I am drawn to the almost spiritual aspect of how a community can instantly form and work as one organism to achieve a common goal. Having spent most of my life on film sets, I am familiar with the particular social dynamic they share with peacekeeping missions. A film crew or theatrical company, for example, is joined with the mission of creating a unique stage, one which manifests itself into a visually stimulating production three or four months later. By extension, a United Nations peacekeeping mission is just really another film shoot.
This is not Hollywood. Living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you come to realize that very quickly. There is no trailer you can escape to after a long shoot. There is no Starbucks down the street that will provide you with your morning non-fat latte. You get sweaty and dirty. As we are here at the invitation of a Member State, it is crucial to bear in mind that we can only assist and not lead. The process of communication is critical. This environment is one of crisis and volatility, and misperception can have seriously damaging consequences. Every step of the way, from stabilizing, negotiating, to managing elections fraught with problems and danger, communication has to be engaged and flexible. A surrender of one’s self is required. Great subservience and discipline are needed in the work you do; the consequences of the simplest misstep are greater than the failure of a would-be summer blockbuster.
Being experienced in multiple facets of the arts, I am confident in the unique professional contributions I make for MONUC. In film and television, I have worked in various capacities as a second assistant director, script supervisor, post-production supervisor and acting coach. As a professional photographer, I have captured film stills, general fashion, music and art. I have even illustrated children’s books. I have always been intrigued, however, by engaging in a professional career where I could apply my skills in the service of a calling higher than the mere selling of products.
My creative outlet in a peacekeeping mission lies in the art of finding solutions. Putting together stories involves close coordination with the many civilian and military elements of the mission, as well as sorting out the daily developments to always have the ‘big picture’, and thus be on message. This peacekeeping mission is an outpost of the United Nations; therefore, the role of relaying stories and news of our peacekeeping mission is attached to the interests of an international arena. It is critical to clarify and explain the work of the organization to the general public as adequately as possible. Eventually, we evolve to illustrating what is required so that this Member State can more fully rejoin the community of nations; this means providing messages of hope and of a better future for the people.
Providing the visual voice of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the Congo is my priority as a video producer. The entire world is here and right next to you. Seeing citizens of countries that are traditional enemies working closely together and even bonding is always a wonder. Being able to create art, while experiencing the flow of a life lived in often primal conditions, is a privilege. You can always count on moments happening, like flying back at sunset over a violently beautiful landscape on a creaky MI-8 helicopter. This makes one feel blessed for being fortunate in life, and for doing the urgent work that makes a difference in the lives of people who have never known the care and concern we take for granted. There is a bit of a tumult that comes with post-colonial territory. Underneath all that, however, is the joyful dance of survival by the people, still full of humor, however dark, and the bawdy music playing on the dusty streets that says ‘Life will Live’, I am alive, and tomorrow is another day.