Differentiating Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan: a GFI Geography Lesson

Intern Angelica Dongallo talks about gaining an education while learning “the business” at the Global Film Initiative

GFI Intern Angelica Dongallo

When I began an internship at the Global Film Initiative in the summer of 2009, I had never heard of Kyrgyzstan. If you’d have asked me to locate it on a globe, I would’ve twirled my pointer finger around Western Asia and Europe without a firm indication of where it should land. And while geography still isn’t my strong suit, thanks to my time at GFI I at least now know that Kyrgyzstan is a very interesting country, indeed (it’s also home to one of our Global Lens 2011 films:  THE LIGHT THIEF).

At GFI, all our programs (Granting, Acquisitions, Distribution and Education) rely on staffers with a keen sense of geography. Granting and Acquisitions require an understanding of the world to ensure that we choose projects and films that were made across a spectrum of world regions. Distribution and Education are more domestically-oriented and motivate us to find venues and institutions throughout the U.S. and Canada where we can exhibit our films.

At the risk of sounding completely ignorant, I have decided to map out a few of geography’s life lessons that I know I could not have learned without GFI, in hopes that anyone reading this post will gain a little bit of insight about (or at least refresh their existing knowledge of) world geography:

1.  Africa is made up of 53 countries. While I knew the approximate locations of countries that were in the news, such as Sudan and Uganda, my knowledge of African countries was only correctly limited to “MATLE,” i.e. the North African countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt) that I was taught to memorize in the seventh grade.

2.  Athens is not just a city in Greece but one in Georgia (a state in the southeastern U.S.). Global Lens 2010 played here last year.

3.  Latin America has a thriving film industry, most notably in Argentina (that’s the country in South America’s southern region, in case you forgot).

4.  There are such regions as South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia.

5.  There are seven countries that end in the suffix “-stan,” three of which are represented by films in our Global Lens Collection, and only four of which I’d ever heard of before interning at GFI. In Kazakhstan they speak Kazakh and in Kyrgyzstan they speak Kyrgyz (no vowels!), but both countries consider Russian an official language.

6.  While some may believe otherwise, the United States is not at the center of the world.

Upon writing this, I’ve realized that I may have forgotten some of the geography I was supposedly taught in grade school and college. Yet there was obviously a lack in my knowledge that I could not account for. To this end, I’ve really valued these lessons from GFI and can honestly say that I am much more aware of the world around me because of my time here.

Just think of what this organization could do for you.

Angelica Dongallo is a graduate of UC Berkeley and a former editor and writer for The Daily Californian student newspaper. She has also contributed student columns to the Contra Costa Times and the Concord Transcript. Angelica is currently an intern at the Global Film Initiative.

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