The Nile. Running through 11 countries for over 4,130 miles it is the longest river in the world. Its endpoint in Egypt was also once considered the center of the world. Government after government has fought for greater access to it and as a result while the region is home to over 200 million people who should understand, share and admire each other’s cultures and the mighty resource that is the Nile; they don’t. The best East African musicians from up and down the Nile aim to change all that with a tour beginning with their own personal stories, moving to the biggest and most influential cities on the river, and then to the United States and Europe. This is their story.
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LIFEBLOOD is a short film based on the Nile Project itself which aims to curate cross-cultural collaborations among musicians from the Nile region. Through these musical dialogues, it aims to foster cultural connections among the people living along the river to help tackle their water-based environmental challenges. Inspired by Yoyo Ma’s Silk Road Project, Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero developed the Nile Project as a platform to spread environmental and cultural awareness and inspire change among Nile citizens.
The Project revolves around the premise that cultural curiosity depends upon culture being shared. Yet between Nile countries, next to no culture has been shared, at least that Nile peoples realize. Music is one of the most inspirational forces of cultural exchange but despite living next door to Ethiopia growing up, Nile Project director Mina Girgis only discovered Ethiopian music when he moved to the United States thirteen years ago. The world music industry facilitated his introduction to Ethiopian music but the market for that industry is Europe and the West. Therefore, while it’s the only way Africans can access each other’s music, it isn’t available to them.
The Nile Basin Initiative is a powerful organization made powerful by the immense role the Nile plays in East Africa and it has drafted the Cooperative Nile Framework Agreement. This agreement creates a lot of tension among Nile countries and those countries leaders are able to easily manipulate that tension as a direct consequence of how little Nile peoples know about each other. Once culture is shared and greater understanding is engendered, people can work together to solve many problems without, for example, concerning themselves exclusively with bickering about how much water they are or are not getting as a country from the Nile.
By uniquely reflecting the people and sharing the cultures explored in the Nile Project, LIFEBLOOD will allow Nile peoples to realize the number of cultural connections they share in a way as powerful as it is unique. We believe that this will make it harder for any one person, any one leader to manipulate millions of people in one country against millions in another.
The adventure around which the short film will be shot begins in May 2012 with the Scout Trip where the team will travel to the Nile Basin to find and audition musicians, plan the Nile Tour, meet regional experts, and complete planning surrounding the musician residency and its location.
The film will introduce us to each musician, their background, their families, their music, their frustrations, their aspirations, their culture, their knowledge and interest in their fellow continent men and ultimately their lives––past, present and future. The short will set the stage for a feature-length documentary film that not only charts the musicians’ lives but through them explores the history of the Nile Basin, the present political, cultural and environmental issues and opportunities, and the full scope and outcome of the Nile Project itself including the Nile Tour, the U.S. tour, the European tour and anything else that grows out of the project all from the perspective of the musicians.
Shot in cinema verité style, the short will blend interviews of musicians and regional experts with verité scenes of family and friends, live performances and introduce viewers to the beautiful, poetic spectacle that is the Nile as well as to the Nile Project and its leaders.