1883 Magazine
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Orlando Von Einsiedel was not hard to spot as he walked towards me up the South London high street. Beneath the untamed mane of wayward hair there were bright blue eyes infused with mischief and curiosity and even more striking was the smile, which was unleashed with the pre-emptive recognition: broad and warm, stretching from ear to ear. The slight tan and the beard that roamed about his face gave him the precise look of what he ultimately was: an explorer. Through the medium of documentary he explores the places and the people neglected by mainstream media.

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Orlando does not work alone but within the collective of Grain Media, a company that he founded with comrade Jon Drever in 2006. Together they have churned out a multitude of work, varying from film to music videos. However what Orlando is best known for is his documentary short: ‘Skateistan: To Live and Skate in Kabul’, a multi award winning film which won funding through the Diesel New Voices project. The film took its namesake from the charity, Skateistan, which focuses on the personal development of Afghan children, attempting to mould them into confident and intelligent adults who are capable of inheriting the problems of their country.

In the film we see the charity teach the children to skate as well as educate them, more conventionally, in the classroom. However the fluidity of the film did not reflect its process: Orlando faced the reservations of a charity whose children had been previously traumatised by certain members of the press through their insensitive questioning. Orlando however won them over, undoubtedly with that smile and his endearing manner of conversation. He went on to prove their decision right, creating a piece of work that was revealing and sensitive, evocative and bold.

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Orlando’s knack for choosing the perfect subjects for his films is evident throughout his catalogue of documentary shorts. His selection process starts with spending a few days on location; immersing himself in the culture of that particular country and talking to everybody he meets through the translation of a local ‘fixer’. He looks for subjects who radiate a certain kind of ‘energy’. He uses one of the subjects in ‘Skateistan’ as a perfect example: in the film she stands against the imposing backdrop of the war torn city; strong and defiant as she talks of how people question her ‘right’ to skate but to her their opinions are ‘meaningless’. The cinematography of this moment, as well as the film in its entirety, is nothing short of beautiful and the aesthetics make its striking, hopeful tone even more poignant.

Hope seems to be an important factor for Orlando in the film making process; he directs the camera lens towards the inspirational, and in projects devoid of hope he undergoes a metamorphoses: transforming from film-maker to detective. His detective alter ego investigates bleak situations; where exploitation and illegality reside. In the dark corners of the world where hope will not manifest itself, Orlando and his team aim for hope’s alternative: justice. This becomes evident as I talk to Orlando regarding more recent projects and he reveals that he has just returned from filming in Sierra Leone.

He passionately explains to me the issue they have there with illegal fishing: due to there being no coastguards policing the shores of Sierra Leone, the seas are swamped with trawlers stealing fish. Orlando’s team did more than document this problem but they documented their personal fight against it as well as their presentation of their findings to the country’s government. This is what’s so rewarding about watching a Grain Media Production: that objectivity is shamelessly discarded to produce documentary shorts infused with both passion and conscience.

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The detective element of his work in Sierra Leone was no new feat for Orlando but followed a template of previous work. In the Niger- Delta, he explored the subject of human trafficking in yet another documentary short, ’The Nigerian Connection’. Not only did Orlando face risks, inherent with all conflict zones, but also as he entered the criminal underworld, focused solely on the task of exposing those who traffic women from West Africa to Europe, it became clear that his own safety was far down on the list of priorities. Although his unfaltering, single-minded dedication to the medium of documentary demands nothing but respect, I couldn’t help but make the connection between his daring expeditions and dangerous locations with his previous career.

Orlando Von Einsiedel was a household name in the world of extreme sports before he even though about gracing the world within his talent in film. As an ex pro snowboarder it seemed logical that his fearless research techniques were merely evolutions of a dependency for adrenalin developed whilst on the slopes. This was a suggestion he seemed horrified by, burying his face in his hands and proclaiming through laughter that he’d never thought about it and eventually denying that the connection had any no relevance.

To make up your own mind check out the Grain Media website: http://www.grainmedia.co.uk/ and keep your eyes peeled for Orlando’s next project, true to form, a hopeful sports story from Africa. 

Words By Morgan Meaker

Photography By Gabriel Green

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