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At a glance: Indonesia

In Aceh, Indonesia, children’s video diaries document their lives after the tsunami

UNICEF Image: Aceh, Indonesia, children’s video diaries
© UNICEF video
A young boy in a camp in Meulaboh, Indonesia learns how to tell his story using a video camera in the UNICEF-supported ‘Hello Video’ project.

By Nina Martinek

NEW YORK, USA, 13 July 2006 – At the sprawling Meulaboh camp in Indonesia’s Aceh province, Syahrul, 12, focuses his video camera on a budding yellow flower. Syahrul is one of thousands of Acehnese children living in camps for people displaced by the December 2004 tsunami.

Through a UNICEF-sponsored project called ‘Hello Video’, Academy Award-nominated director Riri Reza and a team of young Indonesian filmmakers are teaching children like Syahrul the art of film. So far, 33 Acehnese children in eight UNICEF child centres in Meulaboh and Banda Aceh have participated in workshops organized by the project.

Over the course of each three-day session, the children learn the basics of video production. Cameras in hand, they create video diaries expressing their thoughts, ideas and concerns.

UNICEF Image: Aceh, Indonesia, children’s video diaries
© UNICEF video
Young Indonesian filmmakers teach tsunami-displaced children in Aceh how to make films.

Telling their own stories

“We want to try to approach this almost like a journal, so it works as a personal diary film,” explained Mr. Reza. “They basically learn hands-on. It’s very informal. They can tell stories through their point of view.”

One ‘Hello Video’ participant, Devi, was inspired to chronicle her life at school. Under the guidance of workshop mentor Pak Manca, she conducted interviews with her classmates and filmed a science experiment involving light refracting from a mirror.

The experience has given Devi new ambitions. “I want to be a teacher like Pak Manca,” she said. “He knows a lot of things in detail. He can explain his lessons clearly. Not every teacher has this capability.”

Poignant vision

Ten-year-old Muhammad made a video diary about a day in the life of a young girl, Ayu, who lost her father in the tsunami. “I chose to film Ayu’s life because she is my best friend and I feel close to her,” said Muhammad, who lost both of his own parents and two brothers in the disaster.

UNICEF Image: Aceh, Indonesia, children’s video diaries
© UNICEF video
Academy Award nominee Riri Reza (right) and other filmmakers teach Acehnese children how to use a video camera.

The ‘Hello Video’ workshops have opened the eyes of these children to exciting possibilities, providing inspiration and enabling them to communicate about their personal lives and dreams. The poignancy of their vision, fuelled by their recent experiences, is evident in the video diaries and highlights the project’s importance.

“I want people who watch the videos to be able to accept the reality, respect the children and not to underestimate the eyes and the truth of the child,” said one of the film mentors. A compilation of the video diaries has been screened in 24 locations across Aceh.

‘People can see how life is’

In line with UNICEF’s ‘build back better’ post-tsunami recovery plan, calling for more than 300 new schools to be built in Aceh over the next three years, the video workshops are another way of improving the quality of life and education for children there. At the same time, ‘Hello Video’ provides an outlet for their voices – and their hopes for the future – to be heard.

For his part, Syahrul is enthusiastic about the learning experience.

“I am really happy,” he said. “It’s great, because we can make a film and maybe send it to other countries so people can see how is life in the barracks in Aceh. It’s the first time I have ever used a camera – it was impossible before because it’s too expensive – but now I would like to become an actor or a film director. That’s my dream.”




13 July 2006:
UNICEF Correspondent Sophie Boudre reports on the ‘Hello Video’ programme teaching children to make video diaries in Aceh, Indonesia.
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13 July 2006:
Watch scenes from a behind-the-scenes documentary about the UNICEF-supported 'Hello Video' project.
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