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From Maidan to Donbass: '10 Days in F...
Sumy, Ukraine
By lordcob
26 Jan 2015

Text by : Johannes Sporrer

Italian photographer Jacob Balzani Lööv followed a self-defense unit in Kiev's Maidan for ten days up to the bloody events of 20 February 2014. He recently visited one of the protagonist of the revolutionary current that swept Ukraine at that time.

"I was in Kiev to meet some friends," says Balzani Lööv, who at the end of November 2013, found himself suddenly in the middle of Independence Square in Kiev. "I was surprised by how peaceful, determined and full of hope the protest was throughout the month of December, but that changed with time. People started to wear masks and to protect Maidan with clubs and shields, upgrading their defense to the violence of the police."

On the 10th of February 2014 during a protest to demand the release of some arrested activists, Balzani Lööv saw a masked, red-haired young woman and organized to meet her. Olesja Goriaynova, a then 19-years-old, was a journalism student from Sumy.

"I wanted to know if the attitude I loved in December in Maidan was still there," he recalls, "and Olesja told me that it was still there, but under wraps in the compounds where the defense units were living." After few days the photographer was granted access to the group, the 14 Sotnia.

These so-called self-defense units of the Maidan were founded to protect unarmed protesters from the increasing violence of the police.

"The central demand of the group was an independent Ukraine, without Yanukovych," says Balzani Lööv, "and a Ukraine without corruption, leaning towards Europe. Often its members were upset by the fact that newspapers were discussing only the geopolitical interests of the US and Russia, as if the Ukrainians had no say." He felt that the atmosphere in these days was tense. "It seemed quite possible that the police could have broke into the headquarters of the 14th Sotnias anytime and commit a massacre," he said.

To protect the group, Balzani Lööv promised that he would publish pictures showing unmasked members of the defense units only if the revolution would succeed or if there were to no longer be any threat.

Now, a year later, the immediate threat is over for the activists, but whether or not their revolution was actually successful, however, is far less clear. Balzani Lööv has met again with the activist Olesja Goryainova to ask her about the consequences of the protests. Olesja has moved back to her hometown, Sumy, some 300 kilometers east of Kiev. She is studying again, but she cannot fully return to her old life.

"Olesja now collects money and materials for the fighters in the anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine," says Balzani Lööv. She is also a member of the Young Nationalist Congress, an organization that aims to strengthen the "patriotic spirit" of the youth. Olesja doesn't regret the Maidan.

"We just couldn't go on living that way," she says, though with a hint of disappointment in her voice.

Yanukovych is gone, but the reforms desired by the Maidan protestors did not materialize. As before, there is a lot of corruption in the country, and the war in the East has overshadowed the original goals of the young revolutionaries. The profound changes they sought for, postponed.

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Rock Climbing in Palestine
Ein Qinia
By Ibrahim Husseini
05 Dec 2014

Rock climbing is an emerging sport in the occupied Palestinian territories. Two American climbers with the help of an Italian climber are bolting rocks and teaching Palestinians how to rock climb.

The following footage was taken in Ein Qinia, near Ramallah, on Friday December 5, 2014.

This location was picked by Tim and Will for at least two important reasons. The first is because the rock is suitable for bolting and climbing and also makes a challenging climb. The second reason is the geographical location. The proximity of Ein Qinya village to Ramallah makes it unlikely for Israeli settlers to venture in. There are other climbing areas in the OPT but they are close to Israeli settlements and therefore are avoided by Palestinian climbers for fear of getting in trouble with the settlements guards and the Israeli army. Hundreds of Israeli checkpoints across the OPT makes movement a nightmare to Palestinians. Lack of outdoor recreation in Palestine makes climbing attractive to Palestinians and contribute to the overall quality of life for those who value outdoor activities.

More about Tim and Will (taken from the wadiclimbing.com website)

Timothy Bruns was a Political Science major and Arabic Language minor at Colorado College and is deeply interested in development in Palestine. Tim has been rock climbing for many years. He has extensive experience teaching hard skills, technique, and rope skills. He has built rock-climbing walls in the U.S. and is helping to construct an expansion at a local Colorado climbing gym. Tim is a certified lead climber and Wilderness First Responder. Additionally, he has spent past summers working with children and teenagers; leading wilderness trips in New Hampshire and North Carolina and working at a leadership camp with Palestinian youth in Maine.
Will Harris was a Colorado College Economics and Business major, Arabic Language minor and is an accomplished athlete. Will loves rock climbing and worked part time at a local Colorado rock climbing gym. He has devoted his academic career to business development in the Middle East and wrote his thesis on foreign direct investment in Jordan, where he spent four months living and studying.

