British Council Film and Scottish Documentary Institute have been busy in Libya staging a new workshop programme: Benghazi Stories.
The Libyan Revolution has inspired a generation of young people to tell their own stories through pictures, video and the written word, all distributed through an avalanche of social media.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Documentary Institute (an internationally recognised documentary research centre based at Edinburgh College of Art specialising in doc training, production and distribution) joined us in Tripoli for a workshop with local filmmakers which resulted in three short documentaries under the banner Tripoli Stories. This was one of a series of creative documentary workshop programmes delivered by SDI in partnership with British Council over the last two years, aimed at developing documentaries with human stories, reflecting a specific place and time but which have the ability to engage international audiences the world over. Both Dhaka Stories and Rabat Stories workshops have resulted in some stunning films which have subsequently found appreciative audiences at international film festivals including the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Tripoli Stories were made almost exactly one year after the start of the Libyan revolution, and, of course, the films reflected this: a Graffiti artist who decorated Tripoli with anti-Gadaffi artwork throughout the revolution; a museum custodian who constructed a secret room in Libya’s national museum to protect five thousand artefacts from the threat of looting; and an elderly lady who has lived through the rule of the king, the Italians, the British and, of course, Muammar Gadaffi.
We had planned to reprise the workshops in Libya in September 2012 but this time with a group of young filmmakers from Benghazi and we anticipated some rich Benghazi Stories. In fact our Benghazi Stories workshops began just two days after news broke of the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi and so took place in Tripoli, with our filmmakers attending an initial training session there before heading back to Benghazi to collect footage which became their Stories. Despite security concerns it could not be a more prescient time to give voice to young filmmakers from Benghazi. Like the Tripoli documentaries the Benghazi Stories reflect a city in a time of change – but, instead of revolution the stories are looking forwards to a new Libya; a young female medical student who is learning to drive, a fisherman poet and a group of used car salesmen, each trying to find a place in the world.
The Benghazi filmmakers worked through the night to be ready for a screening on the final day of the workshop when both Tripoli Stories and Benghazi Stories were screened to rapturous responses from 100 people. We were accompanied by The Guardian’s Steve Rose - read his response toi the films here. Now the films can head around the world and we look forward to hearing of their festival lives... as we look for our next workshop location.