Stories from 'round the world – by Bram Souffreau

The documentary 'Once Upon a Time in Venzuela' depicts the troubles a dying Venezuelan village endures.

Documentary maker Anabel Rodríguez Ríos tells the story of the village Congo Mirador. Seven years she visited the village. It used to be surrounded by the water of lake Maracaibo. But that's not the case anymore. The village is silting up, which is a drama for the fishermen who are dependent of the fresh water. Sedimentation brings also rats and other pests, and undermines the hygiene in the village. And the nearby oil industry kills the fish population.

The village people are unhappy, and leaving.


Beside the environmental problems, Congo Mirador has also its part of colorful village politics. The Chavistas are trying to rescue the village and win the election. Maybe they want the best for the village (and themselves...), but they use very dubious practices. Votes are being bought, promises are made but not kept, and opposition people are chased away.

Rodríguez Ríos isn't drawing a rosy picture of the heirs of the Bolivarian revolution initiated by Hugo Chavez.

The documentary is beautiful. The scenery is gorgeous. The people captivating. And the filmography is stunning. Moreover, there's a story worth watching.

I saw the documentary with De Groene Amsterdammer. It reminded me of the sinking villages in South East Asia. But in this documentary, the water disappears. The misery, though, is the same.

#venezuela #documentary

The fall out of the corona pandemic will be different in Western countries than in developing and emerging countries. Bloomberg cites a Pew Research Center estimate: the global middle class shrank for the first time since the nineties. About 150 million people lost the progress they made the past years and decades. Especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The developing world's shrinking middle class

While some economies seem to recover swift from the pandemic, others are expecting a rough time.

The expected rebounds will be – once again – smoother in the wealthiest nations. The past year, first world governments dropped billions of euros and dollars in the economy, and they don't seem to know when to stop.

But the other economies are not in such a luxurious situation. They will be struggling with the aftereffects of drastic lockdowns and quarantine rules. They will encounter setbacks from the slow vaccination rate, partly a consequence of export bans and a selfish hoarding mentality from the West. Uncertainty about the repayment capacity could prevent banks of lending money to the middle class and small enterprises. Different developing and emerging markets are already hit by inflation. And emergency assistance during the pandemic has emptied the government coffers which could result in undesirable austerity policies.

Bloomberg wrote down the stories of four people, from India, Brazil, South Africa and Thailand. They tell about how the pandemic set back their life, moved dreams further in the future and how they are trying to cope with the new, unexpected situation.


The controversial documentary 'Seaspiracy' has been accused of misrepresentation and using erroneous statistics. Still, the documentary itself is a must watch. A lot of problems the fishing industry are struggling with, are touched upon. These are known problems, and it's good that they get a broader audience.

This documentary is not an example of traditional journalism. It tends more to activism. Director Ali Tabrizi explores the worldwide fishing industry and starts his research with whale hunting in Japan. Easy accessible (as a topic, not the whale hunters). But the more he explores the hidden secrets of the seas, the more he is shocked by what the marine industry is causing. And how the industry tries to get away with it. Even labels and self control mechanisms on 'sustainable fishing' are raising questions.

Some of the themes 'Seaspiracy' is covering: plastic marine debris, overfishing, bycatch, the impact of the aquaculture industry, industry labels, even slave labor and human rights abuses on Thai trawlers.

The documentary explain and explore one marine problem after the other. It's a fast pacing film. That's the strength of the doc, but also its flaw. The shock and awe Tabrizi realizes, can easily be set back with critics as “misleading claims” and “using out-of-context interviews”.

Unfortunately for the fishing industry, there's a ton of decent in-depth journalism that goes much deeper into those themes and do find large-scale abuses and problematic consequences of large scale fishing. It aren't fabrications of conspiracies.

For example: last week the expert-journalist Ian Urbina took a critical look at large scale fishmeal factories in Africa. He works very hard at The Outlaw Ocean Project. If you read what he is writing, you can only conclude that parts of the fishing industry is kind of an outlaw industry.

#documentary #fishing

While China is taking a tougher stance on all reprimands on the situation in the Xinjiang province, The New Yorker publishes an immersive virtual reality documentary. In 'Reeducated' the stories are told of three former prisoners who were detained in the so called reeducation camps of Xinjiang, secret detention camps.

In addition to the documentary, there is also an article filled with details and beautiful drawings.

Different countries described the situation in Xinjiang as an abuse of human rights. The United States drafted the crackdown as a 'genocide'. More than one million Uyghurs and other minorities have been detained by the Chinese government. Because they are ethnic and religious minorities...

With the documentary reporter Ben Mauk and artist Matt Huynh bring the experiences of the three prisoners to life. Amanzhan Seituly, Orynbek Koksebek and Erbaqyt Otarbai were detained in a camp in Tacheng, Xinjiang. They testify about the atrocities in the camp. It's vivid and stark.

#china #humanrights

Paulo Alcazaren is a Filipino architect and respected urbanist. He reposted today a Facebook-post from March 2015. A post about a column on Metro Manila, written in 2013 for the Philippine Star.

In his column he cites ten reasons why Metro Manila was losing its soul. Sadly, not that much has changed yet.

You could read the list as a lost cause. Ten reasons why Manila won't ever be a great city again. But I hope some read it as a call to action. Still today, eight years after it was published.

It is true that Metro Manila is wrestling with a great number of deficiencies. But in the short time that I am here, I met people and encountered communities that want to turn the tide. Some want to make Manila anew the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, or at least a city where people can live.

Here are the ten reasons Alcazaren listed, but this time summarized in such a way that if executed, it will give Manila a soul!

  • Stop the urban sprawl and build a strong community fabric between the different patches that form Metro Manila

  • Work out a master plan that goes beyond parochialism

  • Govern Metro Manila as a united metropolitan area

  • Respect the heritage and structure of the city

  • More green, shared public spaces, parks and plazas

  • Link the city with, and turn the city towards the water: Manila Bay, the rivers and esteros

  • Unclog and decommercialize the public landscape

  • Make Metro Manila a walkable and bike-able city

  • Nourish vibrant cultural initiatives, and give cultural expressions space and time to thrive

  • Reclaim the Metro, break the agenda of the private companies

An aerial view of Metro Manila (Pasig City, Mandaluyong and Makati) An aerial view of Metro Manila

#architecture #manila #philippines

Isn't that the way we start new projects? By telling the world 'Hello'?

This is my very first blog post. The browser tab with the text editor of Write as has been open for ages in Chrome, but I didn't found the time to write a decent post. Or, better said, I didn't make time to write.

This blog is my playground. I will share some thoughts, publish ramblings and share adventures. The topics can go very broad: the world, the tech scene, the media sector, maybe some music, or the Philippines.

I will tell you my kind of stories from 'round the world.


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