Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ramayana Online

Most of you know that since 2009, we've been working on building the background for our South and Southeast documentary project.  The documentary about the Ramayana and Mahabharata will look at these Sanskrit epics in their home of origin--India--and then trace them through the other cultures of South and Southeast Asia, examining how they are alive today in different countries, among different peoples, and in different religions. 
Stories Without Borders is an educational documentary project that believes through exploring the stories that we share we can better understand our common humanity across time and cultures.
 We believe this is an important project for today's world.  These Sanskrit epics are unique in that they play a central part in many cultures and religions, from their native Hinduism to Islam and Buddhism.  As many of you know, there was a bombing in southern Thailand in Hat Yai recently that killed 14 people and injured more than 300.  However, both the killers and the killed share these same stories, and the same values that are expressed within those stories. 

A little later this year, we'll be forming a non-profit corporation in the State of Kentucky to help support our work, and later on will apply for 503(c) tax exemption status (retroactive for 15 months) so that donations will be tax deductible and we can begin going after grant money to help fund shooting and production costs and the other expenses (like stock footage, music licensing, and other things you might not think of).  In addition to volunteers, we are also looking for two individuals who would serve as board members and others who would be interested in helping us fund  raise for the event.  As you also know, we are also looking for volunteers to help us film on location--it would be an incredible experience for all those who participate.  You can contact us at info at for more information anytime. 

As we are hard at work on the film, we're also working on identifying resources on these texts to make available to the world and to popularize them.  Our information site on the Ramayana and Mahabharata will be updated soon, but we wanted to ensure everyone knew about the translation of the Ramayana online from ValmikiRamayanan.Net.  It includes (transliterated) Sanskrit verses, translations, and commentary.  You can read the description from ValmikiRamayanan.Net below. 

Ramayana contains verses [sloka] arranged into numerous cantos [sarga] which are contained in 6 books as mentioned earlier. Each chapter, sarga, will be given briefly in english prose at its start and each verse will be rendered into Anglo-Sanskrit transliteration using ITRANS transliteration scheme developed by Avinash Chopde. A table mapping Romanized Sanskrit and ITRANS is also available at Avinash Chopde's web site. Each verse will be followed by the Word by Word meaning followed by its gist and explained based on theism, culture, literature as appropriate. The numbering of each verse will be in the format Book-Canto-Verse. We are also providing Verses in Devanagari and Roman fonts for easier readability. These true-type fonts have been developed by Omkarananda Ashram, Himalayas. The authors would like to express their deep gratitude and appreciation to Omkarananda Ashram for coming up with these beautiful fonts and also to Avinash Chopde for developing ITRANS scheme.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Volunteer to Help Make a Film in Southeast Asia

Updates for Stories Without Borders Documentary project:

First, we ARE getting non-profit status this spring!!!!!

It is also an exciting time for SWB. As you may have heard, we are ready to make our first major purchases for the documentary project thanks to our many supporters. These include our primary camera, the JVC ProHD which will be used as the primary camera throughout and will be the third camera being used for the project. Also, the editing software needed, Final Cut Pro X and a dedicated Mac Pro, will all be purchased before the end of October 2012.

Also, you may have also heard rumors about us looking for volunteers to help us on location in summer 2013. We will release the final volunteer schedule only in December 2012, but the rumors are true. We will be looking for 3-5 volunteers to help support filming in each location.

All volunteers will work with Jarrod Brown, our creative director who has also lived or traveled to most of these locations, and in many cases speaks the local language, in addition to local support staff. Our volunteers will have their local travel cost covered, but all other expenses, including air fare and food, will need to be covered by the volunteers. We will release a very detailed document in late November detailing dates, locations and cost estimates for interested volunteers.

Volunteers will have to work, and it will be intensive. There is only one “leisure day” scheduled in most cities, and the rest of the time you will be on location, working with the camera crew, experts and others. You will see amazing art, talk to experts in culture, arts, speak with political figures, see ancient temples and ultra-high anime labs and potentially see a common strand throughout a dozen cultures. We will cover six countries and twelve distinct cultures. However, folks are invited to join us on a specific location or in a specific country to contribute.

