Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some award-winning students

The Online News Association announced its 2008 awards and the two winners happen to be journalism students. The work is exceptional and worthy of the award. And the amazing thing is that there is no recognizable difference between these two works and documentary/multimedia projects created by professionals.

Students of Universidad de los Andes created South of Here, a documentary multimedia project exploring lives of the people and communities residing in Argentina and Chile. On the face of it, the places are extremely beautiful and in the arms of nature but the locals are facing the harsh weather and unpredictable surroundings. Most natives have been away from civilization dealing with their existence. Yet the sense of tradition, sacrifice and warmth towards family and community. This is very evident in Last of the Yagánes and Family Matriarch.

With multiple dynamics and locations involved the students have done their leg work. It’s a very emotional compilation of humans settling in seclusion. Each of the 14 pieces compiled for the site tell a different story in a different style. The story telling is very compelling and at the same time there is an interesting combination of multimedia used to join each feature.

In some features there is a direct use of the native language supported with subtitles and that itself has helped in building the character. In other places there are voice artists speaking in the words of the characters. Overall the project looks like a feature film made with great time and effort.

The second winner, Closer to Home: A Daughter Becomes Caregiver by UNC-Chapel Hill is another documentary about a 55 year-old daughter (Elinor Salsman) trying to manage her home, husband and children and take care of her 90 something parents. The film gives a good insight on people taking care of aged parents (with the mother suffering from dementia) and though there is love and bonding, it still is a difficult commitment to manage two households.

The story telling is effortless. The creators have spent time in knowing their subjects showing key details of Salsman’s life and her struggle keeping up with everything. The film leaves you feeling for both Salsman and her parents. Though the parents have a big role in the film and the camera follows them through their daily activities there is very little communication from their side. With almost no interviews or dialogues from their side the spirit and communication between the couple and with their daughter has come through beautifully.

The film making and techniques are much simpler than South of Here. Both websites have made a wise choice of the use of multimedia elements like video, photography, natural sound and graphics and animation. As a student journalist it is very inspiring to watch work like this by other students.

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