Alma's story


The project is about an uncontrolled violence among teenagers and young people on streets of Guatemala. And the main idea was to attract attention to the critical social situation among young generation who had to join criminal bands in order to survive. Over 200.000 young people in Guatemala belong to a gang today. Fights among gangs over territory control happen on regular basis. 18 murders per day is a terrible statistic characterizing Guatemala today as one of the most violent and unsafe counties in the world.

The project's core is a young women Alma who at the age of fifteen became a member of one of the most brutal gangs in Guatemala. Alma participated in all violent affairs of the gang even when she didn't want. She explained that as soon you in band, you are not belong to yourself, you belong to a gang.

"Alma, a tale of violence" is non-fiction project based on a tragic story of a real woman. Alma spent five years within the criminal bang, participated in murders and brutality, was arrested and jailed to prison but was able to leave the gang. Now she confesses on what she did in the gang and was she had to go through.

The project has a serious social purpose of informing the world about crucial criminal situation in Guatemala and problems which teenagers and young people have to face and go through, sometimes by giving their lives. Living in good conditions most people can hardly image such a situation in a size of a country. Such people as Alma had to speak up.

The story is about a young woman Alma, a former member of the gang.

Alma was raised in poor conditions as most of the kids in Guatemala. Her family had serious problems and finally split. Alma remembered how she saw her drunken father beat her mother and promised to herself never to be weak and never allow somebody to beat her. The violence in family crucially effected young girl.

Later Alma had to drop the school, as there was no opportunity to pay for education. Eventually Alma was spending all her time on the streets what led to her joining the gang.

Time frame of the story is almost a decade, five years of which Alma spent within a gang. Two more years Alma spent outside the gang in the United States but decided to come back and rejoin the gang. And this is the most challenging event in the narrative for understanding. Alma realized that her criminal life in Guatemala with the gang was a nightmare but instead of living safely with the sister in the USA, Alma decided to come back as she considered the gang was her family. Even when she got known that most of her friends in the gang were arrested or killed, she still wanted to rejoin.

It is a very important moment of the story because it shows what young people feel about the gang. Giving good conditions and new abilities may not help in solving criminal situation and in struggle against gangs. It is important to reframe young generation attitude to gangs. They should not be considered as family or friends, they are powerful groups of violent uncontrolled people.

And the fact that Alma was shot by members of her gang when she finally decided to leave, confirms the idea. This fact is the second major event of the story. As it is said in the synopsis to the project, Alma was sentenced to death by her "homies" but was able to survive. However after the shot Alma is not able to walk. That what her so called family did to her. This event helps to realize the level of violence that exists in Guatemala.

The final important event of the story is that Alma now lives with her boyfriend, has a good work and got back to studies to have a degree. This project is done not only for the rest of the world but also for the young generation of Guatemala. The story is grievous but it had at a certain point a good end. It was important to show that everybody can have a second chance and can live a normal, stable and safe life.

The narrative was expanded effectively. First of all the website with 4 informational modules on Guatemala's history and geography, on gangs and their codes and rituals, on violence and on possible actions to reduce the criminal level of the country.

Secondly, forums where everyone is welcomed to discuss the problem, share opinion. Such expansion gives the audience the feeling of participation and involvement in the process.

Thirdly, the books with a lot of photos that speak up louder than any words.

The only thing that needs to be added is news on the current situation in Guatemala. The problem is not solved yet and audience should be improved whether the situation improved or got worst, what actions are taken by the government and by the police.

The central world where the story occurs is real, non-fiction and it is Guatemala. The country is shown geographically in one of the four informational modules with numerous statistical data on population, education level, GDP, growth rate etc. The image of Guatemala is also given through photos showing two sides of the country – rich culture and history on one hand and poor current living on the other hand.

The rich history is a certain delight of the storyworld but at the same moment the challenge. The reality is that the descendants of Maya civilization today have to live in bad conditions, stay unemployed, uneducated and even struggle for their life. At the same time young generation is raised in criminality and violence.

Hard to say whether the storyworld is big enough to support the expansions. When something happens on the other part of the world, it is difficult to consider that it is real because it is somewhere so far away. But by presenting the documentary on international festivals, the authors widened the storyworld.

At the same time the problem of violence and unsecured life among young generation is huge and unfortunately maybe similar to other countries and this explains quiet an effective expansion of the story.


"Alma" project has one primary character – the woman, who for 5 years has been a member of one of Guatemala's most brutal gangs. The storyworld fully represented through Alma`s biography. She describes all the occasions and conditions of life in Guatemala.

As secondary characters we can mark different people of Guatemala such as soldiers, members of gangs, victims and etc. Their stories represented as quotes in extension which authors called "Information modules". The format of these modules is based on the spin-off conception, categories of Guatemala`s society with new one slide become as main character. Citizens tell their own stories from the first person position.

Also Alma mentions many times her "homies" – friends in the gang. Audience can imagine these people, because of the opportunity to switch the view and to look at some photos. They could be secondary.

The audience of the project could not be marked as character, because they can not to really influence on the situation, scenario and other parts of storyworld, except Guatemalan government. In the documentary officials represented as unprofessional and corrupted group, but this project aim is to change it. If government do something to decrease the crime in the city, maybe in next extension they will became as main characters of the story.

"Alma" web documentary was created as an independent project in the format of interactive video with possibility to get extra visual and audio information. Approximately at the same moment on TV was showed the documentary movie about Alma, but of course without interactive option. The aim of movie was to inform audience about the project. Now it is available on any device except TV.

