Art & Culture

April 1st, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

WOW! Look what’s happening at Round Earth!

Round Earth’s Documentary

Willing to Break

A Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival Official Selection 

Monday, April 14, 7:00 pm 


Willing to Break


Willing to Break explores the life of the only veiled break-dancer in Morocco and her perseverance in a counterculture dominated by men.
This film was produced and directed by a trio of impressive young journalists — Americans Sutton Raphael and JP Keenan in partnership with their Moroccan colleague Loubna Fouzar.   All were mentored by Round Earth’s veteran film-makers and journalists.
Raphael and Keenan will be in the Twin Cities for the premier of this powerful film.  Please come support them and see a short film you’ll never forget!

 Details HERE


Photo Sutton RaphelSutton Raphael is majoring in journalism at the University of Oregon and minoring in Arabic. He is an aspiring documentary filmmaker and plans to live in the Middle East after graduating.

Photo JP Keenan

JP Kennan is a documentary filmmaker and photographer studying at Ithaca College.  He is passionate about using the documentary medium to bring awareness to social issues.

Loubna Fouzar is a Moroccan journalism student who studies at Institut Supérieur de l’Information et de la Communication (ISIC) in Rabat.  

Wednesday, April 9th at 7:10 p.m. also at the MSP Intl Film Fest:  Who is Dayani Cristal?

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 10.46.17 AM

Who is Dayani Cristal?


Round Earth is interested in your comments about this documentary film focused on migration from Central America to the United States.  The film starts beneath a cicada tree as Arizona border police discover a decomposing male body. Lifting a tattered T-shirt, they expose a tattoo that reads “Dayani Cristal.” Who is this person? What brought him here? How did he die? And who—or what—is Dayani Cristal?   As the forensic investigation unfolds, Mexican actor and Gael Garcia Bernal retraces this man’s steps along the migrant trail in Central America.

Details HERE

Please stay after the film for a discussion and lend us your insight into the subject of one of our next reporting projects: migration from Mexico and Central America.

First Place National Headliner Award for Mexico Uncovered Story


Photo: Electric Guitar by Pedro Reyes (Courtesy of Lisson Gallery, London; Photograph © Ken Adlard)

We are very pleased to announce that Marlon Bishop’s amazing story, An Orchestra of Guns, produced as part of our project, Mexico Uncovered, received a first place National Headliner Award this week.  This award recognizes outstanding print and broadcast work and is one of the oldest and largest annual contests recognizing journalistic excellence. Congratulations, Marlon!

Marlon’s story focused on Mexico City artist Pedro Reyes, who converted thousands of  weapons seized by the government into musical instruments. The project, titled Imagine, has so far produced 50 working instruments ranging from pistol-flutes to shotgun-zithers, with more being churned out all the time.

Reyes and a team of machinists and musicians have been working long hours in his Mexico City workshop to build the instruments.  In Spring 2013,  he put on a major concert with music commissioned for the instruments in the UK. Proceeds from the event went to support gun control legislation in the US – the source of almost all of Mexico’s illegal weapons. We visit Reyes and his workshop and look at the symbolism of what he’s creating.  More on Marlon’s story and our project, Mexico Uncovered, here:


February 12th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Meet Latin America’s Teenage Korean Pop Fanatics

The room of Samantha Alejandra, 18, in Mexico City, doubles as a shrine to her favorite K-Pop boy band, Super Junior.

The room of Samantha Alejandra, 18, in Mexico City, doubles as a shrine to her favorite K-Pop boy band, Super Junior.

If you want to get a sense of what Mexican teenagers are up to these days, here’s an unexpected place to start: A Korean bakery in downtown Mexico City.

Every Sunday, dozens of teens — mostly female — convene here to eat Korean snacks and geek out about their favorite boy bands. They’re known as los k-popers – a growing subculture of Mexican kids who are crazy for Korean pop music.

Read and listen to this story on NPR.

Our untold stories, published and broadcast in top-tier media, reach huge audiences in the U.S. and in the countries where we are reporting.


May 31st, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness

It’s been more than a decade since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and, with the country still engulfed in violence, it can be hard to remember how it all began.  U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke before the UN Security Council in 2003, describing what he said was Saddam Hussein’s secret weapons program.

Phantom Truck | Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

Phantom Truck | Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

“We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails,” said Powell. “The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors.”

The trucks and train cars were never found.  But Madrid-born artist, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle was inspired to create his own life size replica of a biological weapons factory on wheels.  It’s one of the artworks in a powerful exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA).

I arrived in Minneapolis from North Africa in time to see the exhibit, “More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness.”   Truthiness is the word invented by Steven Colbert to mean something that is believed regardless of the facts.  This may be the fundamental issue of our times. (more…)

March 19th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

An Orchestra of Guns

Electric Guitar by Pedro Reyes Courtesy of Lisson Gallery, London; Photograph © Ken Adlard

The United States and Mexico share deep personal, economic, geographic and cultural connections, but understanding — on both sides of the border — is often limited by stereotype and media exaggeration.  Round Earth Media is out to change that.

