‘Children of the Snow Land’ is an extraordinarily moving, inspirational and absorbing documentary, filmed from the ‘roof of the world’ where families struggle and sacrifice everything to help their children.
From the age of 4 years old, children are sent to school in the city, hoping education means a better life. Unfortunately, this comes with the likelihood they will not see their parents and families again for 12 years. Children of the Snow Land documents the life experiences of children born in the High Himalayas of Nepal and follows the journey of three students as they embark on a perilous trek back to their respective villages.
One of the directors is Zara Balfour. Zara is an award-winning director, producer and writer with 18 years experience in all forms of documentary, film and content, specialising in films about the world we live in and people and cultures worldwide. She has filmed in over 20 countries, often documenting community projects in developing countries.
She began her career as an actress before moving behind the camera as producer and director. Zara set up Picture on the Wall Productions and has won awards at film festivals including Berlin Film Festival (winner of the Prix UIP for Best European Short Film), London Film Festival, European Film Awards, Telluride, Warp Records v Creative Review Awards and Cannes Lions. I was fortunate to catch up with her ahead of the film’s general release and ask a few questions.
What support did you get from the Nepalese Government or national agencies?
We didn’t ask for support in the beginning but the school organised a fundraising gala screening in Kathmandu after we completed the film. The Mayor of Kathmandu and the Vice President of Nepal attended. Now we have their support and we hope we can facilitate further fundraising events.
Was the filming of the documentary much of a logistical challenge?
The villages are off the grid. It was only ever two film crew plus a guide, porters and the children. Half the time it was me and co-director Marcus Stephenson or I was accompanied by our cameraman/photographer Mark Hakansson.
We used solar charger kits and backpacks, enabling us to film in difficult and remote areas. We did have porters and donkeys to aid our travel but the journey was treacherous. At times the donkeys would panic in the face of treacherous river crossings. All the rivers start in Nepal and head down towards southern Asia. Some of the dangerous moments aren’t on film and I am scared for the children going back home this year because they won’t be accompanied. It isn’t an easy journey and it’s tougher than it’s shown on film.
What about a sequel and is there anything you would do differently?
I would like to revisit the children in future to see how their lives have changed. Perhaps film them in a similar style to Michael Apted’s ‘Seven Up’ series, which followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964. On a technical level, a bigger crew and more resources would have been nice.
So what are the next steps?
The documentary will be streaming on demand and on general release from 14thMarch 2019 at Curzon Cinemas in the UK, Ireland and Malta.
The aims of Children of the Snow Land are:
To show a global audience what some young people have to do for an education – and allow the Children of the Snow Land to inspire people around the world with their tenacity, grace, courage and wisdom.
To increase awareness and help improve the lives of Himalayan children attending school far from home by helping them to stay connected with their families, and to ensure they make full use of the education for which they have made such a sacrifice. The film has already inspired donations of over $30,000 to directly help the children.
To encourage development of the Himalayan villages so that eventually children won’t have to be separated from their families to achieve an education.
One thing I love about New York is the number of talented artists it hosts, particularly jazz musicians of pure quality and depth. One of these is Philadelphia’s Duane Eubanks, an extraordinarily talented jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, producer and recent recipient of the Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award.
Knowing he has also performed with mutual friends, I’ve been following his career and have the pleasure of owning his albums “Things of that Particular Nature” (2015-Sunnyside) and “DE3-Live at Maxwell’s (2016-Sunnyside). I recently had the pleasure and honour to speak to him about his career to date and what’s next on the horizon.
One of the questions artists are asked is how they chose their medium but we already know it’s in your blood; Your mother is pianist Vera Eubanks and your brothers are celebrated trombonist Robin Eubanks and guitarist Kevin Eubanks. I guess my first question is why did you choose the trumpet over any other instrument?
I have a twin brother, Shane… He and I began playing music at the same time. Our brother, Kevin, played trumpet before he played guitar. Robin has always played Trombone. My twin is taller than me by 6 inches, our brothers had old instruments at home so, when it was time to choose instruments, Shane got the longer instrument (the trombone) and I got the shorter instrument – trumpet. I think each instrument has a certain personality that relates to prospective musicians that play them. I feel a special connection to the trumpet. My height was a plus in this situation.
You decided to read business at the University of Maryland. Did you always see yourself becoming a musician and was that choice purely for academic merits?
