20 March 2010

Zambia: Chansa Tembo's Life-Changing Video

YOU may not be able to know who Chansa Tembo is. That is understandable, not so many people do, maybe only the big shots in the American film industry.

Last year, during the 61st United Nations General Assembly in New York, a video on democracy by Chansa Tembo was screened throughout the Summit.

Chansa was also invited to the office of the United States Secretary of State in Washington DC where he met Hilary Clinton and was awarded with a glass trophy before invited guests and members of the local and international media.

Also in Washington DC, two senior staff members of the Discovery Channel took Chansa on a tour of their facilities, and discussed filming in Zambia and other African countries.

In Los Angeles CA, he was honoured by the NBC Universal and taken on a VIP behind the scenes tour of the studios stage sets, post production area, and many other components of the film process.

But how did this all come about?

Last year, Chansa was at home in Ibex Hill, Lusaka, when he received a forwarded e-mail from a staff member at the US Embassy in Lusaka informing him about the Democracy Video Challenge competition, a Public-Private Partnership promoting a global dialogue on democracy.

This prestigious global competition was launched on International Democracy Day at the United Nations.

After Chansa received the e-mail and read through it, he thought about it.

"I thought about Zambia, and realised that Zambia is a good example of a young democracy working, one enjoying peace and tranquility which we have had for decades. So, I said what better way to represent peace and democracy than Zambia.

"So, I got pen and paper, and started thinking about the best concept to represent democracy in Zambia. The guidelines indicated that I had to define democracy within three-minutes, this was a real challenge because democracy has been debated for centuries," he says.

After toiling with several ideas but nothing appealing, he decided to take a walk around the orchard on his small-holding farm.

His immediate thought was that fruits represent a whole host of ideas, shapes and tastes.

In the same way, democracy is like that with people with different personalities, tribes, creed and sex all living together as one society.

With that, he went ahead to shoot a video using the fruits, the result being a 46-second movie.

After the movie was done, it was uploaded to youtube, which was one of the partners of the US Department of State for the competition.

The video had to go through several stages before it could be chosen as the winner.

These stages included competing against fellow Zambians, then against others in the region and eventually against the continent.

Throughout all these stages, Chansa Tembo proved superior.

The competition attracted over 900 video submissions from 95 countries, and an independent jury co-chaired by Hernando de Soto, president of the Institute of the Liberty and Democracy, and Michael Apted, then President of the Directors Guild of America.

These selected the finalists before a global voting public finally selected the winners.

And thus, Chansa became the inaugural winner of the democracy video challenge to represent the African continent in the challenge.

The others came from Asia Pacific, Middle East, the America's, Europe, the Far East and the Poles.

The prize package for the winners included travelling to three cities in the United States where they were to meet film industry professionals, democracy advocates from government, media and civil society.

With that, Chansa was on his way to the Unites States to visit New York, Los Angeles CA and Washington DC.

In New York City, which was his first stop, Chansa visited the New York University Tisch School for the Arts and was hosted by the Dean of Film Dr Sheril Antonio.

The visit included a tour of the prestigious institute and its facilities as well as a round-table discussion about film and promotion of filming potential in Zambia.

The United Nations also screened Chansa's video for the public to see near the entrance of the building for three months while at the same time he met Roland Rich, the executive head of the United Nations Democracy Fund and discussed democracy in Africa generally and Zambia in particular.

He also met the Under-Secretary of State Judith Mchale who awarded him with a certificate of achievement from the US Department of State.

She also appeared with him on America's highest rated morning show, the Today Show on NBC.

He also appeared on Fox and Friends, an American morning television show with the country's largest viewership where he was interviewed by two hosts.

And yet that was not all, Los Angeles was waiting for him.

A panel of representatives from the film industry hosted Chansa at the 200-year-old William Morris Entertainment Endeavour, one of the world's largest and most diversified entertainment agencies representing clients from all artistic disciplines with offices in America, England and China.

The Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles also screened his video and discussed with him the possibilities of improving the film industry in the country.

He also promoted independent film-making in Zambia with senior members of the Sundance Film Institute, an internationally recognised resource for thousands of independent film, theatre and music artistes widely regarded as the premier US show case for American and independent film.

Chansa was also taken to the University of Southern California: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas School of Cinematic Arts for a tour of the their billion dollar film school after which there was the screening of his video at the film department's main auditorium.

In Los Angeles, he also visited the famous Illumination Entertainment Studio where he had a meeting with the chief executive officer and also had interviews on radio talk shows and worked on video projects.

Still, there was Washington to do.

In Washington DC, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its international counter-part, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) screened his video to ambassadors, diplomats, businessmen, media and the general public as Chansa sat on a panel to promote his home country Zambia.

These two institutions serve as a leader and advocate of the motion picture, home video and television industries.

While there, he also went on a tour of the Capitol Building and was interviewed by Voice of America, America.gov and also had a meeting with Nobel Peace Prize nominee, economist Hernando de Soto.

But the crowning of it all was the invitation to the office of Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

Quite something considering that although Chansa did some training in video in Australia, he has not handled any major international project that has hit big headlines.

Chansa has always had interest in video, film and television from as early as the age of 12.

After coming back from Australia, he registered a company called Frontline Exposures, which did not handle major projects except functions like weddings and other family functions.

His major break was perhaps in 2006 when he was hired to film the British-born Australian raised actress Naomi Watts who visited the country in her role as the Global HIV/AIDS Ambassador.

It was after that that he started to get major jobs from organisations like Computers for Aid, Beit Cure Trust and also the visit of Bill Clinton under the Bill Clinton Foundation.

Since then, he has focused primarily on documentaries involving Non-Governmental Organisations and institutions such as Sandy's Creation.

But even with that, it is highly unlikely that he would have thought the shooting of a 46-second video would result in one of the most elaborate tours of the United States where he would meet the who's who in film, media, civil society and democracy.

What a long journey a 46-second video can take one to !

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