Chad (October 21, 2009)–Filmmaker Christopher Farber recently traveled to Chad, where some 250,000 Darfur refugees live in 12 camps scattered across the Sahara Desert, to record their views for a short film. Brutal desert conditions attended the 65 days of his mission, but despite this, all of his equipment, including a crucial Sennheiser wireless microphone and receiver, performed throughout.
“Previous peace negotiations have been seriously flawed by a lack of civilian input,” explained Farber. “The people who represent the civilians tend to be rebel leaders, who arrive at the table with their own agendas. The organization 24 Hours for Darfur attempts to right this situation by conducting large-scale public opinion surveys of the civilian refugees living in Chad on issues of peace, justice and reconciliation. I worked on a companion project – a short film based on the in-depth interviews of over 100d refugees that will be presented at the next round of peace negotiations.”
Farber’s day-to-day work involved traveling to each of the refugee camps in eastern Chad with only the help of a translator from the Darfurian diaspora. “It was all guerilla-style,” he said. “I had a camera and a wireless mic. I did all the video and audio work while simultaneously conducting the interview.” Farber used a Sennheiser evolution G2 100 series and MKE lavalier wireless microphone and receiver together with a Panasonic HPX200 video camera for most of the interviews. When interviewees preferred not to be filmed, he recorded audio on a Marantz PMD 660 field recorder.
Farber’s background is in photography and videography, not audio. “Audio is new to me,” he said. “The wonderful thing about the Sennheiser rig was that I was able to get great results with only a minor amount of fiddling. Although the Marantz recorder has a built-in mic, I decided to continue using the Sennheiser wireless because it was so easy and I was getting such great results.”
The merciless conditions of the Sahara were a real test of his equipment’s reliability. Temperatures hovered around 120 degrees with an abundance of dust and sand driven by dry winds. “The equipment simply had to work,” said Farber. “I was in a place where it would be impossible to repair or replace anything. Sending something out of the region for repairs was out of the question. The travel time would be not days, not weeks, but months and at a cost of thousands of dollars. Erring on the safe side, I brought a second Sennheiser wireless rig, but I never needed to open it.”
Farber was also pleased with the battery consumption of his wireless rig. “You calculate how many batteries you’re going to need, but if you make a mistake or if the equipment is actually hungrier than it claims to be, you’re in trouble,” he explained. “Batteries are almost impossible to come by in the refugee camps, and those that are around would probably qualify as ‘dead’ right out of box if they were purchased in the states. The Sennheiser wireless rig ended up using fewer batteries than I thought it would.”
Farber’s footage is currently being edited. The video will be screened for policy makers at the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, the State Department, Congressional Foreign Relations committees, and various advocacy groups working on a peace agreement between the government of Sudan and the people of Darfur.