Do note we also plan to film in 2014 but whether volunteers will be participating will not be decided until 2013.

Of course, all contributors will have their work acknowledged in the credits and we look forward to hearing from you all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Flooding Impacts Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has been hit with the worst flooding in over fifty years.  More than 5 million acres of rice paddy has reportedly been destroyed and over 700 lives lost in the past months due to this disaster.  Even today, Thailand continues to experience the worst flooding it has seen in living memory.  The food security of the region is greatly at risk, and it will be very difficult times for the very poor, particularly subsistence farmers, who may have seen their entire livelihoods washed away by the monsoon's waters. 

Jarrod Brown has been in the area throughout the disaster, in Siem Reap, Cambodia and also in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.  Some of his video has been featured on Global Voices, and we are sharing some of it here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Southeast Asia Travel Site Supports Documentary Project

SoutheastAsiaTravelAdvice.Com, an informative Web site about the Southeast Asia region, is supporting a documentary project about the cultures of the region.
PRLog (Press Release)Jun 18, 2011Southeast Asia travel brings people face to face with a myriad of cultures, languages and religions as well as fellow travelers.  The documentary, "Stories Without Borders: The Documentary," is meant to chronicle those cultures through the prism of two stories that they all share--the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, epics of Indian origin.  

Stories Without Borders is an educational documentary project that believes through exploring the stories that people share we can better understand our common humanity across time and cultures.

"We want to show that there are stories that are loved and shared across cultures, and these stories can be unifying and humanizing across times and places," said director Andrea Frazier. "We want to be part of telling those stories ourselves through the medium of film."

Covering the origins of these epics and their contemporary roles in India, it will trace their influence first to Java, Indonesia where reenactments and retellings continue today in this mostly Muslim island. From there, it will travel to the Hindu island of Bali where these epics form a central part of religious identity and worship.

From there it heads to the Southeast Asian peninsula to Malaysia where today shadow puppet reenactments continue in the deeply conservative Muslim states of Kelantan and Terengganu. Next, it is to Thailand where it demonstrates how these stories play a role in the lives of Thai Theravada Buddhists from incorporation in architecture to traditional dancing. From there it moves on to the mysterious Kingdom of Cambodia and the communist state of Laos to see how these Hindu epics continue to form a central part of the many of the diverse cultures one encounters there.

It is the brainchild of Andrea Fraizer, a videographer, filmmaker and director who is currently with FCA-TV in the United States, and Jarrod Brown, a philosopher, scholar and educator who has spent much of the last decade living, researching, and working among these cultures.  

Such a documentary isn't cheap to make, even with the in depth technical and location knowledge of the project's leaders.  That was how was born.

"At first, it was meant to be a platform to publicize the documentary project.  However, it has really taken on a life of its own," explain Brown, who acts as its Web master, editor, and continues to be the primary contributor, drawing on his years of experience living and traveling in the area.  "For the first nine months, there was no advertising, just mentions about the project.  But now there is a few unobtrusive ads that help support the project."

Articles range from traveling in Cambodia, safety tips when traveling in Southeast Asia, destination guides and traveler's stories.  The response from readers has been mostly positive, and social media has been a force in exposing people to the site.

"It's been more successful that we expected, especially given that it is almost without a budget and has no paid advertising.  And while it won't raise the $60K needed to fund the documentary, literally every penny helps."  

For those who would like more information on the film, you can visit  

Stories Without Borders: The Documentary Teaser

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Press Release: Stories Without Borders Documentary to Explore Ramayana and Mahabharata Across Cultures

A new press release went out this week on the project.  It was picked up by various news sources across the United States and Southeast Asia.  Links to the releases will be available in the press room on the informational site.

Scholar Jarrod Brown has teamed up with videographer Andrea Frazier to film a documentary tracing Sanskrit epics across the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim cultures of South and Southeast Asia.

