A Laptop Against Poverty, a documentary by Chiara Sambuchi


Imagine a versatile green laptop for $100 US, that can go online, takes pictures and video, works with solar energy and can even survive being dropped on the floor! Look no further – it exists – the XO 2, conceived, produced and distributed by Nicholas Negraponte and his team at ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD (OLPC), a non-profit organization. If you want one, buy one for a child in a developing country and another for yourself.

Prior to becoming founder and chairman of OLPC, Negraponte was the co-founder and former director of MIT’s Media Laboratory – a research laboratory that focuses on collaborations between media arts and sciences. The program deftly fulfills their mission statement to be “unconstrained by traditional disciplines, with lab designers, engineers, artists, and scientists working atelier-style together, conducting more than 350 projects that range from neuroengineering, to how children learn, to developing the city car of the future.”

One of these fruitful ideas was to develop a low-cost, high-tech and durable laptop computer for children in developing countries. And so the ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD project was born. Negraponte’s vision for OLPC is that all 500 million children in today’s emerging countries will eventually receive their own laptop to connect to the world, receive further education, and thus create a better future for themselves. The cost for the laptops is kept low so that emerging countries can either finance the purchase themselves, or do so with relatively little foreign assistance. Plus, OLPC was founded as a non-profit organization to focus on the children and their education rather than a profit margin.

Berlin based filmmaker Chiara Sambuchi’s 45 min documentary takes us on a journey from OLPC headquarters in the US all the way to rural Peru, one of the countries participating in the OLPC project. At OLPC’s offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sambuchi meets with Nicholas Negraponte who explains OLPC’s vision, mission and philosophy. He strongly believes that education may be the key to eradicating poverty and cultivating better understanding in our world. Negraponte’s team demonstrates the technical features of the laptop, discusses the yearlong research that went into designing and developing this computer and its software (all geared towards children). Finally, Sambuchi takes us to the rugged and undeveloped countryside of Peru. Here we meet 11-year old Valeria and her classmates and learn just how excited they are about getting their very own laptop. As soon as the computers arrive– they are off and running – exploring, sharing, learning and improving their computer skills in front of our eyes.

Once the children are busy with their laptops – we see that the proof is in the pudding – and how Negraponte’s philosophy translates into practice. Sambuchi’s documentary is not only a concise introduction to the OLPC project but also an emotional experience as we see the children’s happiness and witness how a gadget many of us take for granted expands their horizon and opens up new worlds.

If you like to learn more about OLPC, please visit www.laptop.org and for more information on the documentary A LAPTOP AGAINST POVERTY, please visit www.lavafilm.de


About Author

Tanja Meding

Tanja Meding :Since moving to New York from Germany in 2003, Tanja Meding has worked as a producer for Maysles Films and other independent production companies. Amongst others, she produced SALLY GROSS-THE PLEASURE OF STILLNESS by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile which aired on WNET/Thirteen and Channel 25 and is now available on DVD from www.reframecollection.org. Since 2007, Tanja has been producing short films by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder: JACKIE & JUDY premiered at DANCE ON CAMERA at LINCOLN CENTER was awarded with a PEARL at the POOL 2010 Festival in Berlin. Upcoming this September is a video installation of two new shorts: BOXING and THE COLLECTION at NY's newly opened New York Live Arts building in Chelsea. In addition, Tanja is the co-producer of Gabriella Bier's LOVE DURING WARTIME, a documentary about an Israeli dancer and her Palestinian husband. The film had its US premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed in the US through 7th Art Releasing. Furthermore, she is the US co-producer of Pascale Obolo's documentary CALYPSO ROSE, LIONESS OF THE JUNGLE. Currently in development with Claudia Brazzale is RETRACING STEPS, a portrait documentary about a group of international dancers and choreographers and their lives 20 years after they first met in NYC.

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