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MAG (Mines Advisory Group) works in more than 35 countries around the world to remove land mines, bombs and other weapons from post-conflict countries.

After commissioning MediaStorm in 2011 to tell the story of mine removal in Laos, MAG approached MediaStorm to shoot and produce a new piece highlighting their work in Angola.

The goal of the project was to create a personal, emotion-rich representation of how Angolans live in the shadow of landmines and unexploded ordnance, while delivering the client’s message in a compelling way. In addition, it was necessary to create a piece that felt unique from the story in Laos and provided a more focused look at the personal impact of these munitions on the communities that they affect.

Client: MAG America
Published: December 28, 2012

Webby (Honoree)
Public Service and Activism
The Challenge
There were multiple challenges in producing Surviving the Peace: Angola. First and foremost was creating a unique experience, one that was different enough from its predecessor in the series, Surviving the Peace: Laos, but still delivered important information about the client’s work in Angola.

The second challenge was securing subjects that could deliver an emotional and personal story about how their lives have been changed because of landmines and unexploded ordnance. And because some Angolans speak a mix of local languages and Portuguese, the directors of photography, Rick Gershon and Nathan Golon, needed to be extremely careful about who was chosen to drive the narrative of the story.

The two-person team needed to find these subjects and shoot the project within 10 days. They did so on unfamiliar equipment, deciding to shoot with Canon’s newly released C300 cameras.

Last, detailing the history of the Angolan Civil War was necessary to provide the viewer with some context around the deadly issue of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The Civil War was decades long and involved many complicated alliances between global powers. Telling that story needed to be clear, informational and compelling to watch.

The Canon C300: Field Tested by MediaStorm DP Rick Gershon

Surviving the Peace: Angola

Surviving the Peace: Angola

Surviving the Peace: Angola

The Solution
One of the methods that Rick and Nathan used to distinguish this piece was to develop a style of photography that would create a tense, uncertain mood. They mostly handheld the cameras and used quick pans and zooms to deliver a sense of uncertainty. The flexibility of the C300 and quality of the sensor produced a dynamic and overall higher-quality image.

Rick and Nathan also made use of MAG’s extensive network of in-country staff to find compelling characters. They used translators during the interviews to guide the subjects through those sit-down sessions.

The producer decided early on that this piece would omit characters who were not Angolan. It would be a story about Angolans, told by Angolans. Doing so gives the larger narrative credibility and a level of personal connection to the issue that can’t always be delivered by even the most articulate foreign experts.

Furthermore, to develop the connection between the two main characters, their narratives are interwoven to drive home how important their individual stories are to one another. This intermingling of narratives climaxes in a dramatic demolition scene, where an eight-year-old girl recounts the story of the day she found a mine, while MAG deminers display courage and competence in destroying a large store of munitions.

Additionally, knowing how the directors of photography shot the project, producer Tim McLaughlin edited the b-roll in a manner that takes advantage of its tension.

To detail the story of the Angolan Civil War, motion graphics designer Joe Fuller developed a graphics package that includes archival news reports and stills from MAG photographer, Sean Sutton. The result is a fascinating look into Angolan history, which provides crucial context for the viewer.

The Results
On February 6, 2013 MAG premiered the film at the Goethe-Institut in Washington, D.C. Representatives from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, the Angolan Embassy, the U.S.-Angola Chamber of Commerce, The World Bank and Africare, among others, were in attendance.

The film was used to promote the launch of MAG’s Angola100K campaign, which is raising $100,000 for their on-the-ground team of educators in Angola who teach people about the dangers of landmines. During a five month period, these Community Liaison Teams (CLTs) can educate up to 43,000 people. This initiative reduces the risk of living in mine-affected areas and saves lives.

Read more about MAG’s launch and about their campaign on our blog.

On February 7, MAG is holding a fundraiser in Angola and will give the film to attendees. Throughout the year MAG will also use it at fundraising screenings as well as other screenings targeted at colleges and universities to build awareness.

About the Client
Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is an international organization that saves lives and builds futures through the removal and destruction of landmines, unexploded ordnance, and other weapons remaining after conflict. Since 1989, MAG has worked in over 35 countries and was a co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. MAG’s leading priority is to protect the lives and well-being of the most vulnerable individuals in contaminated areas, by providing risk-education and removing deadly weapons. Equally important, we focus on development by clearing land in affected areas to open access for agriculture, water, schools, hospitals, and roads. By listening to and collaborating with local communities, MAG concentrates on clearing areas that have the largest humanitarian impact that will enable local populations to propel themselves to economic growth. MAG’s goal is to build capacity within the country by creating local leaders who will be the future of humanitarian mine action. MAG America is a 501 (c)(3) organization that raises funds and awareness for MAG’s life-saving work from the American community, which includes individuals, corporations, foundations, and government donors.
Surviving the Peace: Angola

Surviving the Peace: Angola

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