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Two MIT films nominated for New England Emmy Awards

Films produced by MIT Video Productions and the Department of Mechanical Engineering highlight some of MIT’s global conversations about the environment and climate change.
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The 13-member MIT Video Productions team at the awards ceremony
MIT Video Productions team at the 47th Boston/New England Emmy Awards Ceremony. Front row, left to right: Rod Lindheim, Dawn Morton, Clayton Hainsworth, Mujtaba Jamali, Jean Dunoyer, Alexander Sachs, Christopher Capozzola, and Brigitte Tersek. Back row, left to right: Frederick Harris, Myles Lowery, Wesley Richardson, Barry Pugatch, and TJ Saccoccio.
Photo courtesy of MIT Video Productions.
Two people kneeling in the grass, looking at tools used in irrigation
In this still image from the MechE film "No Drop to Spare," Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) Center researcher Georgia Van de Zande interacts with a farmer at Puma Springs Farm in Kenya.
Photo: John Freidah/MechE
MIT students and others sit together, several holding or playing musical instruments.
A still image from the film “We Are the Forest,” produced by MIT Video Productions at MIT Open Learning.
Image: YouTube Image Capture
About two dozen MIT students and others gather for a musical experience. A man stands with arms raised in the center of the room.
A still image from the MIT film “We Are the Forest,” produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP) at MIT Open Learning.
Image: YouTube Image Capture
Five researchers work outdoors on an irrigation project.
A still image from the MechE film “No Drop to Spare.”
Image: YouTube Image Capture

Two films produced by MIT were honored with Emmy nominations by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Boston/New England Chapter. Both “We Are the Forest” and “No Drop to Spare” illustrate international conversations the MIT community is having about the environment and climate change.

“We Are the Forest,” produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP) at MIT Open Learning, was one of six nominees in the Education/Schools category. The documentary highlights the cultural and scientific exchange of the MIT Festival Jazz EnsembleMIT Wind Ensemble, and MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble in the Brazilian Amazon. The excursion depicted in the film was part of the ongoing work of Frederick Harris Jr., MIT director of wind and jazz ensembles and senior lecturer in music, to combine Brazilian music and environmental research.

“No Drop to Spare,” created by the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE), was nominated in the Environment/Science and Video Essayist categories. The film, produced by John Freidah, MechE senior producer and creative lead, follows a team of researchers from the K. Lisa Yang Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) Center working in Kenya, Morocco, and Jordan to deploy affordable, user-driven smart irrigation technology.

“We Are the Forest” tells the story of 80 MIT student musicians who traveled to Manaus, Brazil in March 2023. Together with Indigenous Brazilian musicians and activists, the students played music, created instruments with found objects from the rainforest, and connected their musical practice to nature and culture. The trip and the documentary culminated with the concert “Hearing Amazônia: Art and Resistance.”

“We have an amazing team who are excited to tell the stories of so many great things that happen at MIT,” says Clayton Hainsworth, director for MVP. “It’s a true pleasure when we get to partner with the Institute’s community on these video projects — from Fred [Harris], with his desire for outreach of the music curriculum, giving students new perspectives and getting beyond the lab; to students getting to experience the world and seeing how that affects their next steps as they go out and make an impact.”

The documentary was produced by Hainsworth, directed by Jean Dunoyer, staff editor at MVP, and filmed by Myles Lowery, field production videographer at MVP. Hainsworth credits Dunoyer with refining the story’s main themes: the universality of music as a common human language, and the ways that Indigenous communities can teach and inform the rest of the globe about the environment and the challenges we are all facing.

“The film highlights the reach of how MIT touches the world and, more importantly, how the world touches MIT,” says Hainsworth, adding that the work was generously supported by A. Neil Pappalardo ’64 and Jane Pappalardo. 

“No Drop to Spare” evoked a similar sentiment from Freidah. “What I liked about this story was the potential for great impact,” says Freidah, discussing the MechE film’s production process. “It was global, it was being piloted in three different places in the world, with three different end users, and had three different applications. You sort of go in with an idea in mind of what the story might be, then things bubble up. In this story, as with so many stories, what rose to the top was the students and the impact they were having on the real world and end users.” 

Freidah has worked with Amos Winter SM ’05, PhD ’11, associate professor of mechanical engineering and MIT GEAR Center principal investigator, to highlight other impact global projects in the past, including producing a video in 2016. That film, “Water is Life,” explores the development of low-cost desalination systems in India. 

While the phrase “it’s an honor to be nominated” might seem cliched, it remains often used because the sentiment almost always rings true. Although neither film triumphed at this year’s awards ceremony, Freidah says there’s much to be celebrated in the final product. 

“Seeing the effect this piece had, and how it highlighted our students, that’s the success story — but it’s always nice also to receive recognition from outside.”

The 47th Boston/New England Emmy Awards Ceremony took place on June 8 at the Marriott Boston Copley Place. A list of nominees and winners can be found on the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Boston/New England Chapter website. 

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