Friday, October 5, 2012

The training is over; the students and trainers have returned home. During the first week of September, the centre was buzzing with sounds and images from all over the Caucasus and the voices of 24 young people, who were eager to learn about multimedia storytelling. The workshop took place in a wonderful location - the Multimedia Education Centre in Tbilisi. The Centre is brand new and has been set up by IREX Media program in Georgia.


By Albana Shala, Free Press Unlimited Programme Coordinator

In paranthesis, just few days before the training the murder of an Armenian soldier by an Azeri one, flared once again nationalistic rhetorics, but also hatred, fear and indignation among the populations in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The students at the workshop showed maturity and wisdom in not foccussing in this incident, though recognizing that these kind of acts set back any peace efforts.

Being one of the organizers of this workshop, I consider myself lucky. Lucky because of the willingness of all the selected participants who came from different regions of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to work together. Lucky due to fact that they showed to be interested in their societies and the world at large and not only in the unresolved conflicts that keep the people of South Caucasus hostage of nationalist propaganda.

What seemed to connect the participants is not only the vocation for journalism, photography, film and digital media, but also the fact that they believe they can make a difference.

So I felt lucky to manage this group of young people, who came to Tbilisi full of ideas, some more confident than others, but all keen in learning and finding ways to express themselves through images, words and light. Already on the 3rd day, a good start was made in producing in teams of three – one Georgian, one Armenian and Azerbaijani – small stories about life in Tbilisi.

I also felt lucky because the four trainers conducting the workshop were eager to give their best advise from morning until late in the evening. A real commitment to what had to be achived in a week’s time. Work would start at 9 am and finish at 10 pm. All about the many possible ways of telling stories using multimedia platforms and formats.

The trainers would skillfully steer the newly created teams to producing together, would challenge and inspire them by showing examples of excellent photography and film work, hammering on narratives that would not only speak to a local audience but worldwide. Because many of us do have big plans for the future and as the program unrolled all present became aware that something important and ambitious is in the making.

During classes, many examples were discussed and many characters paraded the screens from the Terminator to the Ghosts of Cité Soleil, to the taxi drivers of Night on Earth and the legendary Lebanese singer Fairuz.

Until the very last evening we had intense talks about all the arrangements that had to be made and work that has to happen in the coming months in the three countries, while the trainers mentor the groups on line. Various options of communication were considered, plans were made, contacts were established. In the first week of December, the whole group will get together once again in Tbilisi to finalize the productions and present it to a wider public.

My expectations of what will come out of the 8 teams are high and some of the themes are no surprise: frontline stories, stories related to the Soviet Union legacy, social movement and activism stories, stories about tradition and identities in the Caucasus.

I really look forward to catch a glimpse of what will be produced in the coming weeks, so that this project would get to another stage – that of establishing the first multimedia agency - network in the Caucasus.

Late in the evening, as we would take a stroll in the streets of the old town Tbilisi, many of us would halt our feet at the little square near Chardin and greet with admiration the ‘flying’ statute of Parajanov, who keeps watching us from a distance.

I hear him whisper – have faith in creativity, passtion and freedom.

I do.