We launched in 2005, with a bounty of stories from Mexico, supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Now, in a groundbreaking new collaboration and with generous support from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, Round Earth Media is pairing young American and Mexican journalists, to produce powerful, untold stories from Mexico.  These stories are broadcast and published in top-tier media, reaching huge audiences in both countries. 

Here’s our latest, broadcast on NPR. Mexico City artist Pedro Reyes is in the process of converting thousands of narco gang weapons seized by the government into musical instruments. Click HERE to listen.

February 22nd, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Soultana: ‘The Voice of Women’ Raps in Morocco

Soultana in concert. PHOTO: Shalea Harris

This week marks the two-year anniversary of Morocco’s version of the so-called Arab Spring. It didn’t unseat a dictator. But, tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets demanding democracy. Morocco’s powerful King diffused the protest by offering a few reforms. But little has changed for most Moroccans – especially the country’s young people. Many have found their voice in rap music.  From Morocco on The World, with stunning photos by student photojournalist Shalea Harris.  The latest from Round Earth Media’s groundbreaking collaboration with SIT Study Abroad.   Click HERE to listen and view the photos.

February 19th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Transforming Guns into Musical Instruments

Mexico City artist Pedro Reyes is in the process of converting thousands of narco gang weapons seized by the government into musical instruments.  Mexican reporter Omar Sanchez de Tagle, paired with American reporter Marlon Bishop, produced this story as part of Round Earth’s Mexico Reporting Project.  Omar’s story appears in Animal Politico, a major Mexican investigative news website.

To read this powerful story in Spanish, view photos and a video, click HERE.

Our untold stories, published and broadcast in top-tier media, reach huge audiences in the U.S. and in the countries where we are reporting.

June 18th, 2012  |  By Round Earth Media

Kenyan Singer Nina Ogot Inspired by Nairobi Youth

Nina Ogot is now drawing inspiration from the youngsters in Nairobi. | Photo by Mary Stucky

Kenyan singer Nina Ogot tells reporter Mary Stucky about her new musical inspiration: working with young people who live on the streets of Nairobi. (more…)

April 29th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

From Music to Migration in Morocco

Mariah Carey is slated to perform at the Mawazine Music Festival in Rabat

We are partnering in Morocco with some brilliant academics —  two with whom we’re working most closely are Said Graiouid and Taieb Belghazi. They invited me to participate in a fascinating conference recently at the University Mohammed V in Rabat.  Researchers came from around the world to discuss topics ranging from Moroccan hip hop, to racism against Sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco, to the importance of Moroccan music festivals.

Here’s just a taste.

Moroccan Music Festivals

Everywhere one turns in Rabat these days, there are billboards advertising next month’s block-buster Mawazine Music Festival (featuring big stars like Mariah Carey along with lesser-known luminaries). Urban spaces in Morocco have long been controlled and exploited by the State but now, for some observors, music festivals have given a great portion of that urban space back to the people. On the other hand, some Moroccans say they plan to protest the Mawazine Festival in particular, arguing that the State sponsors expensive festivals (which are usually free of charge to those who attend) in order to placate and distract Moroccans from the very real social, economic and political problems facing them. Researcher Moulay Driss El Maarouf shed light on “the urban dynamics of power and  counter-power in Moroccan music festivals.”


April 5th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

Life in the Village: Food and More

Photo: Stacy Wheeler

Photo: Stacy Wheeler

But there’s a lighter side to Sbaa Rouadi – sports, festivals and especially food.  Eating local takes on a whole new meaning here. Except for the occasional orange or banana, village residents grow all their own food and even make their own couscous, Morocco’s staple starch. At tea time, tables are piled high with fresh bread, platters of green and black olives and butter from local cows. But although the homemade food tastes delicious, preparing it is no picnic. For the average resident of Sbaa Rouadi, eating local means that food preparation structures much of the day.

Baking bread alone takes rural women up to two hours. Hanan Maghnoui, a seventeen-year-old in charge of her family’s culinary affairs, laughs when asked how many times she bakes bread each week. “I make it every day! What a question. How do you think we eat?” By her estimates, she spends between eight and ten hours a day preparing and serving food, and that’s with the help of a koukout,or pressure cooker.

Hanan has never been to school. “The school teacher here hit my older sister once, and after that I didn’t want to go,” she said. But she learned to read and write at home and she keeps a small notebook with family recipes.

For bread though, no recipe book is required. After she cleans up breakfast, Hanan throws together approximately fifteen cups of flour, a quarter cup of salt and some yeast in a large plastic tub. Little, by little, she adds warm water until the flour mixture becomes a moist dough, called aheen in Arabic. After kneading the dough for fifteen minutes, she covers it with a towel and leaves it to rise.

Unlike traditional American bread, Moroccan khobz is not baked in a pan. Instead, the dough is fashioned into flat circles and baked over coals in a faran, the traditional Moroccan oven.

