This week’s videos feature a number of iconoclasts: from intrepid journalists working in one of the most dangerous cities in the world to a woman fighting against the odds to educate the girls of her country.
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“Mexico’s Female Crime Journalists,” Vice
“We’ve become war correspondents in our own land.”
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, is one of the most violent cities in the world outside a declared war zone, with 10,000 people killed over the past four years alone. While there has been a decline in the number of murders recently, the city still averages four killings a day.
“Mexico’s Female Crime Journalists” looks at the fallout of the narcotics war through the eyes of four reporters at El Diario de Juárez newspaper. Filmed during the runup to the Mexican presidential election last year, the doc provides an engrossing profile of women who risk their lives to give the victims of crimes a voice and to hold government officials accountable.
Two of the paper’s staff members already have been assassinated, as journalists have found themselves becoming part of the conflict because, as one reporter explains, “information became an instrument (for drug traffickers) to spread fear.”
In one of the film’s most powerful moments, a mother who has lost two sons to the violence breaks out of a scripted press conference to confront Mexico’s president. As he nods and mutters niceties, she lashes out.
“Don’t say, ‘Of course,’ Mr. President,” she implores. “Do something for Juárez. Make Juárez the way Juárez was before, not the bloodbath that it is now.” She then turns her back on him and walks out.
Remembering the dramatic confrontation, the journalist shakes her head and says, “That was really amazing for all of us – it was the first time I ever saw anyone telling the president that this war was having an immeasurable cost that he was unaware of.”
A warning: The video features some grim and explicit footage.
“Hidden in the Harvest,” The Center for Investigative Reporting
“If he kills me, who will take care of my kids?”
These are the words of a female farmworker profiled in this raw graphic-novel video, which looks at the lives of the largely unseen women who handle the food we eat every day.
“Hidden in the Harvest,” – a companion piece to “Rape in the Fields,” a documentary that aired on FRONTLINE earlier this week – tells the story of three women who came to the U.S. looking for the American dream but say they suffered sexual harassment and abuse while trying to work to feed their own families. Voice actors are used to protect the women’s identities.
It is impossible to know how many of the more than half a million women who work in the food-processing and agricultural industry have faced sexual abuse or assault at work. Many are migrants and are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs or being deported.
Almost as upsetting as hearing the details of these stories is learning that in the last 15 years, not a single supervisor accused of sexual assault or rape in the agricultural industry (at least those with federal sexual harassment lawsuits filed through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has been tried in a criminal court.
“Winter of Discontent,” Al-Jazeera
As Russia gears up to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the government is promoting idyllic images of the “Russian Riviera” as a land of natural beauty and prime ski resorts.
But the descendants of the Circassians who once populated Sochi and its environs remember the land as the place where, in the late 1800s, 1 million of their people were driven from their homes and another 1.5 million were killed, in what they consider to be genocide.
“Winter of Discontent” follows a group of international activists who are trying to raise awareness of this forgotten history. To highlight these crimes, the group launches an anti-mascot campaign, a contest for people to design a symbol that reflects the history of Sochi more accurately than the adorable woodland creatures put forth by the Russian government.
The film profiles one graphic designer of Circassian descent as he grapples with his lost identity and designs his contest entry. As inspiration, he visits his ancestral homeland for the first time.
“It’s like waking up after 150 years, a long sleep, like a very long hibernation,” he reflects.
“In China, a Staggering Migration,” The New York Times
The Chinese government plans to move 250 million people from farms to cities over the next 12 to 15 years. It’s an almost mind-boggling scheme – a transition that took centuries to achieve in Western countries.
The government hopes to speed up urbanization and spur economic growth. Millions of farmers would move from rural areas to high-rise apartment complexes, a plan that some critics call “warehousing” and radical social engineering.
This short video takes a computer-generated journey over some of the most populated cities on the planet to try to visualize the scope of this unprecedented move and get a sense of what the process would entail.
If the video prompts more questions, a New York Times print piece offers more background and an in-depth look at what some call the largest migration in human history.
“Humaira the Dreamcatcher,” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
“Women are very strong. They have the power to build and destroy empires.”
This is a revolutionary and even dangerous message in conservative rural Pakistan, where religious militants have attacked more than 600 schools in the last six years.
It’s the mantra of Humaira Bachal, a woman from a poor neighborhood where “people feel education is pointless.”
Directed by Emmy and Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the short documentary follows Bachal as she fights ingrained social prejudice and cultural traditions to educate the girls of her community, a daunting task in a country where 26 percent of women are literate.
If you get beyond the somewhat schmaltzy music at the beginning, it’s an amazing story of perseverance and courage. Bachal’s own back story is dramatic: In ninth grade, when her father forbade her from leaving the house to take her exams, Bachal’s mother stood up for her and confronted him, getting beaten and suffering a broken arm in the process. (Bachal’s father now says he was illiterate and ignorant at the time.) Bachal views her mother’s support as instrumental in her upbringing and now tries to convince other women that they hold the same power to change their daughters’ lives.
Men “fear that once women become independent, they will raise their voice against the violence that is inflicted upon them,” she says. “They want to keep treating us like animals.”
Amanda Pike is the producer for The I Files, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The I Files selects and showcases the best investigative videos from around the Web and across the world. Major contributors include CIR, The New York Times, BBC, ABC, Al-Jazeera, Vice TV and the Investigative News Network.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter: @AmandaHPike.