I studied Business in college because I was fairly good at maths and was impressed by my dad’s corporate dealings and the level of stability with which he lived his life. I was very confused about being a musician when I entered college. I wasn’t even playing when I entered college. I had my years of teenage rebellion and I stopped playing for 6 years (14-20). I missed the very formative years so I had to work really hard to get my playing on a certain level. My brother, Shane, convinced me to join the school band and I became obsessed with the instrument and thus a change of heart in terms of my lifelong ambitions.
Describe your experience studying jazz at Temple University with Dr Billy Taylor and subsequently working with Mulgrew Miller’s Wingspan?
My time at Temple was specifically an attempt to prepare myself for my move to New York. I wanted to be on a certain musical level before I made the move. Temple University awarded me the time to learn and practice. It also awarded me the opportunities to meet and perform, through master classes, with Dr. Billy Taylor and Wynton Marsalis.
I had the absolute honour to perform with the great Mulgrew Miller. I was a member of his band, Wingspan, for ten years. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for Mulgrew taking me under his wing. I grew immensely from this experience and learned in abundance about the realities involved in being a musician, bandleader, and I got to witness, first hand, a genius at work and how he carried himself as a human being. It was a blessing that has shaped me as a musician and I will NEVER forget the experience or him.
You are a recipient of the Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award. Can you explain the initiative/award further and the importance music education plays in furthering the careers of young musicians?
The Philadelphia Education Fund stands very firmly for all aspects dealing with high quality education. They are advocates for quality teachers, quality learning environments and the overall quality of students’ learning experience.
I received an EDDY award as an advocate for education. It was an honour to be chosen along with my brothers, Robin and Kevin, to receive this education award. Education is the key to our nation’s future. I have accepted the responsibility to share the information that I have gained through my years of experience to ensure the proper information is passed in order to sustain the high level of the music that I love. The generations before me did the same so I could learn. Prospective musicians have a right and a responsibility to learn and those with the experience have a responsibility to share/teach. I, personally, put the responsibility on both student and teacher.
That’s very admirable and congratulations on receiving the award. I’ve heard American jazz artist talk about the popularity of the genre declining but surely this isn’t the case? Moreover, jazz continues to be very popular globally. What’s your view?
I think the popularity of jazz will always be an issue being discussed. Many have no idea that jazz WAS the popular music in the early part of the century. It has lost its place in popular music but is still very relevant to a number of people. If it wasn’t , there wouldn’t be so many musicians trying to learn the art form. In Europe, where I think cultural values and advances are praised, supported, and upheld, communities have far more access to things of artistic expression (music, art, literature, etc.) I don’t see that kind of dedication to the uplifting of the minds of the American people. Jazz music gives the listener the opportunity to open their minds, think freely, and absorb a different approach to a general situation. The emphasis on the importance of the arts has been gravely overlooked. I think it’s hindering the advancement, exposure, and the quality of the arts and society as a whole.
To date, not only have you worked in jazz but across many genres, at many venues and with a number of notable artists. What has been the highlight of your career to date and why?
I am extremely proud of the fact that I have worked in many different genres of music in many different settings. I think it is very important for musicians to keep an open mind when it comes to crossing genres when performing. It allows you to grow as an artist and opens yourself to prospective fans of your craft. I have to say that working with the legendary Elvin Jones would have to be at the top of the list. I constantly thank my man, Bassist, Gerald Cannon for making it possible for me to be a part of Elvin’s band. I still wear the shirts we had to wear. I got to witness, first hand, the spiritual element of the music. I guess it was easy for him from playing so many years with John Coltrane, but it was an awesome experience to watch him play his heart and soul every night on every tune. It made me aware of the fact that music is spirit and the lack of it in today’s artists.
Who is at the top of your list to work with next if you’re given the opportunity?
Work with next? I have ALWAYS been on a mission to learn as much as possible from my predecessors. I have a list of guys in mind…. George Cables, Victor Lewis, Billy Hart, Harold Mabern, to name a few. I have worked with Dave Holland’s Big Band. I would love to experience that again and would embrace the opportunity to do a smaller group with him. I would also like to do a something different like 3 trumpets with incredible talents that walk with humility (no ego – I can’t do egos, especially trumpet egos) perhaps Josh Evans and Roy Hargrove… that would be fun.
I forgot to add, working with my brothers Robin and Kevin. I think that is something not only I would look forward to but many in the industry as well. Also Roy Haynes!! The thing about music is that there are plenty of ways to learn, people to learn from and plenty of music to make.
