Monday, 30 March 2020

Total Croatia News Announces Media Partnership with Robert Tomic Zuber R+ Portal

March 30, 2020 - Total Croatia News is delighted to announce that it has joined Robert Tomic Zuber's new R+ project, starting tomorrow. 

These are crazy times to be in the media in the Balkans (although, thinking about it, I am not sure there is ever a normal time in this fabulous but troubled region), and the fast pace of change in the way information and media is consumed these days means that news portals will have to adapt or die. 

It all seems so different to that distant memory in October 2011, when I opened my laptop with a beer in Jelsa on Hvar and typed up my first happy tourism piece for my new blog, Total Hvar. 

From a Hvar blog to three Google News portals covering Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia has been a challenge to keep up with, even without the acceleration of technological change. 

But there is no point trying to fight the inevitable. The era of the blogger as a man of words and long articles is going to become a lot more niche than it was, and video is definitely one growth area. 

I hate doing video and being on camera, but I am learning that it has become a necessity in the modern media world. 

I am grateful to various people I have met and worked with this year - Andreas Wil Gerdes, Gustavo Vilera and Robert Tomic Zuber - the latter one of the region's most accomplished documentary makers - for showing me the baby steps into this inevitable new media world that TCN will be forced to enter. 

Talk of different strategies have been energising (and terriftying), but it was only when I saw in the flesh what young Zuber was putting together for his new R+ media channel, with an initial focus on corona (what else?) that I really began to understand the power of the new approach, particularly in this new era of self-isolating social distancing. Online communications will become ever more important, and video using simple technology can tell individual stories from literally all over the planet in one place. 

Robert Tomic Zuber's R+ launched just over a week ago, as reported by TCN. It showcases stories from the region, as well as stories of people from the region in other places. To give you a flavour, below you can find the top 5 most viewed videos in the early days or R+. Almost all the videos are bilingual with subtitles. 

TCN will be joining the R+ network to support the Man from Pula, and our first video report will air on the R+ website tomorrow morning. It will feature TCN CEO Paul Bradbury from his terrace on Hvar talking about the realities of trying to run an independent news portal in Croatia during the corona era. As you can see from the lead photo, the technology is not the most sophisticated, but it does the job. With thanks to Miranda Milicic Bradbury for the video and Janja Sestak for the translation for the Croatian subtitles. 

If you like the view, I will be doing more video updates on various topics for TCN from the terrace while we all wait to get our lives back. 

In other news, I have started to grow a beard for the first time in 25 years, so if nothing else, the video update might be fun to monitor progress. 

The Top 5 most popular R+ videos so far:

Report from a hospital in Pula, Croatia

Zagreb, Be Strong

Kisses from New York

From Madrid... With Love, Marko

Notes from isolation | by Boba Đuderija

You can visit the R+ YouTube channel here.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Based on a RAFF Story: Reflections from the Rab Film Festival

October 6, 2019 - One of the more interesting additions to the 2019 tourism calendar was the Rab Film Festival, dedicated to investigative documentaries. One enthusiastic festival participant was Gustavo Vilera from Venezuela. 

There I was, driving with my family to the island of Rab, excited about my first Film Festival in Croatia, not only because of the pleasures the Kvarner coast has to offer, but on a mission, a personal mission to support the work and initiative of Robert Zuber, a kind-hearted Film Director, producer and world citizen.

It was RAFF! The film festival and the experience.

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Before we dive into the details of the festival, and before I convince you of joining me next year for the second edition, I’d like to paint you a picture of Rab and of my interest in documentaries up to the moment I sat to watch my first film at the festival.

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The stoned city of Rab is enchanting. The architecture, the large stoned walls that grow straight from the shore, the delicious cakes together with the creative open-space design of Silvija Jonjić gave us an unforgettable and inclusive scene for this RAFF weekend.

The country that saw me grow is Venezuela. From Caracas I dreamt my whole childhood of traveling around the world, visiting all the historical places I saw on TV, the capitals of the world, the unreal pyramids, the castles, all of these historically and culturally rich sites brought to my screen via Satellite waves.

I can proudly say that the privilege of satellite TV played an immense role in my upbringing. It exposed me to different languages and offered me a vast selection of documentaries from National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, PBS, DW, and VTV (The now infamous national channel of Venezuela). These directors awoke my curiosity, showed me how factories work, how the brain functions, how the animals behave in their habitat, inspired me to feel confident in our society and our future, to study science in school and travel to Berlin for my higher education.

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Times change, and so do the agenda of TV channels. Thankfully, my passion had awakened, and until today I search and follow the production of independent documentaries.

There I was, sitting on first row my son and lover next to me, stuffing our face with popcorn, as one does in the cinema. The title: Sea of Shadows, directed by Richard Ladkani.

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Robert introduced the audience personally to the film, charismatically communicating with the audience in English and Croatian. We watched it at the open-air cinema, at the highest point of the old town, surrounded by trees, fresh air, and a beautiful night sky.

There were no free seats, everyone in town knew about the event, RAFF took the city. You could see everywhere the adverts, the people, the gatherings, and workshops. I grew excited during the day, walking the streets of the old town and finding posters with the agenda and functions, finding participants with t-shirts and all the photographers documenting the event.

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Ninety minutes of the best Hollywood-like drama, intense action, and emotions. I want you to picture speed boat persecutions, surveillance drones, murders, animal extinction, crime, cartels, independent activists, corruption, fishermen, military, Chinese triads!!!! I mean, a script like this is worth GOLD and your full attention, the film was RAFF no questions about it, we were captivated, immersed in this quest for justice. 

The credits start rolling on the screen, it’s over, “The End,” kina s pet svjezdica? The audience was still in shock. Silence all around. I turned back to see the faces; the tourists had forgotten about Rab and their vacations. Robert retook the stage, brought us back to our privileged reality with a charming voice, to our Orada dinners with Blitva, to our holidays.

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A fisherman died, murdered because he decided to stand up and talk to the camera, tell us what was really happening.

What to do now? We can’t unsee what just happened in front of our eyes, can we? Can we forget that we live on the same rock that follows the same star on an eternal spiral? Will we wait until it hits our coasts? Nah! that won’t happen here! Said everyone in Venezuela 30 years ago, while the Balkans were killing each other on TV. Look at us now.

It’s RAFF and I’ll be there next year, ready to support again. Join us. 

Thank you Robert and the RAFF team for the message: “don’t speculate, Investigate!”

To learn more about the Rab Film Festival, check out the official website