It is a great honor for me to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's International Film & Television Showcase, it only saddens me that my husband, Tony Blanco, cannot be with me to share this moment, as he would be as honored and proud as I am.
I congratulate you on the beautiful initiative to support and celebrate the dedication, passion and integrity of women in film everywhere, and I thank TheWIFTS Board for considering me worthy of this precious award. I am very sorry to be unable to receive it in person. Thank you!
THE WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL
FILM & TELEVISION SHOWCASE
DECEMBER 10TH 2017
Passion & Integrity
Commerce & Creativity
Equality Not Hierarchy
Taira Akbar – Peru
The Best Documentary Award (Political)
Filmmaker - Producer
Taira Akbar is the recipient of TheWIFTS Best Documentary Award (Political) 2017 for the feature documentary When Two Worlds Collide. Akbar produced the feature documentary highlighting the political and environmental struggles of an indigenous people in Peru against Government and big business interest. Working in Peru, against such combined interests, the production could not have been an easy task. Each time a producer is brave to tackle such subjects, the public local and global is enlightened, enriched with knowledge, and galvanized by awareness of issues that profoundly affect human life in what is now a three-cornered global economy and village, and the ramifications affects us all.
Q & A WITH TAIRA AKBAR PRODUCER OF WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE
Taira Akbar is a visual artist and documentary filmmaker who's been working in Peru for the last ten years. As producer of the feature documentary Akbar initially planned to spend 9 months but eventually spent 9 years on the project in Peru. What is the reason When Two Worlds Collide took longer than expected?
We first went to Peru with a scholarship with the notion of doing short films. But after months of researching and discovering almost the entire Amazon rainforest would be opened up for investment (after Peruvian government signed a free trade agreement with the USA) we decided we needed to investigate further. Once we began researching we realized we had to stay in Peru and immerse ourselves into all the news on what was happening.
You experienced many challenges during the production. What was the greatest challenge?
Challenges were part of every step of the process of the production. One the biggest challenges was building a strong universal support team through funding. We wanted funders who shared the same vision we did, which would allow us to have full creative control of the film. Another major challenge was to identify strong characters and create relationships so they would share their stories honestly and with transparency. The difficult aspect was having to innovate solutions throughout each phase that was very organic and spontaneous. We had to react in real-life to the unfolding events. There were moments where we had no control over the process of those unfolding developments that were affecting the indigenous people. Once we overcame those challenges, I feel all the other issues were minor in comparison.
On the completion of When Two Worlds Collide in Peru, what is the most successful result from producing and sharing this film of the little known events in Peru with the rest of the world?
As a producer and filmmaker the reactions from the audiences, seeing audiences connect with the story, the shifting opinions, individual-level attitude, behavior changes, hearing the emotional responses in audiences on a local level made me feel we accomplished a major part of our mission in terms of awareness. Most notably the Peruvian audiences. In Peru only certain elements of the conflict made the news, having the Peruvian public tell us that they never knew the full story, they weren't aware of the devastating effects investment was having on the jungle and only after seeing the film they had a better understanding of the issue. A lot of Peruvian audiences tell us they see their country on a deeper level and want to make sure they become and remain more conscientious, especially with what is happening in the environment they live in.
When Two Worlds Collide
When was the film released?
It's been a year since the film was released worldwide and still seeing a demand for screenings, continued comments on social media that have evolved from discussion of the film to locals, even the most improvised communities setting up screenings in cinemas and remaining the number one film being sold on the black market in Peru also feels like a success. It means all social sectors even those with less access to education and resources are still interested in social change and truthful storytelling that affects their reality. It shows a level of consciousness that I find inspiring.
In what way has making this feature documentary changed your life?
This style of immersive filmmaking meant that I have been living in Peru for the last 10 years. Peru is a developing country and reflects a lot of the injustices that are experienced in the world. I now have a different perspective on social and environmental needs than the ones I had growing up in London. I also feel more closely aware of what it means to be indigenous after years of spending time with the communities from and those living in the jungle. There's a lot of misconception in the first world around the indigenous, either oversimplifying or overly romanticizing their lifestyle. The truth is that they walk a path between the modern and old world where we came from, and they have an important message both politically and socially.
You have lived in Peru for almost 10 years. What is making you stay?
My single focus for the last 10 years has been the film. Part of living in Peru opened my eyes to the richness of ecology and culture in Peru's provinces, which have many fascinating stories waiting to be told. Even if I don't live here in the future I'm inspired every day by the depth of Peru's living history. I also appreciate that living in Peru is stepping outside of the system somewhat - you feel the freedom to create a truly independent life. Peru is also a ecological goldmine, so the freshness, quality and variety of foods and produce makes it hard to go back to the first world and its more processed or imported products.
What do you love to do when you're not working?
I have been focusing on creating a lifestyle that is based on what makes me most fulfilled. That currently includes making art through film, creating apothecary products for wellbeing, and being meditative as a state of mind.