Following the successful release of ‘DE3: Live at Maxwells’ and ‘Things of that Particular Nature’ when should we expect another album?
I am very proud of my latest releases. They were well received and a lot of fun to produce. They were much needed learning experiences. You can expect something in 2018. I am performing a weekend at Smalls December 15 & 16. These dates may become commercially released performances.
Are you happy to share anything else currently in the pipeline?
Someone very wise and very close to me advised me not to share everything that I was up to. While you are working out your plans, someone has already implemented them. I am working on music for a number of recording ideas. One specific recording project I am really excited about. Everyone will know when things get put into motion. I now realize the importance of being creative when promoting myself. That being said, we did a mini documentary with the intention to draw some attention to my willingness to teach. This mini documentary has been accepted by a few independent film festivals. In general, keep your ears open for future recording projects. They are coming!
I look forward to witnessing more from Duane and wish him the very best with his career. For further information please visit his website. www.DuaneEubanks.com
She Has a Name, the 2016 Canadian drama by the Kooman brothers, was released in the UK this month and will be shown at selected cinemas across the country during the coming weeks. The film’s primary focus is the harrowing story of two young girls who become victims of trafficking in Thailand. The film highlights the level of human trafficking, the height of corruption and the power businessmen yield from such a despicable activity. Please click on the link to read my review of the film for Occhi Magazine.
I was invited to attend the premiere of Rudy Carpio’s film ‘The Generator’ on behalf of Occhi Magazine last weekend.
My review of film, which explores the use of technology and virtual reality is available via the following link. Rudy Carpio is a very talented young director and I wish him continued success with projects that address areas he has much interest in.
For further information please also visit these related links:
Once again, it’s a delight to befriend another hugely ambitious, motivational and multi talented artist. My latest featured artist goes by the name of Tiffany (Unscripted) from New York state. Tiffany is definitely setting an example in what it means to be artistic. She agreed to share some of her aspirations and highlight drivers that contribute to her inspirational creativity.
You’re a writer, filmmaker, photographer, designer and poet to name some of your interests and skills. If forced to describe yourself under one of these disciplines what would you choose?
Oh, no! I couldn’t choose. My love and passion is equal for each. [laughing] In retrospect, I can say each skill has evolved from another. I started writing poetry in my teens. I would spend hours under a massive tree in Thornden Park, composing several poems. When I reached my twenties I started writing short stories and nonfiction. My creative outlet expanded to include media and design. I started doing photography and film out of necessity. I needed a photographer for a few projects. They were either too expensive or unreliable. I purchased my first camera, a Canon Rebel XT from a pawn shop, to shoot my first concert. It was Tech N9ne Hostile Takeover Tour 2012, at Celebrity Theater. From that project, my love grew for capturing moments. My first film project was an impromptu recording of my friend’s music video on my Samsung galaxy SIII. Currently, my focus is photography. My goal is to enhance my skills, to include high-fashion and editorial. I’m really excited because it’s for an online magazine I’m launching January 1, 2016. It’s called Occhi Magazine. I’m creating a fashion lookbook for it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
People, places, and things. Tomorrow is never promised. So, I live in the moment. This has expanded my view of the world. My analysis of the what, why, and how has broadened. I can look at anything and see art. This translates into creating something. It can be either graphic design or a haiku. Many of us fail to see the beauty in the world. It’s no fault of our own. We are constantly besieged with news of death, destruction, and sorrow. My outlet has always been art. Whenever I experience stress I create something; writing, designing, filming, or photographing helps me to relax.
Are there any particular artist you’re most proud to have worked with?
Yes, my friends. [laughing] I value their friendship, as well as their experience. We often share creative ideas. For instance, one of my friends has created a Star Wars, inspired music video. It turned out exceptionally well! It was shot in Yuma, Arizona. I’m located in Upstate, NY and couldn’t make the filming. I kept telling him how I wished I could have been there to capture the experience in a documentary!
Are they any particular artists you would like to work with?
This is where I’m supposed to name someone famous or highly-celebrated. But I’ve always been a champion for the underdog. My interest is mainly other independents, who strive to create exceptional work. It can be someone relatively unknown; someone who is still learning a new skill. Creativity is fueled by passion. Passion can be infectious, enlightening, and a catalyst for your own desire to create a beautiful piece.
Can you tell me more about your magazine and media company?