Firstly "Alma" was extended by 4 informative modules, which were added on website. Next step was to add possibilities to audience to communicate – share and left the comments (forum). The last step was release of two books about the story and creation of iPhone and iPad application which include all the information from website. Social media maybe were present at this project, but pages do not exist anymore.

The extensions which really enrich the story are: informative modules which contains a lot of information about problems in Guantemala`s society; forum – a possibility for the audience to publish their opinions and share the information about "Alma" with their friends; books contains photos and narrative Alma`s stories and another Guantemala`s citizens.

The media platforms which almost duplicate the story: website and application. TV movie was an adaptation of original web documentary. All the extensions maintain the storyworld, answer the questions and create a new ones. For example, how the government can comment this that is happening? What think an international organizations like UN and etc. about this huge problem?

Genre of Alma Story is web-documentary interactive movie, and it is based on the website platform. If we are talking about TV movie genre is documentary movie, audience can watch it by TV, on computer, on tablets or on smart phone screen.

4 "Information modules" about history and geography of Guatemala; "Maras" about the gang; part called "Violence" about how Guatemala became one of the most violent countries in the world; "Prevention" the part about how people can free itself from the stranglehold of violence. All these 4 parts also belong to documentary genre. The media platforms: website, application (only for iPhone and iPad).

Still we have two books which by photos and narrative stories illustrates Alma`s life and lives of the different Guatemala gangs members, written by authors of the project. The genres of the books are biography and documentary. The content of the books is only available in printed format.

Totally audience has two ways how to reach the content with portable device - download the application (only for iPhone and iPad) or simply go the website. According Robert`s Pratten emphasizes that Transmedia storytelling "allows content that is right-sized, right-timed and right-placed to form a larger, more profitable, cohesive and rewarding experience". We can say about used platforms the following thesis: all the "Alma" platforms of rely on audience demand.

TV-movie gives an experience of watching the story. It was shown on Arte (TV channel) in June 2013. The target was to popularize the project and to reach the older age auditory which do not use internet. People who get interested in the topic could go to the website, download the app or to buy the book.

Web-documentary reveals some extra photos, real sounds of the Guatemala streets, different views on the occasion. Possibility to switch the views gives to auditory feeling of presence, which is totally different from TV or another device screen watching.

An application does not extend the content, but duplicate it. Including the possibilities to share information about the project via social media or leave the comments.

Audience and market
The target audience of the project are some parts of people.

The first one includes those, who are involved in the same groups like Alma, and on whom this story can have positive influence.

The second – people, who became victims of such groups. Also this project aimed at social organizations, what combat violence. It is the third group.

The project attracts real-time viewers, who are interested in each detail of story. Because of detailed survey and life story from the person who has her own negative experience and who telling from the heart, the project is attractive for audience. Alma is telling her story and we can see how difficult it is for her, she is crying in some moments and it helps us to understand better the whole horror of her past activities. I am sure that this project is successful, because this story can not leave anyone indifferent.

The users are informed by Alma's story not only by video, but also presentations and books. It makes project more effective, because everyone can change that way of perception what is the closest for him/her.

The user gets information from the first person. The story build like a dialogue with the audience. VUP play role interlocutor. The project keeps the VUP engaged because of some factors. The first one – the life story from the first person. The second, the theme what Alma speak about is popular nowadays. Everybody of us or listen about such situations, or know examples of it from their friends, or what involved in it, or were victims of violence. And the third one is detailed survey of Alma and stories of her life.

I do not think that this project works as cultural attractor, because it has not aim to gather people for one activity. The aim is to speak about the problem for people who has different attitude to it. There are no rules what to do in everyday life for solving this problem. Only information, but with a large influence.

One of the part in project is something like chat what offer every user the possibility of immersion in the story, un this problem. And their part helps others VUP to get more useful information or new ideas of how to fight with violence.

Also such way engages more people who can find the company for themselves and realize their idea together.

This project is pro-active, it is working now by presentations, video in Internet, books, and also by chat, which connected people and give them opportunity to discuss this problem with each other. It is closer to complex transmedia experience. Every part of this project complements each other. To identify consequences of the project is not easy. There are some reasons. At first, it is, as we told, for different groups of people and so it is hard to trace how every of them use this projects for solving their problem.

Also there are no rules what to do for better life without violence. And because of it we can not tell who did something and who did not. But we can be sure that people who know this project will think deeper about their life and, may be, this project helps them to make right decision. There are not the beginning and the end in the project. It is like different ways of telling about one problem. It has not plan what to do, but it has questions what every user will ask to themselves. The result can be the changes inside people and it will have influence at their acts in life. The structure of project is combination of different platform what help to speak about Alma in different ways. So, there was used video, something like chat for users, books, presentations. Every of these parts has not such effect if was used alone. The structure of project combine different ways and it helps to see the problem from different points of view.
There are used such kinds of visuals as video, media playground for connecting users between themselves and also books. Overall look realistic. Audio work is important in project, because of it's header role in video, where Alma is speaking very often without additionally survey except she. The project has specific style what expressed in Alma's portrait, dark contrast colors. Alma is speaking without incidental music. It helps to listen her attentively, noticing every word. The camera is staying in such way that user can clearly watch Alma's face, the changes of it while she is speaking.

But not audio has the strongest influence. The nature of this project is such that user better understand it by sight. It is worth to see how it was. And in Alma's story we can not only listening, but also see, not only Alma, but her past. It is very important, because by eyes we can deeper understand what the problem is.
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