I was the ‘Plus-1’ this year in Rotterdam

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The ‘Plus-1’

Once in a while I get to be the ‘Plus-1’ because of producer and teacher Arleen Cuevas, who is also my wife. Like this year at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. Her partners in crime, Filipino filmmakers Shireen Seno and John Torres,  received the prestigious Netpac award at IFFR for their film ‘Nervous Translation‘.

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John Torres and Arleen Cuevas at the premiere of ‘Nervous Translation’

Shireen could not travel to Rotterdam because she is pregnant. And John wanted to get back to Manila quickly because of that. So Arleen represented ‘Team-Nervous’ at the festivals award ceremony. And I got to come along as the Plus-1. (Thank you Shireen and John!)

The moment ´Nervous Translation´ won the Netpac award

Industry, industry and more industry!

Thats the buzz word thrown at us teachers. To network. Be involved. Know whats happening in the industry. Thats the mantra and mandate.

As if Arleen Cuevas and I needed a reminder. We both work as teachers in media management. And I’d like to think that we both have a decent track record as filmmakers. We are passionate about what we do. And because of that we are involved as much as possible with the industry. At events, conferences, screenings and festivals. Regardless of any mandate.

We can be picky about the projects we work on. Our teachers salary allows us that luxury. We stay in touch with friends and professionals in the industry. And we can bring new industry knowledge to you the student.

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The NHTV IMEM team at IFFR 2018

IFFR is a great opportunity to network and get new knowledge. It is also great to spend a few days at the Hilton in Rotterdam courtesy of IFFR. You get to have dinner at the same table as the head of the Dutch Film Fund Doreen Boonekamp. Talk about the new artistic IDFA director Orwa Nyrabia,  catch up with the latest news from the Bertha Fund and chit-chat with Hubert-Bals Fund producers and directors.

And you get to watch great, unusual films you would not otherwise see. Like ‘Nervous Translation’. Or the Flemish documentary ‘Rabot‘, a film about the lives of people forced to move from their high-rise social housing in Ghent. And of course the thriller ‘The Guilty‘, a story about a Danish policeman who investigates a kidnapping.

But IFFR is not the only event in the Netherlands that matters if you are a filmmaker. We are regularly drawn to the International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) every September. And usually we take a few interested students along.

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The NHTV IMEM team with students at IBC 2017

At IBC we find out how the industry is changing. Recent speakers included James Cameron, Will-I-am, and the panel discussions on  audience trends in 2017 was an eye opener. IBC covers everything media, from production to storytelling. I learn something every time I go.

Come November we attend the International Documentary Film festival in Amsterdam (IDFA). IDFA is simply amazing.

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In my favourite IDFA cinema, the Tuschinski

It is THE international documentary festival in the world. Films are moving, shocking, touching and thought provoking. Like the 2017 premiere of Time Trial, a film about road racing cyclist David Millar on his last professional tour.

At IDFA you find out more about trends in documentary filmmaking. Like Impact Producing. Impact Producing is a buzzword right now. It has taken a foothold in the Netherlands with the Dutch Impact Academy, managed by Bernadette Kuijper. IDFA is the place where you can question filmmakers and producers about new ways of making films. Like Film and Campaign management and Impact Producing.

IBC, IDFA, IFFR – these are key events guiding us through the year. Not just as teachers who are mandated to stay in touch with the industry. But also as passionate filmmakers who are naturally driven to these events, to learn, network and then take that knowledge into the next project – and to you the student in our classroom. And doing this as a ‘plus-1’ is actually a lot of fun.

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Online Bullying, pornography and suicide.

All of these are serious threats to social media. And we know that social media giants like Facebook censor offending content. But unless you watch ‘The Cleaners’ you have no idea of how big this problem really is.

Facebooks membership alone exceeds the population of any single country on Earth. But despite their size social media networks face serious threats. Facebook, Twitter and Google are great when solving technical solutions to reach out to as many people as possible.

But they have not addressed the enormous responsibility that comes with the new global digital family. Instead they decided to keep the darker side of the Internet hidden from you.

The documentary ‘The Cleaners’ (IMDB, 2018), (IFFR, 2018) shows how social media giants deploy thousands of content moderators in the Philippines. Their task: to delete content that does not comply with their guidelines. The film claims that on average one moderator is tasked to delete 25.000 pictures and videos a day.

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Censored content includes child pornography, violence and suicides. Sometimes even streamed live. The film raises difficult ethical questions: are SNS the appropriate body to censor content in this way? Or should this be done by our governments? What kind of content should be censored? And who decides that?

We learn in the film that one moderator killed himself because he could no longer bear the emotional stress of reviewing violence, death and abuse thousands of times a day.

Pew research experts are evenly split on whether the problem will improve or get worse in the future. Critics say that social media systems amplify the worst of mankind and that this is polarising society. They say that “the dark side of human nature is aided more than stifled by technology” (Pew Research Center, 2017).

My view on this differs. Social media systems only show us who and what we really are. On social media we are confronted with the best – and the worst of us. Censoring offending content might solve the problem in the short term. But it is not Facebook posting disturbing content. We do. And sometimes disturbing content is also needed to achieve social change.

Moderators review 25,000 images and videos per day. They are given on average just 1 second to make difficult censorship decisions. One idea could be to classify disturbing content and make it available on special sites. This way moderators and users can discuss these images. Only extreme content should be deleted.

Discussing controversial content might even encourage us to do what we really should be doing: fight war, abolish poverty and create a more equal society. Then we solve the problem in the long term.

We need to demand more action from our governments to deliver peace and equality in the real world. Only then we will see less bullying, violence and pornography on social networks.