After an introductory video workshop, I was determined to keep making videos on my own. A year in Bosnia, I spoke limited Bosnian; all of my interviews were in Bosnian. My only microphone broke. I had access to an iMac mini with video editing software, but most of the keys on the only keyboard didn’t work. I had to type the subtitles in another computer and paste them line by line into the video editor directly from my USB, which was fine, until I needed to reword sentences to fit into the subtitle space, at which point I needed to switch the USB, etc etc. The iMac mini had been donated by an American NGO, “The My Hero Project“. They asked us to make videos about our heroes.
I managed to convince two heroes to let me interview them. One was a Bosnian Serb who delivered humanitarian aid to Bosnian Croats in a refugee camp. The other was an Kosovar Roma refugee who volunteered at a youth center to teach break dance. After many technical mishaps, I finally created two short videos and they were uploaded to youtube. I didn’t do any publicity for the videos or even put them on my facebook page, but somehow people found them anyway.
The aid organization was angry with me for filming the interview with their worker without their advance permission, because their logo was in one shot. From their perspective, the guy was just paid to deliver aid and their organization in Norway is the real hero. (He was delivering aid to an ethnic group whose army he had fought against in the war.) They also didn’t approve of my documentary style, featuring actual interviews. They instructed me to make another video, specifying the shots which they required: poor children joyfully receiving their aid packages, preferably dirty children in ragged clothes. Shots of elderly people would also do. No interviews, they would add inspiring background music.
The brother of one of the dance students interviewed in the other video threatened me personally (albeit through social media) because of the word “Roma” in the video description; they are actually an Albanian Roma ethnic minority who identify themselves as “Egyptians“. I was scared because the brother is known to be violent and connected with mafia, which is generally a damaging stereotype of Roma but in his case actually true. Changing the youtube description took several days because the guy who uploaded them to our NGO account couldn’t be bothered to change it right away. (A year later I shot a music video and this Egyptian guy was one of the band members… I’ll tell you about it next time.)
I had originally thought that the topic “my hero” was overly simplistic and cliché. In practice I found that proclaiming someone a hero can challenge our concepts of ourselves and others. Who is your hero?