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In the summer of 1999, three weeks after leaving Princeton and three
months after NATO had begun bombing the former Yugoslavia, Hugo Berkeley and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
set off for Kosovo with $800, a pair of cameras (one digital video and one Super 8), to make a documentary
film about young survivors in Pristina. Three years later, they had A Normal Life, which follows
seven ethnic-Albanian Kosovars as they return home from refugee camps in Macedonia and endeavor
to make the most of the first real freedom they’ve ever tasted.

Among the film’s compelling subjects is Kaltrina, who established
Kosovo’s first drug-rehab program at age 18 before enrolling in film school to become a documentarian.
For several of these young people, including aspiring rock star Rrusta and newspaper journalists
Tina and Beni, the media offers the possibility of both self-expression and social change.

The filmmakers clearly have an affinity for their subjects–a
connection that’s deepened when the attacks of September 11, 2001, drive home for these two Americans
the reality of life during wartime. The duo had set out, in part, to live a shoestring adventure,
but they emerge with an appreciation that the calm of “a normal life” is nothing to take for granted.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

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