The French production company Article Z is a believer in the prospects of the Internet as a democratic media and has put this into practice by developing a documentary project known as “Mad Mundo” consisting of interactive investigations on the Net combined with documentaries broadcast on TV. ULLA JACOBSEN has browsed through the pilot Internet site and interviewed Patrice Barrat, the man behind “Mad Mundo”, by e-mail.
Mad Mundo is a project with an ideology behind it aiming at “technology” which places journalism at the service of the people’. It is also a pioneer project in the use of the new technology, in that it is truly interactive, between media (TV and the Internet), between subjects and directors and between the general public and the product. The process is part of the product by encouraging ‘people’ to get involved and take part.
Whereas its quite common for broadcasters to link some of their programmes to web sites that provide elaborating information and discussions, it is new to use the web as the starting point and have the television programmes come out of the web site.
The people behind “Mad Mundo” believe that this concept can generate a new interest in current affairs and important issues, and that the interactivity is the key to involving the public, eventually leading to more than raising awareness, but actually generating a certain sense of responsibility among the audience.
Mad Mundo is running now as a pilot Internet site, and three documentaries have already been made.
The plan is that each year Mad Mundo will tackle ten themes linked to globalisation. The format consists of investigations into a topic raised by any person with an idea, though he/she has to be the main character of the investigation, and it has to be a question that affects his/her own life. If Mad Mundo chooses to continue working with the topic, they get their network of reporters around the globe to look into the matter. The investigators report back via the web featuring short video clips and texts from the investigations. It is then open to the public to give suggestions on what leads should be followed and thus to influence the product. The recordings are then edited into a weekly or monthly 52-minute television broadcast that gives an update on maybe two or three investigations.
Each story will basically be built around the same elements: the starting point is a person – the main character – who wants to understand some phenomenon related to his/her own life. The investigators contact different people to illuminate the story and report their findings to the person in question. At some point they establish a direct link-up between the main character and some key characters of the investigations so that they can speak with each other directly.
An example of one of the stories that will be found at the Internet site is “Why Christoph needs migrants” which deals with international migration. Christoph Peter-Isenberger has set up an IT company in Germany and wants to attract computer programmers from all over the world to migrate to Germany to work for him. He wants to explore whether this is possible, whether the ‘world’ encourages this migration and whether computer programmers are interested in immigrating.
The topic is explored in India by Indian documentarist Sehjo Singh, who finds two computer programmers and sets up a link with Christoph. Both parties present themselves to see if employment is a possibility by investigating the skills and interests of the Indians. She also goes home with the Indians to show their background and life in India, their motivation to immigrate. In Bulgaria, Dagmar Wünnenberg follows the recruitment campaign of Christoph’s company and talks to young Bulgarians interested in going. In the UK, Julie Flink talks to the manager of a company that specializes in getting work permits for migrants and reveals that the British Government is quite open about green cards, whereas in Germany it is still quite difficult, despite a new law that should make it easier. Back in India Sehjo Singh has uncovered some of the exploitation traps in the ‘global workforce idea’, namely ‘body shopping’: some human traffickers keep half the salary of the migrant in return for organising the job.
Of the two other pilot investigations, one deals with Gilles Duflot who cannot see his daughters due to legal differences between Germany and France. The investigators visit politicians and lawyers to understand the system and the idea of a ‘United Europe’.
The other deals with carworker Geraldo de Sousa who got fired by Ford in Brazil and wants to understand why. His story is put into perspective as an effect of the crisis in Asia and Russia. It is the story of how the global economy affects one person’s life somewhere on the globe.
The website is financed by Arte, the European Commission, CNC Nouvelle Technologies and One World Supersite, and the pilot documentaries by ARTE, YLE and TV3 Catalunya.
Article Z is now working on the fundraising to make the format happen on a regular basis on television (as a weekly or monthly format). The current potential partners are ARTE, YLE, TV3 Catalunya, WorldlinkTV USA, and after being pitched at HOT DOCS (Toronto) last May, interest has been shown by Canada (CBC, Radio Canada and NFB (National Film Board)), Australia (SBS), and the US (PBS Frontline). The plan is to launch the format officially on the web early next year and on television later on.
Selection of stories and reporters
UJ: How will you select the stories? As far as I understand it, five stories will be selected by an editorial committee and five by ‘people’? Who makes up the editorial committee? Will the five other stories be selected by a sort of web election among everybody who wants to vote on all incoming proposals – or how?
PB: The Editorial Committee will be composed of the main partners, broadcasters, maybe some institutions taking part and two or three “visionaries”. The Committee will agree on the themes the programmes should deal with, but the actual stories will come from the web or other types of suggestions. The idea of the Editorial Committee is to make sure that I don’t make decisions on my own on such important issues and that I consult with people with different cultural and geopolitical backgrounds. And to involve the partners more so that they feel really involved with the project.
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