Entries tagged with “Ilka Hartmann”.

Most of us remember the Rwandan genocide, in which ethnic Hutus slaughtered 500,000 to a million ethnic Tutsis between April 7 and July 15, 1994. Less well known is the genocide a year earlier in the neighboring East African country of Burundi where 300,000 Tutsis perished.

A new documentary, Deo: Escape from Burundi, by former Bolinas resident Ole Schell tells what happened in Burundi and how one moneyless survivor managed to escape to the United States, learn English, graduate from the Harvard School of Medicine, and then return to his former village where he organized the creation of a health center. (Click here to watch the 20-minute video)

The filmmaker is the son of Ilka Hartmann of Bolinas, a renowned documentary photographer. As it happened, Deo Niyizonkiza, the survivor, visited Napa, and she shot some still photos of him that are included in the documentary. Ole’s father is Orville Schell, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley and now director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York.

Ole Schell was interviewed last Thursday on Huffington Post Live about his new documentary, Deo: Escape from Burundi. (Click here to watch interview)

The massacre of Tutsis by ethnic Hutus was not the result of a centuries-old animosity, as many of us had assumed. The real culprit in the bloodshed was Belgium in the 20th century, Ole says. At the end of the 19th century, Germany colonized Burundi and Rwanda but after its defeat in World War I was forced to cede them to Belgium.

Although the Hutu and Tutsi spoke the same language, the Belgians officially separated them as part of a policy of “divide and conquer,” Ole says in his Huffington Post interview.

Belgian colonist measuring noses to decide who was a Hutu and who was a Tutsi.

“They would measure people’s noses, cheekbones, and height and declare some people Hutus and some people Tutsis,” Ole told the Huffington Post. “It was almost arbitrary. Some people in the same family would be a Tutsi and some would be a Hutu.

“It really didn’t make much sense, but it took hold and got in the psyche of the people.” The result was a series of genocides perpetuated by both sides.

The genocide in 1993 grew out of a 1972 rebellion when Hutu members of the gendarmerie (soldiers with police duties) tried to estabish a new republic, killing thousands of Tutsis, as well as any Hutus who wouldn’t join the insurrection. In response, Burundi’s president, a Tutsi, declared martial law, and 80,000 to 210,000 Hutus were slaughtered.

In 1993, Tutsi soldiers assassinated Burundi’s first democratically elected head of state, a Hutu, and civil war broke out in within a day.

Deo Niyizonkiza, the survivor and central character of the documentary, was a 20-year-old medical student in Burundi when the slaughter began. Ole’s video relates how narrowly Deo, a Tutsi, escaped machete-wielding Hutu militiamen.

Deo’s entire odyssey is inspiring. When he was young, he says, a class might start the school year with 50 or 60 students. Only half that many would start the next year, the others having died mostly from curable diseases. There was no medical care whatsoever in his rural village and none in the area.

So he decided to study medicine. He moved to a city and was at work in a hospital when word came that the president had been killed and that Hutu militias were killing every Tutsi they could find.

Members of a Hutu militia.

Militiamen could be heard entering the hospital and killing people either with machetes or by burning them alive. Deo ran to his room and hid under the bed. In his haste, however, he forgot to lock the door.

Ironically, that saved him. A militiaman opened the door, looked around the room, and remarked, “….That cockroach [insulting slang for Tutsi] is gone.” He then left.

Tutsis burned alive by Hutu militia.

When the militiamen finally left, there were piles of bodies everywhere. Because flesh had been burned, the smell of meat was in the air, Deo recalled.

He escaped into the woods and walked for days to reach Rwanda where a Hutu woman got him into the country by telling soldiers he was her son. After six months in Rwanda, Deo returned to Burundi.

A friend bought him a ticket to New York so he could get out of the country and study medicine at a good school. He arrived with only $200 and speaking no English. For awhile he lived in an abandoned tenement in Harlem and then in Central Park.

Deo is clearly a pleasant, diligent man, and working as a deliveryman he met a church worker who took a liking to him and introduced him to a couple who gave him shelter. They also taught him English, helped him get legal residency, and ultimately be admitted to Harvard and Columbia universities.

New health center.

At Harvard, Deo was impressed by Professor Paul Farmer, whose Partners in Health organization brought medical care to impoverished regions of the globe, and he began working with it. While working in Rwanda in 2005, Deo returned to Burundi to visit his ailing mother.

