Beyond the Fire: Teen Experiences of War / An Electric Shadows ITVS Interactive Project

BEYOND THE FIRE is an Electric Shadows Project Presented by ITVS Interactive

Website Engages Teens with Stories of Teenage War Refugees Living in the U.S.Major Rollout for Educators and Teens Coincides with Back to School Initiatives this Fall

(San Francisco, CA)—War, in all its forms, affects children the most dramatically. In the last decade alone, two million children were killed by war, four million were disabled, six million wounded, twelve million rendered homeless, and one million orphaned. Hundreds of thousands serve as child soldiers or as sex slaves. Across the globe an estimated 25 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to conflicts. Forty-five percent of refugees worldwide are believed to be children under the age of 18. Even children and young people who are not directly involved in these examples of conflict are impacted nonetheless. They confront images and reports of violence and war often times without any information to help them understand the context and how it affects youth like themselves. 

As the war on terrorism continues, it has shed light on the staggering lack of knowledge of the world by American teens. Many cannot point to Idaho, let alone Afghanistan or Iraq, on a map. Few are aware of the challenges faced by children around the world to lead normal lives, or even to survive. BEYOND THE FIRE: Teen Experiences of War, a new online documentary, engages and educates American teens through the real life stories of their peers from seven war torn countries, including Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, who have made their way to the U.S. in search of a better life. Now more than ever, teens and their teachers and parents are in need of accessible, engaging and informative sources to shed light on world issues, to help American teens become more enlightened citizens of the world. In a media environment dominated by the perspectives and voices of adults, there is a great need for teens to hear from their peers if lessons in world issues, politics and geography are to be relevant. 

BEYOND THE FIRE sparks teen dialogue on issues of war, geography, history and human rights. The BEYOND THE FIRE site is designed with teens in mind, and embarks on an exploratory journey as unique as each visitor. Visitors to the site navigate via an interactive world map, taking them to far-away countries where they will meet and hear the stories of teen war refugees, told through audio and Flash animated movies. Historical timelines educate visitors on the history of conflict in each country. One of the site's most innovative features is a virtual passport, which can be personalized by each visitor and retrieved by using a password. Each visitor is also given an online travelog to share opinions about the teen stories. The site also features talkback sections for visitors, lesson plans and discussion guides for classroom use. 

About the Creative Team 
BEYOND THE FIRE producer Sesh Kannan is an independent producer of radio, television and interactive documentaries and features. His work has been broadcast on the National Geographic Channel, National Public Radio and Voice of America. His producer credits include radio documentaries such as Defending the Future, Legacies and 24 hours on the Edge of Ground Zero. Based in Washington, DC, Sesh Kannan most recently served as managing producer for the public radio documentary series Soundprint. 

The BEYOND THE FIRE site was designed by Free Range Graphics, a Web, print and Flash design firm specializing in creating powerful graphics and messages for non-profits including educational institutions, political organizations and progressive advocacy groups. Founded in 1998 to promote the messages of organizations working for social change, Free Range Graphics includes eight top designers dedicated to these ideals. Located in Washington, DC, the firm's clients include Greenpeace, ACLU, Amnesty International, The National Gallery of Art and The National Constitution Center. New York-based youth media organization Global Kids served as an advisor throughout the project, providing teen input through focus groups. 

About Electric Shadows 
BEYOND THE FIRE is the third project funded through ITVS's Electric Shadows funding initiative. Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, this pilot initiative is designed to bring independently produced, innovative, interactive projects to the Web. Technically innovative, these content-rich projects are also in keeping with ITVS's mission to give voice to underserved communities and foster cross-cultural understanding. The first two Electric Shadows projects, FACE TO FACE and CIRCLE OF STORIES, were commissioned through a call for projects on the theme of “Cultural Storytelling.” Examples of these previously funded projects are available at BEYOND THE FIRE came to ITVS through a special Electric Shadows initiative, ELECTRIC YOUTH, seeking projects that provide diverse, innovative, socially relevant programming for teenagers, an audience traditionally hard-to-reach through broadcast venues, but increasingly active online. BEYOND THE FIRE was selected through a competitive round by a panel of experts in the fields of youth and interactive media and by a teen advisory group. 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People.

Randall Cole (415/356-8383 x254,
Wilson Ling (415/356-8383 x231,

Posted on October 13, 2004