About this project
Why this film? Why right now?
When we turn on the news, we often hear about Somalia being a hotspot for terrorism and piracy, but rarely, if ever, do we see Somalia through the eyes of its greatest athletes born in its darkest hours. By focusing on the national team, the relationship of two of its best players, and the shared dream for peace, we hope the Somali people and viewers around the world will be inspired by the light emanating from these young stars.
What has been done?
We've been to an archipelago, three continents and ten cities to make "Men In The Arena" happen. The 4TB hard drives we purchased on our first trip to Kenya in 2013 are now full of character, intrigue, drama and hope. What has unfolded over the last few months is nothing short of remarkable and we're thrilled to have the opportunity to take you with us from here.
Why Kickstarter and why do you need the money?
If we succeed with this fundraising goal, we will reach for a secondary goal (yes, Kickstarter allows stretching if we're successful early)! Our plan is to use this money to wrap up additional shooting and begin to tackle translation, editing and sound mixing. The Somalia sports archives were destroyed in 2010, so we still have to hire crews, pay for local content in both Somalia and Kenya, and build extra graphics which will cost thousands. We also have quite a bit of filming to do here in the US.
Our timeline to completion moves forward and backwards based on our ability to grow the team and acquire the archive footage, rights clearances, music, color correction and various other pieces that go into making a documentary of this scale.
J.R. Biersmith (Executive Producer & Director): J.R. advises and produces content for a wide variety of clients: from wall street to main street, non-profits to national publications, notable personalities to family stories. Men In The Arena is his first feature length documentary film.
J.R. has a M.A. in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Miami and a B.A. in International Business from Bradley University. He began his journalism career at The Miami Herald.
Brian Bellinkoff (Executive Producer & Editor): Brian Bellinkoff is the EVP of production at Media Meld Studios, a non-scripted development, production, and management company based in NY and LA. His love for documentary film-making started at the University of Miami where he met J.R.
Liban Liban (Associate Producer): Liban was a full-time student working two jobs in Washington, D.C. until J.R. and Brian convinced him to add a third role to his plate. His language skills, experience with the Somali diaspora and relationship with the players has been and continues to be vital to our ability to move forward.
The Inspiration: Michelle Shephard, the Toronto Star national security reporter, wrote a book called Decade of Fear - Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone in which she shared the remarkable story of a seventeen-year-old in Mogadishu who refused to join al-Shaabab. Michelle's support and advice would later prove critical to our success in filming in Mogadishu.
How did you get access to the team? After almost a year of research and multiple attempts to reach the Somalia Football Federation (SFF), we established contact in August 2013. One month later, on Sept. 14, 2013, we learned that FIFA had invited the SFF Secretary General to French Polynesia for the Beach Soccer World Cup. Knowing this was an opportunity to meet in a safe place, J.R. flew to Papeete three days later.
In November 2013, J.R. & Brian first filmed the national team while they competed in the oldest annual tournament in Central and Eastern Africa.
Risks and challenges
The film focuses around the friendship of two players, each of whom have major events unfolding in their lives. Our ability to continue to capture these moments as well as key pickup shots is dependent upon security factors and scheduling that may be beyond our control. We've worked around issues like these for more than a year, so we're confident we can overcome obstacles but it can certainly interfere with our scheduling.
In 2010, the Somalia Sports archives were destroyed, therefore, we have put out a number of archive requests to national and local media outlets throughout Eastern Africa. We can still make the film without the fulfillment of some of these things but our costs could shoot up if we're forced to build graphics or come up with other solutions.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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