Monday, August 23, 2010

Telegraph21 Champions Online Documentaries

KobreGuide has discovered a vibrant new online outlet for short documentary films. It's called, and it was co-founded this year by Lauren Kesner O'Brien and Steffie Kinglake.

While KobreGuide focuses exclusively on the Web's best videojournalism, Telegraph21 touts itself as "a video magazine featuring the best documentary films and art videos from around the world." While we scout and cull the best efforts of major news organizations, Telegraph21 does the same with leading independent documentary filmmakers -- often helping them pare down their feature-length efforts to ten-minute Web-sized morsels.

So in some ways we're running on parallel tracks, with considerable overlap in sensibilities. In fact, today's KobreGuide selection, "Gum for My Boat," comes to us from Telegraph21. It introduces us to members of the Bangladesh Surf Club, an oxymoron in a country with plenty of beach, but a conservative Islamic culture that frowns on swimming. Filmmaker Russell Brownley is himself an international surfer, adding special insight to the project -- and differentiating it from what you might expect from a typical newspaper videojournalist.

O'Brien writes: "Gum for My Boat is a great summer film but also shows such a cool side of Bangladesh, surf culture at its best, and beautiful beaches, colors and scenery. A good film to soak up summer during the hot days of August."

Like KobreGuide, Telegraph21 points viewers to extra goodies with each video, including links to related stories, slideshows, producer bios and Q&As. But the main thing the two sites have in common is that, unlike most aggregated sites, they are "curated" -- meaning that the selections are scouted and hand-picked by professionals. You don't have to wade through the YouTube swamp to get to the good stuff.

O'Brien is herself a documentary filmmaker, whose work has been shown on BBC, PBS, MSNBC and CNBC, and who no doubt has a bright future in other alphabetic configurations. She lived in Armenia for three years to co-produce a non-fiction film there. Kinglake's background is in managing nonprofit organizations and communications campaigns. The two have been friends since college.

The name telegraph21 is both a nod to the nineteenth-century invention that allowed people to communicate in real time, and an expression of bringing that same spirit of innovation into the twenty-first century.
Videojournalists can submit their work for consideration here.

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