Another year has gone past, and it’s time to do an overview of what has happened for Ruom members over the past year.
Denise Hruby and Thomas Cristofoletti started the year with a story that looked at how China’s Taoist monks have become champions of conservation and environmental protection. The story was published on Sixth Tone, an English-language online magazine covering China, where Denise works as Head of Features, and on China Dialogue.
Nicolas Axelrod started his year in Singapore, where he is documenting the lives of two Indonesian domestic workers – Anandha and Tutik. The work is part of a long-term project on Indonesian domestic workers in Singapore – Dreaming Singapore.
Denise and Thomas worked in China, producing several multimedia stories for Sixth Tone.
Drug use is increasing in China, especially on the southern border, where the vast majority of heroin, opium and meth are trafficked from Myanmar. The state’s compulsory rehab centers, however, are run like labor camps, and so addicts in southern Yunnan are now turning to voluntary, faith-based rehab centers.
They then travelled to the China-Myanmar border to report on the Kachin refugees who’ve walked across the border into Yunnan, hoping that they’d find some peace and stability.
They finally hiked through the mountains of a remote area of Yunnan for six hours to see how mining has impacted a tiny community. Over the course of many interviews, they got a picture of how terrified the villagers are that their houses will one day collapse or be swallowed by a landslide – all because a mine has been digging for ever more coal in the mountain they live on.
Nicolas started a personal project documenting coastal ecosystems and coral bleaching, the first leg of the project took him to Bali
Denise travelled to the US, where she took part in an environmental science reporting fellowship at the renowned Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachussetts. Wading through salt marshes and other wetlands, she traced the nitrogen cycle that destroys coastal systems that protect people against natural disasters. She was one of two international journalists who were awarded the Logan fellowship.
Marta’s production company Turren Films, which she co-founded with filmmaker Jeremiah Overman, began working on a 13-part series of behavioral change videos on maternal and child health for the Cambodian arm of the international non-profit People in Need. This was her first time working as a producer on such a big project, filmed in a studio, with an awesome crew and actors, including three very well-behaved babies. This project was completed in October 2017 and the videos will be published in early 2018.
Thomas and Nicolas organized a multimedia exhibition called “Mekong – the giant in chains” at the MUSE (Museum of Science) in Trento (Italy). The exhibition included photos and videos shot together with maps, infographics and texts prepared by the team of the Water Grabbing project Emanuele Bompan, Marirosa Iannelli, Federica Frangipane and Riccardo Pravettoni.
Denise’s work as a journalist was rewarded with two prestigious, international awards by the Society of Publishers in Southeast Asia (SOPA).
In the category “Excellence in Features Writing, her account of villagers who dug a tunnel to connect their lives to the outside world won an honorable mention. From the judges: “A very unusual and well-told story that says so much, from the ground, about China’s development. Engaging writing elevates what could have been an ordinary story.” – Tunnel Vision: Villagers Dig Their Way Out of Isolation
In the category “Excellence in Environmental Reporting” Denise’s two-part series on the threats posed by desertificiation in China’s Xinjiang and Ningxia regions won an honorable mention. The stories were “well-written, well-reported frontline accounts of the desertification of China stood out as one of the two best.” – Adversaries to Allies: A Contentious History of Conservation
Marta Kasztelan together with American photographer Tara Todras-Whitehill and Cambodian journalist Khan Sokummono received a grant from the European Journalism Centre (ECJ) via its Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme to work on stories about sexual and reproductive health of teenagers and garment workers in Cambodia. The theme of the grant work drew on Marta’s earlier reporting on women’s issues in Cambodia, including the lack of access to safe abortion services among garment workers. Marta traveled to the northern province of Preah Vihear and Stung Treng to investigate child marriage and the recent uptick in teen pregnancies in some parts of Cambodia. She also further researched access to safe abortion services and family planning among Phnom Penh’s garment workers.
Marta began working as the Cambodia Correspondent for the English arm of the Deutsche-Presse Agentur (German Press Agency). She has been mainly reporting on the countrywide crackdown by the government on opposition, non-governmental organizations and media in the lead up to 2018 elections.
Nicolas worked with Indochina Productions on an advertising campaign in Bangkok, documenting the daily life of Thai families and their relationship with ‘Home’. More details will be available once the campaign is publish.
Nicolas filmed an episode of National Geographic Explorer in Cambodia – the details of which will come out when the episode goes live next year.
The Guardian published Marta’s article about the fearless Cambodian youtuber Catherine V. Harry, who continues to stir controversy by talking about periods, masturbation and asking whether women’s worth should be valued by their hymen. This was the first article about Catherine to appear in international media.
Thomas travelled to Uttarakhand – north east of India – where he spent 10 days trekking and shooting a feature for Travel & Leisure Asia. During the trip he documented the efforts of Village Ways, an organization that works directly with locals to conduct village-to-village walking holidays in the Kumaon region
Nicolas was in Thailand for the Funeral of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Marta travelled to Tokyo, Japan, together with Ruom’s videographer Thomas to interview a key subject in her long-term documentary film project, which explores the responsibility of non-state actors for rights violations committed away from their home state. That same month, she decided to put her human rights lawyering skills to work and began teaching International Human Rights Law at the Royal University of Law and Economics.
Al Jazeera shorts published Marta’s documentary about a Polish filmmaker with Asperger’s syndrome, who is on a mission to change stereotypes about people with Autisms. Marta also worked as the assistant director on Adda Angel’s music video, which was produced by Turren Films and by A/3 Productions. The same month, Elle UK published a photo essay by Tara Todras-Whitehill with Marta’s text, exploring the different experiences of Cambodian teenagers living in very rural areas as compared to their counterparts in the capital city of Phnom Penh – From Shacks To Skateboarding: Cambodia’s Teens, A Contrast Of Extremes
When Donald Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping this year, Denise took a look at the high expectations of the new US president’s first state visit to China for Al Jazeera – Donald Trump to talk trade and N Korea on China visit
Thomas started a new project in Cambodia – here’s a little sneak preview
The Ruom team wishes you a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2018