Video: Burbank filmmaker's sister-city documentary wins an Emmy

About 10 years ago, Peter Musurlian hopped on a plane — alone — to Botswana with just a camera and one contact in the South African country.

The 15-year city employee was headed to Gabarone, the country’s capital, which also happens to be one of Burbank’s four sister cities. Curious about Gabarone and how it became Burbank’s sister city, Musurlian set out to produce a self-funded documentary.

Musurlian spent eight days in Gabarone, where he collected roughly 18 hours of footage. Last Saturday, Musurlian won a Los Angeles area Emmy Award for the 30-minute documentary, which he produced 10 years later.

The Emmy was Musurlian’s first after being nominated seven times throughout his career.

Captured in the film are scenes from a village wedding 85 miles outside of the city, a local Christmas celebration, news of a possible labor strike and what the country is doing to combat HIV/AIDS.

“It makes you feel good that people are watching [who] have no connection to your job or the sister city (program),” Musurlian said in an interview this week.

City officials were pleased with the recognition.

“Peter does outstanding work,” said city spokesman Drew Sugars. “He has a track record of putting together very strong stories — this is another feather in his cap.”

Gabarone was established as one of Burbank’s sister cities when Bill Rudell was mayor. In the documentary, Rudell explained the push by Sister Cities International to include African cities in the program.

Having spent time in Gabarone, Rudell was instrumental in creating the sister city partnership in 1975. Rudell died in 2008.

What struck current Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy about the documentary was how much Burbank and Gabarone had in common.

“It was very cool that he was showing the chief executive officer and heads of departments discussing a possible labor strike,” Gabel-Luddy said with a laugh. “It brings it all home.”

Since the documentary was produced, Burbank’s relationship with Gabarone has expanded.

This summer, eight people traveled to the city to volunteer on its malaria-elimination campaign, and an exchange program to bring Gabarone students to Burbank is in the works, Gabel-Luddy said.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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