Dispatch from South Korea: Discovering Docs at the INPUT 2011 Public Media Conference

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Theresa RileyPOV’s digital director, Theresa Riley, reports on her experience attending this year’s INPUT, a public media conference held from May 9-12, 2011 in Seoul, South Korea.

Lanterns in Seoul, South Korea, celebrating Buddha's 2555th birthday in May 2011.

Lanterns in Seoul, South Korea, celebrating Buddha’s 2555th birthday in May 2011.

I had the honor and pleasure to attend the 2011 INPUT conference in Seoul, South Korea earlier this month. INPUT is an annual conference that gathers public media producers, filmmakers, broadcasters and distributors from around the globe to watch and discuss the best public broadcasting programs of the previous year.
Since its beginnings in the late ’70s, INPUT has expanded from an event to promote the exchange of ideas between American and European public media producers to include participants and programs from all continents. This year’s schedule included programs and films from more than 25 countries, and a handful of selections from the United States (three of which aired on POV!):

I’d never had the opportunity to attend INPUT, so I was thrilled to talk about our Food, Inc. social media campaign as part of a panel titled “Changing the World: Strategies to Make a Programme More Effective!” It was scheduled for the last day of the conference, so I spent the first three watching more films than I had ever seen in a 72-hour period — and I work in public media! I saw films from far-flung (to me!) locales, Europe, the Balkans, Asia…

Since I produce content for the POV website, I was particularly interested in the online projects of the European network Arte, Korean broadcaster KBS and others.
The films and programs that made the greatest impact on me included the following (in no particular order). If they air on your local PBS station or online in the future, I encourage you to check them out!

Chernobyl: A Natural History

Chernobyl: A Natural HistoryChernobyl: A Natural History

This French film from Arte about what is happening to animals and plant life in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was eye-opening and truly amazing. It was a real surprise to me, because I expected an entirely different story, one of a natural disaster of epic proportion. And although some of that was true, especially in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, the film showed that nature has a way of rebounding that I certainly didn’t expect. The work that Russian, American and other scientists are doing investigating the genetic anomalies that have occurred due to radiation and other factors was totally fascinating. It was also unfortunately well timed in the shadow of the Fukushima disaster. The audience encouraged the NHK programmers in the room to show it on Japanese television because it provided a hopeful message in the wake of tragic events.

Village Without Women

Village Without Women is a film about a small, hillside village in Bosnia that has lost all of its women. I enjoyed it for many reasons — chief among them was the fact that it was not about conflict. It told a simple, universal story of what happens to the remaining residents of small towns (or in this case, a village) that are depopulated due to economic circumstances. The film provided a glimpse of a place and people I will probably never have the opportunity to visit and meet. The filmmaker, Srdjan Sarenac (remember that name) stumbled upon the village by chance, and filmed there on and off for more than four years to relate this story of a farmer in search of a wife. The resulting film was enlightening, funny and very entertaining. It made an impression on me that I won’t soon forget.

Revolution 101

Revolution 101, featured alongside The Most Dangerous Man in America in a panel about keeping politics out of public media, also stuck with me. The film, which covered a 10-year campaign on the part of the filmmaker and other independent producers to keep the Knesset out of public media featured very personal, innovative filmmaking. I was entertained by the thought that director Doron Tsabari was sort of the Michael Moore of Israel.

The Green Wave

The Green Wave is an animated film produced in Germany that was one of many to bring me to tears. The idea of animating and reading aloud the blog entries of young people involved in the so-called Green Wave movement in Tehran last year was very effective. The film personalized the revolution happening in the Middle East in a way that just isn’t possible in a traditional news story (or a Twitter feed) about the consequences of people taking to the streets. The animated sequences were riveting. (If you are in New York, The Green Wave will be featured at the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival.)

These are just a few of the stellar films and programs that screened at INPUT this year. In addition to thanking the filmmakers who produced all the featured films, I want to thank KBS and all the INPUT members involved in putting together such a great conference. In particular, the musical extravaganza that KBS put together featuring performances of traditional Korean music, K-Pop (Korean pop music that is something to behold!) and renditions of classic American songs (“Over the Rainbow” and “Proud Mary” to name a few) was amazing. The teenagers that made up the rest of the audience alongside the INPUT attendees were nearly as entertaining as the performers. Who knew that Korean kids hold up Lite-Brite-like signs at concerts to show their love for K-Pop bands? I certainly didn’t.

theresa
theresa