Solar Powered Cinema

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By Vidi Chandra


Why would anyone take a portable solar powered cinema to a war zone?


When St Kilda based filmmaker Samuel Richards set out to fulfil the life long dream to travel to Ethiopia, his research lead him to realise the extent of the crisis in the neighbouring country of South Sudan. Thirty years of civil war has left two and a half million people dead and four million displaced.


South Sudan secured its independence in 2011 to become the world’s newest country. A more recent power struggle within its borders killed tens of thousands more and displaced another million people, most of whom are young children.


Richards decided that his time in that part of the world would be better spent working as a volunteer and further research led him to one man, David Vincent. David is a former child soldier of Sudan and spent 18 years in refugee camps before securing a humanitarian visa to Melbourne, Australia. He now devotes his life to running the charity Peace Palette that is providing care for more than 200 homeless, lost and orphaned children based at the Nhomlau Children’s Centre (NCC) in the isolated village of Turalei, South Sudan.


“David and I met here in Melbourne and hit it off straight away. By the end of the first meeting we decided that the best way for me to help would be to use my experience as a documentary filmmaker and enlist the help of my own production collective, Concentric Circles.


We’ve called it the Portal Project and we are transporting a set of equipment to be set up within the children’s shelter and will remain in place, acting as a tool for educational programs, public meetings, ceremonies, broadcasting information, health bulletins and some much needed entertainment on occasion.”


David Vincent said of the children “We wanted to empower them to become responsible, contributing members of the community and we can’t do that unless they are exposed to all sorts of information, all sorts of education, and how life is in other parts of the world.”


Richards aims to raise $12,500 via crowd-funding site for the Portal Project to take a 1500W solar generator, LED projector/media player, audio system and a stretch fabric video screen.

Writer-Director Robert Connolly’s Arenamedia has come on board, donating an LED projector to this innovative charitable project, his new children’s film Paper Planes will be among the first titles shown, acting as an opening celebration.


Additionally, the Portal Project is recording and compiling personal video messages of hope and support from the South Sudanese community based in Melbourne to be projected at the children’s centre. While in South Sudan the filmmaking team will teach the children how to record each other on camera, interview one another, share their stories and record their own video replies.


The Portal Project heads to South Sudan in January to give the poorest children of a remote area in South Sudan a tool for ongoing growth and education and a sense of connection with the world at large that is currently beyond their reach.


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