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Two Film Festival Volunteers Share Their Personal Stories from the Field

November 26, 2005

As the 2006 MCA-I NY festival team gears up for Stories from the Field, the Second Annual United Nations Documentary Film Festival, two volunteers from year one tell what being a part of the Festival has meant to them.

Mariana PaglieriWhen I was about ten years old, I read a book about a woman tour guide at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. I was terribly impressed, as only a ten year old can be, with the idea of working at the United Nations and of being part of such a huge and important undertaking. Imagine: All the countries in the world talking things out instead of fighting.

I visited the United Nations building for the first time with my family when I was about 14. A tour guide like the one in my book led a group of visitors from several countries all over the immense building, through the imposing rooms where the delegates from the member nations met and the day-to-day work of the United Nations was done.

Coming from a Spanish-speaking background, I wondered briefly if I could become an interpreter there. It was a magical place, so big, so important, so international. Strange languages. Colorful clothing. It was the definition of exotic. I remember my mother joyfully picking things out in the gift shop, buying a ceramic angel from Sweden, an African piggy bank shaped like a hippopotamus, a silk scarf from Japan. These became part of the knick-knacks that decorated our home from then on.

My next visit came while I was an undergraduate, singing in the Rutgers University Choir. The choir was invited to sing for the General Assembly. It was telecast to members all over the world via SATELLITE!!! It was truly awe inspiring to step up to the front of that enormous room, before the delegates of all the member countries, and know that we were being seen and heard by more people than we could imagine.

As the years went on, my life changed and changed again. A little over a year ago, the New York chapter of MCA-I was able to schedule a meeting at the United Nations with a ranking official of the Department of Public Information. Once again, I followed a tour guide around the magnificent building. It was older now, a little dated. But the energy was still there.

We were ushered into a large room and asked to sit around a large U-shaped table. Behind us were glass booths (empty that day) for the interpreters. We met with Mr. Ramu Damodaran from the Department of Public Information at the United Nations. He spoke about the difficulties of getting the word out to the public about the day-to-day work of the United Nations. It seems only the bad news makes the headlines, while the smaller everyday programs that improve the lives of the world’s poor, sick and hungry, one at a time, go unnoticed. He asked the MCA-I members for their suggestions and opinions as to how to inform the public about these ongoing achievements.

It was thrilling to sit in the United Nations building and be asked to make a professional contribution to the United Nations work. Out of that meeting, the United Nations Documentary Film Festival was born. My visits to the United Nations building are much more frequent now due to the preparations necessary for the Festival. It’s almost a routine, but I love going to meetings there, sitting around a U-shaped table, figuring out how to make the United Nations Film Festival, now in its second year, bigger and better. The last time I was there I realized I know my way around one or two corridors, that someday I just might be able to find my way out of that enormous building without directions.

It’s a huge building, but it’s so full of hope. It needs major renovations now. The asbestos insulation, so modern and efficient when the building was built, needs to be removed. Today’s technology must be embedded in its walls and ceilings. The building will have to be vacated and closed for several years while the work is being done. The delegations and people who work there will be relocated all over the city for the duration. I look forward to the improvements, but hope the spirit of the building will remain intact.

It’s not the building but the people inside it who make the United Nations a working organization, but the building itself still has a mystique for me. It’s a symbol of the hopes and dreams of so many. I am retracing the footsteps of that original UN guide, this time in a much different capacity.

Mariana Pagliere is the president of Figure 5 Productions, a multi-disciplined production company for video and associated services., phone 973-694-8355

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Tim McNanyIn the course of your life there are always memorable moments that leave a lasting impression. Some of these you may have a choice to participate in, others not, but nonetheless it’s the experience that matters. One of these occasions was when my father “invited” us on our first visit to the United Nations.

I was about eight or nine years old. We sat in this large auditorium with headphones on listening to foreign leaders speaking in strange languages from around the world as they conducted their global business. As we left I looked back at this odd-shaped building, surrounded by dozens of colorful flags from many Nations, and I thought for a moment about the complex life these world leaders must lead. It was too daunting for any kid my age to comprehend but it left me wondering what ever made them want to be there in the first place and what was the importance of their work? I shrugged my shoulders as we walked to the car and within ninety minutes I was back to the comfort of my neighborhood playing with my friends. Little did I know that forty years later I would be walking down the halls of the United Nations. This time it would be to assist, as a volunteer, in organizing the first United Nations Documentary Film Festival thanks to my introduction to MCA-I NY.

I cannot say enough about my first year working together with other MCA-I NY members, and the staff at the United Nations. They are the hardest working, most dedicated group of professionals I have ever encountered. The synergy and efficiency at which we operated ran better than most companies I’ve encountered over the years! It was so much fun to be involved, watching our efforts materialize in such a short period of time. MCA-I NY became a killer production company made up of festival volunteers, and in about 120 days pulled off this spectacular event!

Much of my pleasure in working with MCA-I NY is derived from working with talented like-minded people who share a similar philosophy, and that is in helping others. We all shared a similar view that the United Nations is providing more good to the world than most people realize (despite the news) and our goal with this film festival was to help the United Nations get that message out to the general public.

In the days following the festival, requests for the films poured in from various countries and organizations. The humanitarian efforts and achievements being made by the various United Nations field offices around the world were substantiated.

My association with MCA-I NY has not only further opened up my opportunities by introducing me to new associates and friends; it has shown me how to push the envelope in my own endeavors. So, a special thank you goes to MCA-I NY members Corinna Sager, Emma Justice, Linda Lopez, Gale Grant and Isabelle Broyer from the United Nations for their leadership, determination and goodwill to all. Thank you MCA-I NY.

Tim McNany is owner of TM Media Productions, LLC and executive producer at Traveler Films, which is currently developing the documentary “Beyond Dark Angels”

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