Meet My World – London

Irantzu and Maureen had the pleasure of attending the Meet My World screening hosted by charity Amantani and Peruvian restaurant Andina last night at the Union Chapel in Islington. The picturesque venue was sold out with 800 guests taking their seats to Peruvian music.

Meet My World is a participatory film campaign developed by indigenous children from the Andes of Peru.

Watch the trailer here.

Amantani is an Anglo Peruvian NGO, which works to help children from marginalised Quechua families to access education, stimulating social development for Peru’s most disadvantaged communities. Together with their friends at the Andina restaurant in London, they have created Meet My World.

Cristina Patiño Sheen is a freelance shooter, director and editor who has been working with Amantani for the best part of 3 years. Originally from Peru, when she settled in London, Cristina approached Peruvian restaurant Ceviche, who has now expanded with their 3rd restaurant, called Andina.

The talented filmmaker is curating their Youtube Channel that boasts 5000 subscribers and shooting content for owner Martin Morales. Through this connection, she was introduced to charity Amantani, founded by Fred Branson who co-directs with Chris Palfreyman.

Amantani’s work highlights that talent and potential are evenly dispersed, but opportunity is not. They are raising awareness by engaging in creative ways to build bridges, that share and celebrate Peruvian culture and the day to day lives of the children. Last night, the topic of the films – ‘How to have fun without technology’ – unfolded as a clever interactive screening and eating experience.

Upon arrival, guests were given numbered bento boxes filled with morsels of authentic Peruvian dishes, each inspired and created by the children with the help of Martin Morales, who then brought their ideas to London and with his team created the ‘taste’ part of the evening for 800 guests.

The result was a playful and delicious accompaniment to each of the films, enabling the children to share the tastes of their world too. For example, as we watched a film on the sowing and harvesting of potatoes, and the moments of tradition and connection that the children experienced with their family and elders in their community, we simultaneously sampled delicious Peruvian dishes created with the potatoes.

Creating a full circle and what can only be described as a profoundly humbling and touching experience, the technology set up at Union Chapel will enable the children and their teachers to share in the evening via a taping of last night’s event that will show them the audience’s response and interaction with the films, the food and the entire experience.

One film was not food-related and featured a young girl called Roxanna who loves making woven bracelets, a skill she’s learnt at school. A matchbox inside the guest packs included a bracelet from Roxanna – the very same ones we’d just seen her making in the film. Wearing the bracelet is a reminder that bring us back to the connection and joy we shared with the children of Ccorca during the evening.

The children were absolutely the stars of the evening. Amantani’s purpose is to feature the positive aspects of the Ccorca community, not glossing over the problems that living in the rural remote parts of Peru without most of the modern day comforts can represent, but to draw people to engage with the vibrant, life-loving and playful inhabitants, and most importantly, their children.

‘Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. 
Learn something from him, and give him back his dignity’.

Cristina’s role as she directed, shot and edited each of the films along with the children was integral to giving them a voice and reaching out to the world. The children are initially shy but then open up, one by one and what unfolds is an authentic experience of their daily lives and interests, whether it’s catching a fish with their bare hands or sledding down a mountain on a flattened plastic bottle.

What started a few years ago as a photography exhibition has now blossomed into a film series showcasing children’s voices and bringing them opportunities that would otherwise not be a given.

The whole evening was dotted with breaks to learn more about the charities long term aims and for audience members to text in a monthly pledge going towards a goal of £1,600 per month, which would put 200 secondary school pupils of Ccorca through their computer course.

This is a big factor in enabling children graduating from secondary school to go on to further study and work opportunities in the modern market. Londoners were definitely receptive to the cause as by the close of the evening, Amantani was well underway to achieving their target.

London was only the first of a series of three Meet My World screenings: you can next see it in Lima on the 23rd and 24th of November and then in New York, with a date TBC.

A beautiful, engaging and very worthy cause which reflected in the atmosphere of the evening and whose powerful message is perfectly captured by Cristina’s words:

What we are trying to achieve here is creating bridges based on respect and understanding between people whose ways of life, at first glance, seem so far apart. But we are bringing their world to your world so that everyone can see that we are all the same, with similar dreams and similar families, and with the same love for nature, fun and life.”

Lily Baker – Motion Graphic Designer / Animator

Who is Lily Baker?

I’m an animator and video editor, originally from the tropics of Brisbane, Australia, now living in the beautiful city of London.

How did your career path develop?

I studied English Literature at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, home of Cirque du Soleil, -30 degree winters, and the world’s first international Quidditch league. After graduating, I moved to London and worked in advertising in Client Services.

Over the past two years, I’ve completed three training programs with School of Motion (partnered with folks from Ringling College of Art & Design) and now I’m freelancing full time and loving it.

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?

I’m proud and very happy to have successfully launched my limited company. I treat every project as an opportunity to meet great people and create fantastic work.

Which projects are you most proud of?

– A Movable Feast – Recently, I was inspired by the Mayor of London’s call for artists to create work celebrating London’s diversity. This short animation highlights just a teeny tiny slice of the great smorgasbord of delicacies London has to offer.

– Nomadic Films Goes To Rio – Over the past three months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the folks at Nomadic Films in Soho. I created this animation as some of the team went off to work in Rio during the Olympics. I really enjoyed creating this piece, combining two styles of branding and adding a tropical rainforest aesthetic.

