Solar Mamas

INTERNATIONAL DOC PROJECT. Mette Heide is producer of "Solar Mamas", one of the eight documentaries in "Why Poverty?", a project that speaks about global poverty through human stories. The experienced producer warmly welcomes the opportunity to work with an international team of film-makers which includes Arab-American co-directors Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief.

Solar Mamas

Rafea, on the doorstep, in "Solar mamas" Photo: Neil Davenport

Rafea, who lives in a poor Bedouin village in Jordan, gets an offer to go to India and learn how to install solar panels. This could help raise the standard of living in villages all over Jordan. For Rafea it's a unique opportunity, but it also has major consequences for her family. She is the mother of four children, and her husband does not approve of her decision.

Rafea's story is dramatic but also extremely inspiring to women in the West - and even more so to women in the Arab World.

An Eye on America

"Solar Mamas", which follows Rafea's struggle to make a difference in the world, is co-directed by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief, and for producer Mette Heide of Plus Pictures there's huge potential in developing films and composing crews across continents.

The two co-directors, Noujaim and Eldaief, come with a raft of advantages. They grew up in the US and were trained by top documentary filmmakers. And because they are half-Egyptian and speak Arabic, they can communicate easier with Rafea and the other people in the film.

The film follows other women, too, from Kenya, Columbia and Burkina Faso. At those locations, the crew was expanded with handpicked field directors. One was Andreas Koefoed, also from Denmark, who joined the shoot in India. The film's editor, Jean Tsien, is Chinese and was picked because she has experience with editing international productions and a knack for telling human-interest stories, Heide says.

Heide is drawing on the network she has built up from her many productions. As a producer, she has kept an eye on America.

"I produce with talent from both the Danish and American scenes. The US is exciting from a producer's point of view, because Americans are conscious about the market in a way that's interesting to incorporate in documentary film production. Moreover, there is something about the American storytelling structure, and it's more interesting to speak to many millions of viewers instead of a few hundred thousand."

Avoiding stereotypes

Most of the photography for "Solar Mamas" is in the can. Rafea, the Bedouin woman, left for India and quickly proved herself to be one of the smartest students at the school. But midway through the course, she got a call from Jordan. Her husband was threatening to divorce her and take the children away. Shortly, she went back to her village in Jordan.

"When you produce international projects, it's important to give them broad appeal. Rafea's story is dramatic but also extremely inspiring to women in the West – and even more so to women in the Arab world."

Rafea went home, but she rebelled. Despite her husband's protests, she made up her mind to go back to India 
and finish her training. The film follows that whole turn of events.

"We need engaging and entertaining documentaries that give us other views of the world. Documentaries can do that. We can penetrate into unknown areas and relate real-life drama in a nuanced way. In this film, we want to avoid the stereotypes and show a reality we didn't know before. And we want to do this by telling a story with a strong main character and powerful dramaturgy," Heide says.

An extended theatrical feature, in addition to the TV documentary, will be ready in early 2012. The TV version is going out on 25 November 2012, along with the seven other documentaries under the project.



Keith St Clare writes
28.11.12 kl.16:35
Thank you for the inspiration...(s).

I'm writing my thesis on the topic of empowerment though public information and self-directed learning as a methodology that combines emotional intelligence and "flow."

Is anyone else doing anything like this?

Partners, critics, the curious and innovators are very welcome to email me about anything I can do for them and that they can share with me.

Thanks, Keith

P.S. My term paper is about Solar Mommas. I particularly wish to exchange information with any one directly connected or those who have made contact or have research to share.

Double Thanks...
Lars Fiil-Jensen writes
08.11.12 kl.10:15
Many broadcasters haven’t finalized their schedules yet but, when known, it will be published on:
evakay favia writes
08.11.12 kl.03:08
You mention Nov 25 as the date the 7 other docs air, but what staion in the Unites States? and what time? Thank you.
Evakay Favia
Lars Fiil-Jensen writes
02.11.12 kl.12:07
Only three weeks to go before most parts of the world will be able to watch the eight documentaries in "Why Poverty?" and start the debate.

Find much more here:
Keith St.Clare writes
01.11.12 kl.22:25
I would like to view Solar Mamas and anything similar to it for incorporation in my Master's thesis. My first step is to have it accepted through the term paper due in 4 1/2 weeks. I presume that it will be avaiable online and on PBS quite soon. Please advise at your earliest convenience. I would also like to apply it to a Power Point presentation to the University of Houston - Victoria faculty in 2 weeks. The PPT is supposed to be a practical demonstration of Self Directed Learning. I have created a number of these PPT's for our VOICE programs (primary and secondary educator trainings) and I would be happy to share one or two of these with as examples of my work with academic subjeccts. The result is highly visual and lyric. They are open source...and other educators have used them for Adult Education and Self-Directed Learning projects...with my blessing.

Therefore, I look forwrd to any referrals and media that you can share....toward the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. Sincerely yours, Keith St. Clare,, or youngideas160@yahoo, or 415-244-1856.

Thank you, Keith...


Mette Heide
Producer Mette Heide. Photo: Plus Pictures.

Plus Pictures

Founded 2008 by Mette Heide. Among recent titles are "The Invention of Dr Nakamats" by Kaspar Astrup Schröder and "Last White Man" Standing by Justin Webster.



Susanna Neimann

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