Communications: Film project signals online revolution

A film about human rights, launched on the internet last week, uses new technology that could dramatically change the way in which charities use the web.

Voices of Dissent, which tells the story of the conflict in the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya, was made by actress Vanessa Redgrave's new production company, Dissent Projects. The film can be viewed on the internet at a cost of £2, with 50p going to Amnesty International.

"We made the film in honour of Amnesty's work with dissidents such as Vladimir Bukovsky during the Soviet era," says Carlo Nero, director of the film.

"It is also intended to act as a tribute to the organisation's continuing fight to foster human rights in places where there are none."

The film uses video-streaming technology, developed by the not-for-profit company Opus Media, which allows the viewer to watch the film immediately.

Other forms of streaming can take hours to download and until now the quality has been variable. The newly developed streaming ensures images are of the same standard as they would be on a DVD.

The opportunity to reach such a large audience at relatively little cost is one Nero believes charities can't afford to miss.

"The potential is extraordinary," he says. "I really think charities should be trying to set up their own audiovisual departments to make short films that could be shown on the internet. They could use the films to show their work in the field and, by charging people to watch them, use it as a means of fundraising."

Nero's film can be viewed either as a computer-screen image or, through the use of a cable, on television. Perhaps the greatest selling point, however, is the fact that the film can be accessed by any of the world's 200 million broadband users.

Nigel Regan, chief executive of Opus Media, says: "Vanessa wanted to get the film out to the world - and this is the most effective way to do it at low cost and to such a high standard."

Nero agrees. "It's very difficult to distribute this type of documentary - a very strong, challenging piece - through the usual channels," he says.

"In a sense, the internet is the most democratic medium."

Another advantage of the technology is that it's instantaneous, says Regan.

"You don't have to wait for the film to be screened on television," he adds. "You can watch it whenever and wherever you want, as long as you have access to a computer with a broadband connection."

To see the film online, go to www.voicesofdissent.com.

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