Appalled at the unhygienic practices he observed in a Burundi hospital, such as two patients using the same IV, he decided to build a health clinic in his home village, the documentary notes.

Within a year, Deo had a bare-bones clinic in operation, and it has now grown into a modern facility that includes a community center. Villagers have formed cooperatives to grow food. Most importantly, the introduction of modern medicine has had a dramatic effect on the health of villagers.

Before: What having medical care available has meant to a villager called Frederick.

After: And that’s just the start. You can see the heart-warming documentary online by clicking on the link at the top of this posting.

During an open house and reunion Saturday, a happy throng of Point Reyes Light readers, staff, and columnists joined with former staff and correspondents to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the newspaper’s first issue.

The reunion drew staff and contributors who had worked at the paper at different times during the past 44 years. A number of former staff traveled hundreds of miles to attend. A couple of them arrived from out of state.

From left: Laura Lee Miller, David Rolland (who drove up from San Diego), Cat Cowles, Wendi Kallins, Janine Warner (who drove up from Los Angeles), Elisabeth Ptak (back to camera), Gayanne Enquist, Art Rogers (talking with Elisabeth), Keith Ervin (who drove down from Seattle), B.G. Buttemiller, and (in blue shirt with back to camera) Victor Reyes. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine) ______________________________________________________________

The party was also a celebration of the Tomales Regional History Center’s publishing The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light.

Stuart Chapman of Bolinas, a former member of the staff, shot this photo, which he titled “Dave, Proud Father” because I authored the book.

My co-author was Jacoba Charles. Jacoba reported for The Light under its previous ownership and is a member of the paper’s board of directors under its present ownership, Marin Media Institute.

The colored Post-its, by the way, mark selections that I, along with others, would be reading to attendees. ____________________________________________________________

From left: Co-author Jacoba Charles, photographer Art Rogers, scientist Corey Goodman, photographer David Briggs, editorial consultant on the book and former member of The Light’s ad department Lynn Axelrod, and Spanish-language columnist Vi­ctor Reyes. (Except where noted otherwise, the photos in this posting were shot by former Light reporter Janine Warner)

Michael Gahagan (left), who drove down from the Sierra Nevada town of Columbia to attend, published The Light from 1970 to 1975. Here he reminisces with historian Dewey Livingston of Inverness. Dewey for many years provided a weekly historical feature titled “West Marin’s Past.”

During the Gahagan years, Lee Sims (left) was the newspaper’s main typographer. This was back in the days before offset printing, and each page that went on the press had to be composed in lead.

In a piece written for The Light’s 30th anniversary in 1978 and reprinted in The Light on the Coast, Michael Gahagan’s former wife Annabelle comments, “Poor Lee, he had the disadvantage of being a friend of ours. One can always depend on friends, and we did lean on him! He was always underpaid and overworked. (Weren’t we all?)”

Catching up on old times are (in foreground from left): former news editor David Rolland, who drove to the reunion from San Diego, former typesetter Cat Cowles of Inverness, and former reporter Joel Reese, who flew in from Chicago. Standing behind them are current reporter Christopher Peak (left) and Matt Gallagher, who filled in as managing editor from February through July 2011. _____________________________________________________________

Samantha Kimmey (on the left) has been a reporter at The Light for the past year. With her is Tess Elliott of Inverness, who has been The Light’s editor for the past eight year.  ____________________________________________________________

Gayanne Enquist was office manager during much of the 27 years I owned The Light. She was there when I arrived in July 1975, and she was there when I left in November 2005. (I was away reporting for the old San Francisco Examiner between September 1981 and the end of 1983.)

Former reporter Michelle Ling trades stories with Don Schinske, who was business manager during the 1990s and was co-publisher from 1995 to 1998. At left is her father, Dr. Walter Ling who teaches at UCLA. With his wife, May, Dr. Ling drove to Point Reyes Station for the celebration. In the background, Mary Papale listens intently to Laura Rogers.

Ingrid Noyes of Marshall (left) tells a story to my co-author, Jacoba Charles, outside The Light office.

Former staff recall the days of yore. From left: artist Laura Lee Miller, news editor David Rolland, typesetter Cat Cowles, reporter Janine Warner, and San Geronimo Valley correspondent Wendi Kallins. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

Sarah Rohrs was a reporter at The Light in the late 1980s. When several of us took turns reading aloud selections from The Light on the Coast, I read Sarah’s wonderfully droll account of a county fireman in Hicks Valley having to get a cow down out of a tree. (Photo by Joe Gramer)

Larken Bradley (left), who formerly wrote obituaries for The Light, chats with librarian Kerry Livingston, wife of Dewey.

