Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Music meets politics

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Wed, 04/08/2009 12:54 PM | People

JP/Matheos V. MessakhJP/Matheos V. Messakh

Tere might seem like an unlikely candidate for the nation’s legislature, but the 29-year-old singer insists she is not just another celebrity dabbling in politics, whatever the skeptics say.

Tere says her political sympathies lay with the Democratic Party and its leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even before Yudhoyono became president in 2004. However, she had no plans to run for office until she joined the party’s forum for female artists early last year – around the same time the election law was made requiring parties to ensure 30 percent of their candidates were women.

“The first and foremost reason I joined the Democratic Party is that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the central figure, and since I’ve gotten to know more about the party I believe that it is a middle-of-the-road party that can look after a range of interests.”

Although the quota may not hold since the Constitutional Court made changes to the election law, Tere says the regulation triggered her decision to put herself forward as a potential candidate.

“For me, I see my participation as part of my social responsibility as a woman and a citizen,” she says.

The 2009 legislative election has attracted a sweep of singers and actors to politics, with 61 such celebrities among the total 11,512 candidates across the country.

Tere is forthright with her view of the current batch of lawmakers, pointing to their “lack of goodwill” and “tendency of looking for economic benefit”. “The formulation of the law and the Constitution is in their hands. I think we need a higher standard for the quality of lawmaker.”

She hopes that better quality politicians will also be able to achieve political balance between the branches of government.

“It’s disappointing that when the executive has been making some positive efforts, the legislative had been getting a bad name. It’s a shame we can’t manage to bring balance between the two.”

Her main political concern, she says, is for education, and especially the empowerment of women and children. Her first act if elected will be to launch a campaign against the new law on BHP.

“The new law is about making education more and more a commodity, which means it will fail to emphasize character building,” she says, adding that the Democratic Party will support her in this.

Tere, whose full name is Theresia Ebenna Ezeria Pardede, started her career as a backing singer for various bands. She reached stardom with hits such as “Awal Yang Indah” (The Lovely Beginning), and recently released her fourth album. All this, she says, is not as far removed from politics as some might suppose.

“My background as a musician and my studies in communications do have some relation to politics. Politics cannot be perfect without communication skills, which include diplomacy, negotiation and persuasion.”

Her only criticism of the Democratic Party is the management of party’s lowest levels, “but,” she says, “I think it’s a classic problem for a new party”.

Tere is the Democratic Party’s top candidate for election region II West Java (Bandung and Bandung Barat Municipality), where she is up against such political heavyweights as Taufik Kiemas, Ferry Mursidan Baldan, and actors Rieke Diah Pitaloka, Rachel Maryam Sayidina and Derry Drajat.

But being an underdog doesn’t bother her because for her, it isn’t about winning. “From the very beginning I have seen myself as someone who doesn’t want to gain a seat so much as wanting to educate people that everyone has the right and access to politics.”

Therefore, she has “nothing to lose because my main intention is to bring political education”. As such she has made no special preparations for the election except “mental preparation and trying to be creative and optimistic”.

Indeed, she doesn’t even refer to her activities over the past several weeks as a political campaign. “What I was doing is not a campaign. I studied communications and I know that a campaign needs a sponsor and lots of funding, involving the mass media.”

In all, she has spent only about Rp 10 million (US$890) on her campaign, mostly to produce notebooks and name cards; she believes posters are “useless”. “What’s the point of displaying our posters among 11,512 candidates from 38 parties?”

Instead, she has been spending her time visiting people in her electorate.

“I mostly talk to them about their concerns, about what they need, but I did not hold any mass meetings. We usually choose a particular place which we think didn’t come to the attention of other candidates and speak to people there.”

She uses these meetings to inform people about the role and function of the legislature and how to vote, rather than trying to persuade people to vote for her.

“Because my main mission is political education, I’m not doing a lot of persuading,” she says. Rather, she tends to talk about the party and its leader.

She believes in political education, and is disappointed political parties don’t do much in this regard, simply pushing their agenda near election time.

But if she does find herself with a more permanent role on the political stage, it will be the only stage she treads; she will move behind the scenes of the music industry.