Honolulu, HI, March 15, 2011 ---- Jarrod Brown's fascination with the the Sanskrit epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata began in 1999 with a month long research trip to study shadow puppets in Malaysia.

“I was attracted to Malaysia because of the diversity of cultures,” explains Brown. Malaysia's population consists of Malays as well as large Chinese and Indian populations in addition to numerous aboriginal groups, also known as orang asli.

“The shadow puppet theater, or wayang kulit, had a particular attraction for me because it was the intersection of two such cultures—conservative Muslims performing a play that has its roots in Hindu sacred texts, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. It was beautiful. It was also the beginning of a lifetime engagement not only with these texts but also with the people they are important to.”

Brown returned three months later to spend nearly two years studying and working in Malaysia and traveling extensively in Southeast Asia. Later Brown traveled to Japan to conduct research on Hindu gods in Japanese culture before finally moving to India for nearly four years, building the world's largest online tutoring company and India's first international direct-to-consumer service.

“Rather than go to graduate school to study cultures and their texts, I wanted to engage with them.”

While working, however, these texts were never far from his mind. “When I arrived to work in India, I had two volumes of the Ganguli's English translation of the Mahabharata with me. After nearly five years in working in for-profit education, however, I was feeling restless.”

In 2008, Brown founded Woodford & Wheeler International Cultural Consulting, a consulting firm working to help individuals and organizations work more effectively in cross-cultural environments and used these stories extensively in developing his programs.

“When you understand the stories that a culture shares, you have an insight into it—the heroes the people share, the morality that they champion—and even though these texts are thousands of years old, they can help you understand and build rapport with your colleagues in amazing ways.”

Brown also returned to his studies, beginning his graduate studies in Sanskrit and comparative philosophy at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, the world's foremost institution for the study of Asian and comparative philosophy.

“Business was good, and then there was the economic collapse and there was no business. So, I decided to go home to Southeast Asia.”

The next four months were spent mountain climbing in Borneo, diving in the Sulawasi and South China Sea, dirt-biking to see abandoned jungle temples in Cambodia and eating the strangest foods he could find.

The result was someone found him: Andrea Frazier, a camera woman and media instructor with FCA-TV. A relative had sent her Brown's blog. After looking at it, she realized what she wanted to do.

“My first thought was, 'I'd like to follow this guy around with a camera,' and so I contacted him,” explains Frazier. “I had been thinking about a travel documentary, and this Jarrod seemed a perfect fit.”

“I was a bit reluctant at first,” admits Brown, “but in speaking to Andrea, I immediately suggested that instead of focusing on me, why not focus on how these stories are alive across the cultures of South and Southeast Asia, from Hindu India across Islamic and Buddhist Southeast Asia. Thus, the Stories Without Borders Documentary Project was born.”

“It became immediately clear, though, that it was not going to be easy,” explains Frazier. “To produce a quality digital film we were still looking at close to a $65,000 investment. Therefore, while we are working on story-boarding and research, the major task now is to raise the initial funds necessary for shooting the film.”

The team is currently in its initial fund raising effort, with a goal of $15,000 needed for purchasing the video equipment needed, to help pay for additional fund-raising efforts, and for the first three months of filming. The additional funds would be used for a second round of filming and then editing, itself projected to be a year-long project.

“We've had lots of generous individual donations already that have helped fund shooting in Cambodia and India for the initial fund-raising reel,” says Brown. “Now, we really require an upgraded camera to begin shooting and also to pay the fees to set up a non-profit so subsequent donations can be tax deductible for our supporters. If we can raise these funds in the next three months, in the end we'll save nearly $5,000.”

As the editing is in progress, the team would begin actively looking for distributors. “We'd certainly like to see this air on public television or another quality station, but we also believe it will be a great teaching resource as well. Our video clips are already being used in classrooms in Indonesia,” says Frazier. “And we've already had interest expressed by a few promoters, but it is too early in the game to make any decisions.”

For those interested in supporting the project, you can visit in order to learn more or to make a donation.


All donors who contribute $25 or more will be acknowledged in the closing credits once the documentary has been completed. We thank you in advance for your support.

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