1st Interview: Nour Awad. Palestinian climber.
2nd Interview: Timothy Bruns- Wadi Climbing Co-Founder
3rd Interview: Wael Hassouneh. Palestinian climber
4th Interview: Victor
5th Interview: Will Harris. Wadi Climbing Co- Founder
6th Interview: Dario Franchetti. Climber & adviser to Wadi Climbing. Italy. Works and lives in the OPT
7th Interview: Edmee Van Rijn. Climber. Holland.Works and lives in the OPT.

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The Black Men: European Fighters in U...
By laura.lesevre
24 Jul 2014

European volunteer fighters and far-right activists have travelled to Ukraine to fight along side pro-Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists. They come from France, Sweden, and other parts of Europe. They have different motivations for participating in the conflict, but they all say that they are not paid to fight.

Journalists Fausto Biloslavo and Laura Lesevre travelled to Ukraine and interviewed, among others, Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper, with seven years' experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. Mikael is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He says there is a bounty of nearly 5,000 euros on his head.

This 11:26 minutes video story includes footage of the Azov Battalion training and fighting against pro-Russia separatists. It also include interviews with an Italian and a Russian volunteer fighter. It also includes an interview with Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper.

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The Black Men 14
By laura.lesevre
20 Jun 2014

A volunteer fighter wearing the t-shirt with the emblem of the Azov Battalion. The battalion is under the control of Kiev’s Interior ministry.

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The Black Men 9
By laura.lesevre
20 Jun 2014

46 year old Gaston Besson from France says he wants to defend Ukraine’s independence. Besson, who has also fought in Croatia, Bosnia, Burma and Laos, is in charge of recruiting foreign European volunteers to fight against pro-Russian rebels. "Every day I get dozens of e-mail with requests of enlistment, but I reject 75% of them. People who want to join us are to buy the plane ticket with their own money. Then they go over an initial period of training in Kiev before being sent to the front line. We do not want fanatics, trigger-happy people, drunkards or druggies. We need unpaid idealists, not hired mercenaries”, he says.

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The Black Men 12
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

Volunteer fighters from the Azov battalion during urban warfare training.

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The Black Men 11
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

Francesco F, an Italian volunteer fighter in the Azav battalion's base in Berdyansk.

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The Black Men 15
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

An armed member of the Azov Battalion at a check point near Berdyansk in Eastern Ukraine.

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The Black Men 8
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper, with seven years' experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. Mikael is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He says there is a bounty of nearly 5,000 euros on his head.

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The Black Men 13
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Members of the Azov battalion in their base in Eastern Ukraine.

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The Black Men 10
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Francesco F. an Italian volunteer fighter with the Azav battalion during training. Francesco gave up his life as a manager in order to fight alongside Ukrainians against pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine.

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The Black Men 16
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

A member of the Azav battalion. All fighters wear masks to cover their faces for fear of reprisals.

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The Black Men 1
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Fighters from the Azav battalion resting on the grass.

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The Black Men 7
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Volunteer fighters from the Azov battalion during training.

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The Black Men 6
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Volunteer fighters from the Azov battalion.

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The Black Men 3
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

A fighter from the Azov battalion during a shooting training.

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The Black Men 4
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

The Azov battalion fighting in east-Ukraine counts 250 men. Most of them are far-right activists. The battalion also counts a dozen of foreign volunteers fighters from countries like Sweden, France, Finland, Italy and Russia, as well as football ultras. They claim they are not paid to fight.

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The Black Men 2
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Fighters from the Azov battalion during shooting training.

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The Black Men 5
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

A fighter from the Azov battalion during training.

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Eyes Wide Shut Masks
Venice, Italy
By Filippo Biagianti
23 May 2014

Rialto, Venice. In a short but remarkable workshop, in 1985 Franco Cecamore has created two original masks for the Venice Carnival. Twelve years later, a man with white coloured men's clothing, came to that shop: the man was Jan Harlan, executive producer of one of the last movies directed by Stanley Kubrick. He visited "Il Canovaccio" in order to buy several masks. One of them would be used by Kubrick in his last masterpiece "Eyes Wide Shut" for the character of Dr. Bill Harford, played by Tom Cruise. This documentary is the incredible and unknown story behind the creation of the most important masks of "Eyes Wide Shut." The artisans of this typical Italian product say that the origin of the art makes it a unique product. Original documents, photographs and the description of the meeting with the Kubrick's production make this the story we tell in our film.