View Lily’s work here.

Share your biggest lessons in life & work

– After reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell in university, I had the revelation that 10,000 hours of practice can make anyone an expert, which it turns out is a great philosophy to live your life by.

– Ira Glass says it best himself in The Gap.

London Screenwriters’ Festival 2016

Inspiration is undoubtedly the main thing to take home with you after attending an event like the London Screenwriters’ Festival (LSF). After all, that’s why hundreds of screenwriters at various stages of their careers, as well as aspiring ones, gather for a three-day full immersion into lectures, workshops, talks, pitch sessions and networking.

The yearly event has reached its 7th edition, which took place last week at Regents University and Blueberry was in attendance for the first time, producing and hosting a couple of talks where inspiration was indeed front and centre. Maureen, who has previously worked behind the scenes at the LSF, made the Blueberry team proud as she moderated both panels with her usual grace and charm, despite it being her first time on the stage.

Both sessions were about peculiar individuals who have thrived with their artistic careers in spite of adversity. Their dramatic experiences and the life-changing consequences they had to face couldn’t’ be any more different and hearing both their stories was affecting and powerful, each in its own unique way.

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The first Blueberry-hosted talk was with the exceptional Simon Fitzmaurice, Irish author and filmmaker who shortly after premiering his second short film at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (ALS), the same one which affects illustrious theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Now completely paralysed and breathing through a respirator, Fitzmaurice didn’t let this tragedy define his life and he admirably continued to be a husband, a father and an artist. He completed the script for his feature debut, My Name Is Emily, typing it via the iris-recognition software Eye Gaze and the movement of his eyes is also how he communicated to direct the film across its six week shoot.

Considering the hardships of making a film when you’re perfectly healthy, it’s almost unfathomable to conceive how he did it. But he did do it and we were lucky enough to screen his film at the LSF and witness his incredible personality with our own eyes and ears as he delivered a touching and humorous speech.

Coming of age drama My Name Is Emily, starring Harry Potter’s Evanna Lynch, was released in UK cinemas last April and will be out on DVD this autumn. Beautifully shot and boasting great performances across the board, this lyrical meditation on finding your place in the world follows an introverted teenage girl who runs away from her foster home, with the help of the boy who secretly loves her, in order to find her estranged father.

Simon’s passion for his craft was humbling and inspirational, to say the very least, and although bound to his wheelchair and communicating via a computer, he still managed to dazzle and captivate the audience, proving anything is possible in life – a true testament to the resilience of the human spirit against all odds. And he thoroughly deserved to receive the “Fucking Awesome Award” during the British Screenwriters’ Awards ceremony that’s recently become part of the festival.

Reactions to the screening and the talk were overwhelming:

– “Simon is an inspiration. Thanks to Blueberry for the opportunity to learn more about him and see his work“.

– “Think you’ve found filmmaking a challenge? You need to meet Simon Fitzmaurice and see his film to redefine the possible“.

– “Great session from Simon Fitzmaurice, proving that the creative life can transcend many barriers if we fully commit to it“.

– “Wonderful, warm, human story. Beautiful music and adorable landscape. I enjoyed every minute of My Name is Emily. My respect to Simon Fitzmaurice“.

– “Inspiring, hugely talented and full of insight: Simon Fitzmaurice at London Screenwriters’ Festival“.

– “Highlight of London Screenwriters’ Festival was Simon Fitzmaurice and how he made My Name Is Emily despite his advanced motor neuron disease. We take life for granted too much“.

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The second session Maureen moderated was “Writing as an act of redemption” with playwright-turned-screenwriter Michael Ashton, whose intense and extreme life experience resulted in an unusual career path and is constantly reflected in his raw, authentic and uncompromising work.

In addition to being affected by Aspergers syndrome, Michael developed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving in the army and he got involved in financial fraud for which he was sentenced to 18 months in a white collar prison.

During his detention, having a lot of time on his hands, Michael attended a playwriting course held in prison and wound up writing The Archbishop and the Antichrist. The play is a fictionalized account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s meetings with Piet Blomfield, a murderer who seeks redemption for the atrocities he has committed while he serves a life sentence in prison in post-apartheid South Africa.

Forgiveness and redemption are the themes at the core of Michael’s writing and he didn’t spare himself from openly confessing how his troubled past had led him to hurt people and how he deserved the consequences of his actions. It was affecting to hear him reminisce about never getting a visit from anyone whilst in prison or how he tried to commit suicide since he had nothing left to live for when he was released.

Michael was unaware that his play had been submitted to various competitions by the people who ran the playwriting course. When he learned his work had won the Amnesty International’s Protect the Human prize and was going to be performed at the Royal Festival Hall, among other venues, Michael realised there was still something worth living for. It’s no surprise that those themes come back in his writing. He has gained purpose, embraced a new path and albeit later in life, his newly-found artistic passion for writing has become the opportunity for catharsis and redemption.

No wonder his impulsive and eccentric genius has been noticed by the film industry and he has transitioned into screenwriting. A film adaptation of The Archbishop and the Antichrist directed by Oscar-nominee Roland Joffeé (The Mission, The Scarlet Letter) is slated to go into production soon whilst several other projects are in various stages of development.

The audience responded with empathy to Michael’s singular story, which they called inspiring whilst the whole session was considered involving and more and more gripping as it unfolded.