It all began with Mia Bella Occhi™. Mia Bella Occhi™ is an affordable online fashion boutique offering curated finds of unique sunglasses, clear lens eyewear, and fashion accessories, such as hats, scarves, and jewelry. It’s for fashionistas and fashionistos, who value a mixture of trendy, sophistication, style, and comfort. I wanted “everyday” people to know style is not what you wear. It is who you are. The magazine spawned from this idea. I thought I should create a visual display of what people can wear. I don’t use professional models. Instead, I ask people who never modeled to showcase the fashions. I want the boutique and magazine to be organic and accessible to everyone, no matter their economic status. This is the main reason why I added Frugal But Fashionable and Reclaim Recycle Restyle. Frugal But Fashionable proves you can still look great using thrifty buys. Reclaim Recycle Restyle showcases designers who craft handmade fashions, such as jewelry, clothing, and other upcycled creations. The designers and their creations will be featured in the magazine and lookbook.
Creatives tend to think outside the box but is it easy to fuse your disciplines into an entity that is recognised or appreciated by the general public? Do people easily see relationships between visual arts, fashion and other creative professions?
Yes. Art is subjective. Personally, I do not create for the public. I create things I’m passionate about. I recently held an online art exhibition on my Instagram page. It was titled ‘Completely Unexpected.” Abstract art was created using a mathematical algorithm, and then blended with computer-generated, paint brushstrokes. It was well received. Most exciting was the nods received from art museums. That was absolutely thrilling! I’m planning my next exhibition for spring 2016. Stay tuned! I will use my new Nikon D7200 camera for this piece. I can’t wait to shoot with it!
What are the highs and lows of running an independent boutique, magazine and film production company?
I don’t see highs and lows. I see peaks and valleys – much healthier perspective, indeed! [laughing] All challenges are good. That’s how one learns. People see the effort you put into your work. I prefer being recognized for my work. For me, it’s more meaningful. People see the drive and passion. Being recognized for only your accomplishments is like saying you only rate when you receive a reward. I believe a person should be rewarded for effort alone. Perhaps, this is why I find it challenging to sell my art. I do it solely for passion, not recognition. Funny. I recently read a debate over what makes a photographer an amateur or profession. Many argued being paid for the photo session makes you a professional. I beg to differ. I shot high-profile, music concerts as press and media. I wasn’t paid for the work. I did it because it was my passion to do so, and I wanted to prove it’s not the equipment, it’s the user that defines professionalism. That was the first concert previously mentioned.
The world is an open door of opportunities for someone with the right mind-set. As a creative professional in a very competitive environment what encouraging words would you share with young, inspired and multi skilled people reading this article?
Two words: Do you. As long as you remember art is subjective, you can create anything you imagine. People will either like or dislike your creations. Expect it. Just don’t let it prevent you for creating the most wonderful piece, yet, to be discovered – YOU!
Last night I attended a very interesting talk and photography exhibition by Black British Filmmaker Nadia Denton. Nadia has just published her book ‘ The Black British Filmmakers Guide to Success.’ It provides encouragement and guidance for young UK based filmmakers embarking on their careers. Primarily a resource for filmmakers, this publication includes interviews with leading directors, guidance on learning specific aspects of film theory and aids the understanding of film, genres & audiences. Nadia touched on many issues and necessities that are essential for most artist working in the creative industries; to be professional, business minded, taking opportunities to network and collaborate with a variety of stakeholders. The publication is available to download from her website www.nadiadenton.com
The exhibition entitled ‘India: An African Odyssey’ is photographic documentation of her experience traveling to West Bengal and Orissa.
She explains: ‘ In 2008, I travelled to India for the second time. What struck me was that in contrast to my experiences in Delhi where I was largely recognised as a person of African Descent, in West Bengal and Orissa, the lines were blurred…
With my lens I was allowed a certain level of access that would normally be denied a western traveller. The people I met did not see me as an outsider. I was welcomed into a culture which was not my own but where I could see aspects of my identity. Though I have lived and travelled extensively in West Africa, India remains the only place where I have been surrounded by so many people who share my skin colour. The images in the exhibition are a snapshot of the glimpses I had of my African self in India.’
The exhibition runs until 14th October at the Portobello Art Gallery and forms part of the Westway Development Trust’s programme of events celebrating the UK’s Black History Month. Forthcoming events at the venue include the screening of ‘Nubian Spirit” a documentary exploring ancient Sudan and Ancestral Voices, a film examining African spiritual practices.