Photographer Janine Dunn née Collins in 1995 traveled with news editor David Rolland to Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino and to war-torn Croatia in doing research for The Light’s series on the five waves of historic immigration to West Marin. Here she chats with the paper’s current photographer David Briggs (center) and her husband John Dunn.

Former Light graphic artist Kathleen O’Neill (left) discusses newspapering in West Marin with present business manager Diana Cameron. _____________________________________________________________

Former Light reporter Marian Schinske (right) and I wax nostalgic while photographic contributor Ilka Hartmann (left), looks on and Heather Mack (center), a graduate student in Journalism at UC Berkeley, takes notes. ____________________________________________________________

Former news editor Jim Kravets (left) jokes with photographer Art Rogers.

John Hulls of Point Reyes Station and Cynthia Clark of Novato have in the past worked with The Light in various capacities. In 1984, Cynthia set up the first computer system for the newsroom and ad department.

From left: Stuart Chapman of Bolinas, who formerly worked in The Light’s ad department, swaps stories with journalist Dave LaFontaine of Los Angeles and Light columnist Vi­ctor Reyes.

Historian Dewey Livingston (left), a former production manager at The Light, poses with former news editor David Rolland while former business manager Bert Crews of Tomales mugs in the background.

In preparing to shoot one of his signature group portraits, Art Rogers directs members of the crowd where to stand. With the throng crowded into the newspaper office, getting everyone in the right place to be seen was such a complicated operation that some of the photographer’s subjects began photographing him. _____________________________________________________________

In shooting a series of three-dimensional photos, Art had to use a tall tripod and balance precariously on a window ledge and ladder.  _____________________________________________________________

Art’s wife, Laura, who didn’t have to work nearly as hard, pages through a copy of The Light on the Coast. _______________________________________________________________

The party was in part a book-signing, and I signed copies off and on all afternoon. ______________________________________________________

Light editor Tess Elliott reads Wilma Van Peer’s 1998 account of working for the paper’s founders, Dave and Wilma Rogers half a century earlier. The newspaper was called The Baywood Press when it began publishing in 1948. The paper’s fourth publisher, Don DeWolfe, changed the name to Point Reyes Light in 1966.

Originally the readings were scheduled to be held in the newspaper office, but so much socializing was going on they had to be delayed until the party moved around the corner to Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant where the banquet room had been reserved.

Among those reading besides Tess were Dewey Livingston, David Rolland, Matt Gallagher, and I. Anyone wishing to watch me read former publisher (1957 to 1970) Don DeWolfe’s account of his initiation to running the paper can click here.

It was a grand party, and I want to thank present Light staff, who made arrangements for the party, and former staff, some of whom traveled significant distances to attend the reunion.

Two other book readings are also scheduled. At 3 p.m. Sunday, March 9, in Point Reyes Presbyterian Church, Point Reyes Books will sponsor readings from The Light on the Coast and from Point Reyes Sheriff’s Calls, Susanna Solomon’s book of short stories inspired by Sheriff’s Calls in The Light.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27, in its Corte Madera store, Book Passage will sponsor readings from The Light on the Coast. Refreshments will be served.

Actress Meryl Streep is reported to have said, “It was the greatest night of my life.” A bit of how that night in November 2011 looked can now be seen thanks to The Atlantic Monthly. The magazine a week ago put online a 22-minute documentary, Lil’ Buck Goes to China, which was directed by Ole Schell, who grew up in Bolinas and now lives in Manhattan.

Ole’s documentary follows Lil’ Buck, a street dancer from Memphis where he had briefly been a gang member, as he travels from storm-sewer gates along the Los Angeles River to the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square. Ms. Streep and the world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma appear in supporting roles.

All this is extremely convoluted, so please pay close attention.

Ole Schell, the son of highly accomplished parents, has begun racking up his own accomplishments. In 2010, his full-length documentary on the exploitation of fashion models, Picture Me, debuted in theaters on both side of the Atlantic.

Ole, 38, is the son of Ilka Hartmann of Bolinas. Ilka is a native of Germany, who as a small girl during World War II barely survived the fire bombing of Hamburg. She came to the United States in 1964. Ilka has taught classes on the Holocaust and on German literature at Sonoma State University, but she is best known for her documentary photographs of the Black Panthers, the anti-War Movement, the United Farm Workers, the 1969-71 American Indian occupation of Alcatraz, and other social causes.

