21 June 2004 00:23
Russian-American Collaboration Gives Texas Media Company Abamedia Global Edge In Creating Web-based Educational System and Films for Television
Abamedia, L.P., Fort Worth J. Mitchell Johnson, 817-821-3504 Founder's Film to Premier at Moscow Film Festival, Friday, June 25, 2004 J. Mitchell Johnson, founder of Fort Worth, Texas-based Abamedia, has been working for more than a decade to fulfill his dream of working with Russians to export their undervalued cultural and artistic assets by creating a Web-based educational system and films for television. It's only fitting that the award-winning Texas documentary filmmaker has been invited to premier his first full-length feature film at the 26th Moscow International Film Festival, June 18-27, 2004 ( Johnson's film, World Without Waves, which he wrote and directed, will be screened on Friday, June 25, at 9 p.m. in the Moscow Film Center's Cinema Museum Theater, in a noncompetitive category, which features some of the year's most interesting movies from around the world ( Johnson's film offers a compelling story of a successful New York television producer who is stricken by a sudden agonizing allergy to electricity that causes him to flee the fast pace of Manhattan and seek refuge in an abandoned Texas town. A troubling story unfolds as he encounters love and conflict involving drugs, sexual abuse, alcoholism, and electric sensitivity on his journey to reclaim his soul. "I'm thrilled that my first feature film will debut here in one of the world's new high-tech capitals," Johnson said. "That the story questions our ever-accelerating lifestyle is an irony, of course, but Russians are quite comfortable with paradox. That's one of the great things about this place." In addition to feature films, Abamedia is producing documentaries and Internet projects for the global marketplace with an initial focus on the Russian-American relationship. The eight-year-old company's first project, Russian Archives Online (RAO), was established in 1996 as a public/private initiative to provide access to the Russian State Film and Photo Archives at Krasnogorsk ( The Archives have one of the finest collections of documentary films and photos in the world. Since the project's inception, the entire archive's motion picture catalogue featuring more than 38,000 films has been digitized and brought online in the Russian language by a talented team of Russian filmmakers and computer scientists from Moscow State University who worked with the Krasnogorsk staff. The United States Agency for International Development, through Russia's Internews Network, provided the original funding for the project, along with Abamedia. Other funders included George Soros' Open Society Archives in Budapest, and through San Francisco's The Russian-American Center funds were raised from the Citigroup Foundation and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has also provided support for RAO. An English version of the catalogue is planned. At the project's inception, Abamedia formed Archive Media Project, LP, (AMP) with its Russian partners and then signed an agreement with the Russian State Film and Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk. AMP became the international trade representative for the Krasnogorsk archive's "media assets"; since that time, independent filmmakers and television networks from around the globe have used AMP's services. Its clients include the BBC, The History Channel, Discovery, Disney, and all the major U.S. TV networks. AMP helps filmmakers find the footage and photos they need from the Russian archives without having to travel to Russia. Abamedia's newest Russian-American venture is in the first phase of a pilot project, which will lead to a Russian-American Web-based system called World Archives Online for Education (WAO). This proposed free-for-use multimedia "encyclopedia" will eventually include more than 60,000 film clips, photos, and digitized art objects, called "media objects." "The idea is that such a resource will be invaluable for the future of global education and that no better place exists than Russia to construct such an ambitious system," Johnson said. "The people here are highly intelligent and well educated, and their top level of computer science is world renown." That Russian software expertise will be needed in building the technologies that will help users navigate such a vast repository of images and sounds to easily create, store, and retrieve multimedia interactive projects without cost, based on the support of sponsors. Abamedia calls this tool set, technology, and system SNAPSE(TM). Initial languages will be English and Russian, but Johnson hopes to involve other countries in the project once the technology is in place. The WAO concept received the endorsement of Paris-based UNESCO in 2002, which has as its aim education for all by the year 2015. Funding for the first phase of the WAO project has been provided to The University of Texas at Austin's School of Information and Moscow State University's Computer Center by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Focus is on a ten-year period of Soviet history beginning when Nikita Khrushchev was the premier. Regarding films for television, Johnson was the originator and series producer of Abamedia's critically acclaimed Red Files, which reveals the Soviet view of recent history through interviews with key Soviet participants, never-before-seen archival film, and declassified dossiers. Many of these compelling stories of personal and political intrigue were hidden from the West--and even fellow Russians--for generations. Produced for prime-time PBS and distributed worldwide by Buena Vista Television and Home Video, Red Files won the year 2000 "Best Limited Series" award from the Los Angeles-based International Documentary Association. Recently, Johnson produced and directed Abamedia's Yanks for Stalin for The History Channel. It is a fascinating chronicle of the improbable union between the forces of capitalism and one of the most infamous dictators of the 20th century. -0- *T To contact J. Mitchell Johnson while he is in Russia through June 30: In USA, 817-821-3504; from USA to Moscow: 011-7-917-523-6156 In Moscow: 8-917-523-6156 In Moscow: Hotel Soyuz; 011-7-095-247-6277; fax: 011-7-095-247-6277 Email: Moscow International Film Festival Press Center Contacts: Mikhail Moskalyov, Nikolai Bryandinsky, Tatiana Ivashkina Tel. nos.: 011-7-095-917-24-86, 011-7-095-917-09-44, fax 011-7-095-916-01-07; 011-7-095-974-62-69; 011-7-095-974-76-00 Email: Mikhail Moskalyov: Website: Email: *T