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Student Filmmakers Focus on Asian Social Issues

Student Filmmakers Focus on Asian Social Issues

The United Nations set up what it called Millennium Development Goals that it hoped would help alleviate extreme poverty by the year 2015. But evaluating progress in the program has proven difficult. Still, that was the aim of 14 University of Miami Multimedia Graduate students at the Knight Center for International Media. The students partnered with other students from seven Knight Center international partner schools in Asia and Africa to help find local stories that shed light on the progress in the Development Goals.

The students were paired with foreign locals who helped find people who could bring a personal touch to each of the Millenium Development Goals. Together, they worked to bring their projects into one, inspirational documentary entitled, "My Story, My Goal." Professor Rich Beckman, one of the executive producers of the documentary, says the job of the student groups was to help give the chosen subjects a voice and "help them tell their stories".

One of the Miami students, Deborah Acosta, went to Hong Kong to tackle the issue of gender equality. She says while this was "the chance of a lifetime", it turned out that the answers were a bit surprising. She wanted to discover how well such things as gender equality is doing in a place like Hong Kong where she says she thought it wouldn't be such an issue in a modern society. But, she says, it turned out it really is.

Deborah's partner in Hong Kong, Lauren Whiddon, said the students found that creating their project brought some new challenges. She says they tried to discover the issue of domestic helpers, some of whom are sometimes mistreated, making telling their story rather difficult because, as she says, "clearly, employers aren't gonna say 'Hey, come in and film us mistreating her". So, the students reached out to different organizations to find someone who had overcome that and was now in a better position.

Deborah and Lauren worked closely with the non-profit organization, Help for Domestic Helpers, to find their subject and more fully understand the issue of domestic workers. They were surprised to learn that there are nearly 130,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, most of whom are women from either the Philippines or Indonesia. Deborah says they were delighted to be able to witness the "feminization of migration" in Hong Kong.

She says Sundays are important because its the day these women have off work. Because these women send most of their money back home to their families they have little to do when they have a day off. So, she says, many of them congregate in Hong Kong's financial district which is fairly empty on a Sunday. Except, she says, for Philippino women who gather to talk and relax.

There are also a growing number of Indonesian women who are now working in Hong Kong. So, with the help of the people they studied, Deborah and Lauren discovered the vulnerable nature of being a domestic worker in Hong Kong. They also found how necessary it is to give these workers all the information possible to help prevent abuse by their employers.

The documentary they produced "My Story, My Goal", was created with help from the Kinight Center's "Our City" project, that focused on creating a model for global journalism by helping journalists to report on global issues through local stories.