Ole’s father is China scholar Orville Schell of Berkeley, where he formerly was dean of the University of California’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previously a resident of Bolinas, he authored The Town that Fought to Save Itself (with photos by his then-wife Ilka) and was once a partner with rancher Bill Niman, raising cattle and hogs in a humane and environmentally sound fashion. He is currently Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society. We’ll get back to that in a moment.

The subject of Ole’s film could not be more unlikely. Lil’ Buck performs a Memphis version of hip-hop known as jookin’. The dance style originated in the late 1980s, says Ole, but it never caught on in the rest of the country. In jookin’, the top of the dancer’s body remains stiff while the legs are fluid, moving almost like water, Ole explains.

Performing along with Lil’ Buck at the National Performing Arts Center in Beijing, Meryl Streep recites a Chinese poem in English accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma on the cello. Although of Chinese descent, Ma was born in France and moved to New York with his family when he was five. The concert was part of a Forum on Arts and Culture organized by the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations, of which Ole’s father is director.

Lil’ Buck jookin’ beside the Los Angeles River at the beginning of the film.

In Ole’s documentary, Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley says that some of his friends in Memphis have been incarcerated; some still are; some have been killed by police and some others in shootouts. In escaping from street life, Lil’ Buck says, he told himself, “I got this gift [as a dancer], and I gotta do something with it.” So he did and eventually studied classical ballet.

A former principal dancer with the New York Ballet, Damian Woetzel, took Lil’ Buck under his wing, and during a party in Los Angeles, Woetzel introduced him to Yo-Yo Ma. With Ma playing the cello, Lil’ Buck then danced to Saint-Saens’ The Swan. The performance was videoed, and millions later watched it on YouTube.

By coincidence, the concert in Beijing was organized by the Chinese musician Wu Tong and by Ma. The cellest, because of his experience playing with Lil’ Buck a year earlier, quickly agreed when the suggestion was made to include the street dancer in the concert, Ole said. During the concert, Lil’ Buck again dances as Ma performs The Swan and then performs an impromptu dance during Ma’s final number.

Ole films an interview with Lil’ Buck, who says of his dance style, “I get motivation and inspiration watching water and seeing how smooth it is.”

Dancing at Tiananmen Square. “I’m the only black person in a hundred-mile radius,” he says with a laugh.

Like the woman at left with her camera, many Chinese citizens were surprised and amused by Lil’ Buck’s impromptu dances. One couple is so intrigued they take turns posing for photos with him. He so delights one street vendor that she begins dancing beside him. Lil’ Buck’s public dancing encountered no problems except when he danced too close to the late Mao Zedong’s turf at Tiananmen Square and guards hustled him away, Ole told me.

Jookin’ at the Great Wall of China. On the drive there, Lil’ Buck comments to Ole, “I understand this Wall of China is an old-ass wall. I don’t know anything [about it] other than that.”

Lil’ Buck says none of his friends or relatives has ever been to the Great Wall, or Asia, for that matter. In fact, he adds, he is the first person in his family to ever leave the United States.

World politics are clearly not Lil’ Buck’s cup of tea. “What do you know about communism?” Ole asks him at one point. “Communism?” replies Lil’ Buck. “China’s a communist country,” Ole says. “So I’ve heard,” is Lil’ Buck’s only response.

You can watch Lil’ Buck Goes to China by clicking here. Or you can see the documentary, as well as an interview with Ole about making the movie, by clicking here. The film has already been shown at the Oldenburg Film Fest in Germany and the New Orleans Timecode Film Festival.

Lil’ Buck, meanwhile, has now spent six months touring the world with the singer Madonna and has appeared in magazines and on billboards as part of a Gap stores advertising campaign. The Wall Street Journal is currently preparing a story about him, and on Thursday, Feb. 21, he will be on the Colbert Report.

Bolinas photographer Ilka Hartmann this Thursday is taking a bus to Hollywood where her son Ole Schell will celebrate his 36th birthday Friday. But that’s not the main reason she’s going.

Ole, who grew up in Bolinas and now lives in New York City, will be on hand for the West Coast premier of his documentary film Picture Me, which he directed along with former girlfriend Sara Ziff.

Ilka Hartmann reads a review of her son’s film in the German periodical Geselleschaft.