“For me the configuration of the music industry is not too different from the configuration of politics,” she says. “If I am elected, it’s no big deal for me to become one of the people behind the scenes of the music industry.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Steven Starr: For love of water

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Tue, 04/07/2009 12:04 PM | People
JP/J.B. DjwanJP/J.B. Djwan
Bob Marley’s anti-war activism was an inspiration for Steven Starr, but the US filmmaker went one step further, taking on a problem that causes more deaths worldwide than war: Lack of access to clean water.
Starr first met Marley in 1978; he became the concert promoter for Bob Marley & The Wailers and worked with the Marley family on various projects for 20 years, which, he told The Jakarta Post, was an experience that “changed my life”.
“Something in me shifted and from that point on all the work I have done has taken the form of helping people to express themselves, to find a way to communicate with others and to solve problems.”
Starr was in Bali and Jakarta last week for a lecture and screening of the award-winning film he produced, Flow: For Love of Water, a feature-length documentary about the global water crisis by French-born American director Irena Salina.
Starr, born on Long Island in 1957, studied media at university, before going on to build a career at William Morris Agency. He left the agency in 1991 to produce Johnny Suede, which won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival. His other credits include writing, directing and producing Joey Breaker, which won an Audience Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and the Ace Award-nominated series The State for MTV and CBS, which he co-created and produced.
He became well known for his approach to media democratization. As well as co-founding the Los Angeles Independent Media Center, Starr founded, a user-generated video site where video creators, voted for by their peers, were awarded micro-pilot budgets, and ChangeTv, a user-generated digital cable network designed to filter online video onto cable and reward creators.
One of Starr’s most acclaimed projects is Revver, a video-sharing website launched in 2005 that helps creators make money from their work by attaching short ads to their films. In 2006, Revver was named the Most Influential Independent Website by Television Week, nominated for an Advantaged Technology Emmy Award and praised by Red Herring as one of the 100 most promising startups.
“I’m a crazy man,” Starr said of his innovative projects. “I tend to approach a project from whatever curiosity I have.”
In June 2007, Starr stepped down as Revver’s CEO to concentrate on the postproduction of Flow, which he and Salina had begun in 2003.
“It was the time when all the filming has been finished and we have to do the postproduction work. It requires a lot of attention and focus and we were hoping that we might be invited to Sundance Film Festival. We really wanted to make sure it came out well.”
The film, released in cinemas on Sept. 12, 2008, premiered as a Grand Jury Prize nominee at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. It has won numerous festival awards, including the International Jury Prize at the Mumbai International Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the United Nations Film Festival.
Part of Flow’s success, Starr said, was “because many people are now using the film as an awareness tool”. As such, it was screened for the UN General Assembly on the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and triggered a call for people to sign a petition seeking to include access to clean drinking water as a basic human right.
“We are lobbying them to open up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was written in the late 1940s in a time when water wasn’t even a consideration,” Starr said. “There is no mention of water at all in the articles. It is the single most important substance on the planet and our future is at stake.”
The 84-minute film maintains that the privatization of fresh water is unethical, a topic that Starr discusses passionately.
“Absolutely the film is anti-privatization of water. When you turn water into a commodity, your
responsibility is to shareholders and not to the people who need it,” Starr said.
“You can’t rely on commercial interests for your water supply: Water is more than commerce, water is life. If you hold up a bottle of water and you hold up a little bottle of gasoline — which do you think costs more?”
Flow not only identifies the problem and names the culprits, but also looks at the people and institutions providing local and practical solutions.
“Many issues around water are extremely local but the crisis around the world is similar: Limited water supply. It is not reaching the people who need it the most, and there are corporate interests that are aggressively trying to gain control over the local water supply.”
Starr hopes that the film will educate people about the planet’s water crisis, pointing out the film itself was never a for-profit venture.
“A documentary is an active passion. If you want to make a documentary, it cannot be from a hope to make money. It has to be from an opportunity to do something useful for others,” Starr said.
“The only reason we picked up our camera is because we wanted to learn, to answer a question. So you have to have a really good question and a lot of passion to carry you through whatever it takes to run around and get your question answered.”