Facebook.