Friday’s premier is a very big deal. The documentary has been shown at film festivals in New York, Dubai, Germany, Italy, Spain and Estonia. In New York it won the documentary award at the Jen Arts Film Festival; in Milan, it won the audience award and the best fashion film award.

The film is being shown in theaters (or soon will be) in France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand, and it is about to be aired on television in England.

Sara (left) as a runway model is seen in the film wearing the gauzy gowns, tiny bikinis, and dramatically cut dresses of the world’s top fashion designers.

Fashion modeling can be a glamorous, highly paid career for a lucky few, but even for them it can have a dark side, the film reveals.

Along with company-store-type debt to modeling agencies and sexual abuse by photographers, there is widespread cocaine use to fight fatigue. Even models who are grown women are pressured by the fashion industry to have figures as skinny and androgynous as an adolescent girl’s. Bulimia is all too common.

Sara got into fashion modeling at 14 when a photographer stopped her as she was walking home from school in New York. That led to assignments all over the world. She appeared in magazine ads, on billboards, and on designer runways. Not long ago, Ilka told me this week, she herself had seen a picture of Sara on a billboard South of Market. She was wearing a black leather jacket in an ad for The Gap.

Ole attended the film school at New York University and met Sara while in New York. After they became a couple, she agreed to let him follow her around with a video camera, shooting her world of glamour, high pay, and grinding exhaustion.

The film is highly nuanced. We watch an almost blasé Sara receiving $80,000 and $111,000 checks for her assignments, as well as a choked-up Sara admitting she has found herself in situations so compromising she can’t tell her parents about them.

Because Sara’s parents are also in the film, Ole’s access to her private world is striking. Nor is Sara alone in revealing for the documentary some of the abuse she has experienced as a model.

Ole and Sara as pictured in the Geselleschaft article. The headline translates from German as, “Food for the photographers.”

A model name Sena Cech tells Ole, “I’ve been modeling two years, working really hard.” Nonetheless, she adds, “I am in huge debt on my credit cards because I’ve been paying for my own food, clothes, and travel.

“I’m still in debt to all of my agencies. They fly you over [to Europe], so that goes on your debt. When you first get here, they hire you a driver [and] get you an apartment, so that goes on your debt. They have to make copies of your [model’s] book, so that goes on your debt. They send out the copies, so that goes on your debt. They have to pick their noses, so that goes on your debt.”

Nor is the agencies’ exploitation of its models merely financial.

“I think it is really common that the photographer would try to sexually take advantage of the model,” Sena (left) says and describes what happened to her.

“I had one [casting] experience with a very well-known photographer, who’s well known for being sexual.

“He’s very famous and a big deal. My agent’s going, ‘Go meet this guy, and whatever you do, make a great impression on him.’

“They started taking pictures. Then, ‘Oh, baby, can you do something a little sexy? Can you take off your clothes?’ I took off my clothes. I had no problem with that. I have no problem with being naked.

Then the photographer starts getting naked. I’m going, This is getting weird. Why is the photographer getting naked? Nobody’s going to take pictures of him.

“But then his assistant starts taking pictures of him naked and then goes, ‘Sena, can you grab the photographer’s cock and twist it real hard? He likes it when you squeeze it real hard and twist it.'”

As she tells the story, Sena looks more and more disgusted and finally blurts out, “This is so gross! I did it, but later I didn’t feel good about it. I didn’t feel good telling my boyfriend about it. I didn’t feel things went the way they should have.” All the same, she adds with a grimace, “I did get the job.”

And that’s the conundrum Ole’s film so deftly shows. The models know they’re being exploited in several ways, are being required to work inhuman hours, and can become so fatigued they have trouble staying awake while on the runway. But the chance to earn large amounts of money is also alluring, and in the case of Sara, the money eventually allows her to attend Columbia University and make a downpayment on a home.

When it comes to who is doing most of the exploiting, the models blame their agencies, lecherous photographers, and clothing designers who think their dresses will be more appealing to other women if the models resemble anorexic waifs.

In the 1980s and 90s, the models were usually grown women, the movie notes, but now girls as young as 14, 15, and 16 are often seen on runways far from home. These girls are easily replaceable and are typically the most vulnerable to abuse.

Picture Me is a brilliant documentary. It has many things to say, and it lets the models themselves say them. The dialogue is mostly conversational in tone. There is no screaming, no ranting. Some of what we see is sad, but some of it is humorous. It’s the nuances that give this film its power.