Photo: Stacy Wheeler

When the oven is ready, Hanan flips the round, flat pieces onto a long sheet of blackened metal with the skill of an Italian pizza chef. Then, she slides the tray into the mouth of the oven and tosses a wet jacket over the opening to help keep the heat in.

The wait is short. After just five minutes, the flat dough has puffed into golden half orbs, slightly brown on the edges. Hanan flips them over and covers the oven opening again. This time, it’s just sixty seconds before she pulls out the loaves, which have grown into evenly browned circles about an inch tall and twelve inches in diameter.

The bread cools for a moment, but Hanan does not have the luxury of watching it. She’s already busy preparing lunch.

While women are in charge of baking bread and preparing meals, men work hard to produce the raw ingredients. Wheat, potatoes, lentils, tomatoes and olives are all grown locally in addition to a wide variety of herbs like mint, which is used for Morocco’s famous tea.

Although most of the village land is dedicated to agriculture, Sbaa Rouadi does not lack for meat. Chickens, which cluck around the front yard of most homes, are a common—and fairly inexpensive—source of protein. They are generally left free to roam, and sometimes families find eggs tucked away inside feed bags or under dense piles of brush. Rabbits are another common source of dinner meat and are often raised to be sold so the family has a small source of cash.

A more common source of cash is milk cows, however.

Each day, Mohammed Maghnoui wakes up just before dawn, at roughly five-thirty in the morning, to milk the cows for the first of two times that day. After wiping their udders clean with some water from a nearby pump, he races to finish the chore before his neighbor—who owns a van—arrives to pick up the 16 gallons of fresh milk. After collecting the entire neighborhood’s milk, the man drives it to nearby Fez, where it is sold to city residents in time for breakfast.

Not all the milk is sold, however, and extra becomes fresh butter, yogurt, and a salty buttermilk drink called leben that is especially popular after Friday couscous.

“The butter is the best in Morocco,” Mohammed says as he spreads it generously on a slab of fresh bread. But he recognizes the tradeoffs. “Work here is hard. Sometimes I work twelve hours a day.” He points to his hands which are creased with dirt and tough from hard field and wonders what it would be like to live in the city. But like most residents, he ultimately insists that the country is the place for him. Stacy Wheeler MORE

April 5th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

In a Moroccan Village: Education & Jobs

Photo: Princess Goodridge

There is some improvement in the lives of twenty six Sbaa Rouadi men. At least for now.  The men are working construction on what will be a school for Islamic studies in the village.  The project is funded by the Association Abi Bakr Essedik for Education, according to Abdesselam Bouchokhi, the accountant for the project. In Morocco, private associations are building schools because the government of Morocco fails to provide all the schools that are needed. Still, while this construction project is providing temporary work for the men of the village, it is not a permanent solution to economic development here.  Louis Zeller

Even for graduates of the new school, there’s no guarantee of a job, says Bouchikhi . And while tuition, room and board will be free for the more than 200 students, the school is only for men. Bouchikhi says  “no women from the village will be able to attend.”  Princess Goodridge

Despite these challenges some people in the village are able to achieve an education – even an advanced one.  Youssef Rahmouni holds a BA in English literature and is currently pursuing a second BA in history. Rahmouni’s family hosted student journalist Veronica Jean Seltzer. Seltzer interviewed Rahmouni and started by asking what made him want to get a higher education.

Photo: Veronica Jean Seltzer

Rahmouni: The first motivation is the prophet, peace be upon him. When I was a child I always wanted to read books-philosophy, literature. I was motivated to read religious books about the prophet and how he was so humble and intelligent to unite the Arabs. I was inspired by him, his communication style. I don’t know, maybe I’ll be like him. Second is my Mom. She’s so loving. I want to help the family financially and socially. The University is two hours there and two back. Leaves you no time to revise, no time to read, but I did my best to continue.

Seltzer: We certainly did not expect to have such a scholarly host brother. What do you think about that?

R: I’m not the only intellectual here. Perhaps because I speak English we can exchange ideas. Language is just a window through which we express ourselves. The others are intellectual too. They just can’t speak.

S: Do you think you’re different from other villagers?

R: Yes, maybe I’m different. I have thoughts, ideology. I’m similar in the life; I suffer like them, I want to change things.

S: What do you see for yourself in the future?

R: I dream to improve the life of the people here. One can only do this through politics. To take their voice, the real voice, to the right hands. People should benefit from politics, not become victims of politics.

S: What is your favorite part of living here?

R: Its calm, peace, good people. Peaceful in terms of nature, people. Not in terms of politics. We’re fighting to gain our rights, to fight the corruptor, to achieve development. This is a daily challenge.

S: Could you imagine living anywhere else?

R: No, I don’t imagine myself living somewhere else. This is my place. I’d fight to improve it and whenever I go I’d fight to come back. This is a humanitarian and religious principle. I would die for this place. MORE

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