George Ndiritu is facing the crowded room, when he talks about the lions. He tells us that this is an expression where he comes from, in Kenya: unless the lions learn how to write, the hunters will always write their stories.
It’s June, and we are well into what is later described as an ‘electric’ session on Participatory Media and Social Change, in a roomful of people spanning the globe.
These are the key participants in the session:
- George Ndiritu of the Image-in Program, Mathare Youth Sport Association Children’s Project, Kenya, discusses his experiences with the media growing up in a slum in Nairobi’s Eastlands. Known as Kibera, it is the largest slum in Africa. He says the perspectives of slum dwellers, especially youth, are rarely depicted.
- Brenda Kelly, Television Trust for the Environment (UK)
- Tom Perlmutter and Susan Nosov, National Film Board of Canada
- Sheila Patel, Media for Social Change, Shack/Slum Dwellers International, South Africa underscores the importance of transforming the self-image of people living in informal settlements.
- Namrata Bali, Self Employed Women’s Association, India, discusses Video SEWA, a cooperative society of illiterate and semi-literate women who produce documentaries in India. She elaborates on the value of filmmaking in creating a sense of self-identity and self-recognition for inhabitants of informal settlements. More here. She stresses that they have 22 years of the organization’s footage, un-archived. One of the obstacles, she says, is that the material is on many different formats. What format should it ultimately be transferred to? Where could all the video material be saved, so that it isn’t lost?
- Communicating for Change in Lagos, Nigeria
- Nettie Wild and Fiona Gold of the Street Nurse Program ‘Taking Health to the Streets’, Vancouver, discuss how their new DVD is preparing nurses to interact respectfully with drug users.
- Daniel Cross, Homeless Nation, Canada
- Peggy Holter, Al Jazeera International, because their mission is ‘to explain the world through the eyes of real people’. (The station’s launch has been delayed, in part I expect because of the problems explained here, and current plans are to launch autumn 2006.)
- Serendip Productions in Pakistan (I don’t remember them speaking, but they are listed as being there)
- SPARC in India (ditto)
- This organization wasn’t actually part of this session, but could have been. It was part of another interesting WUF session, on Indigenous Media: Manon Barbeau, Wapikoni mobile, Productions des Beaux Jours, Quebec. English information here.
Alfonso Gumucio Dagron of Communication for Social Change Consortium has written that “independent video networks have managed to survive by revealing a social reality that is seldom seen in television” .
This serves well as a reminder that it is not enough just to fund the training of community groups in media production, nor to create productions, nor even to invest in pre- (and post-) production measurement and evaluation. To be most effective, it is necessary also to create an audience, a market – be it health clinics, or ‘cinema village’ viewings with a hung sheet for a screen, or brainstorming for much wider viewership of grassroots productions. This is particularly important if the goals of these community groups is not just for empowerment, but as social movements, for societal change.
The Director-General of the NFB speaks about the production quality of the footage of these groups. He says the work is broadcast quality. He believes there to be a great marketable resource among these groups, to sell their footage collectively, to filmmakers and news outlets and the like, with the royalties going to the filmmakers.
The groups talk about their need for archiving, that they have a global resource – years of broadcast-quality footage, about and by the world’s poor communities, not archived anywhere.
Is there the strength to move forward to create a collective resource, an international archive of broadcast-quality community media which would both preserve this resource as history, and sell the footage to commercial broadcasters with the profits going back into the hands of the communities?
I wonder – what foundations might finance such an initiative, perhaps beginning with a pilot project archiving video such as SEWA’s? I feel certain a number of them would bite.
Tom Perlmutter also points out that there is a World Congress of History Producers and there is a World Congress of Science and Factual Producers. He put foward – there could be a place now for a World Congress of Community Producers. We need to create it.
In the world, there are about 1.2 billion people who live with a free press. 2.4 billion people live without a free press, and 2.4 billion people live with a semi-free press.
If it’s true that “a growing crisis is emerging, a crisis marked by a collapse (or sometimes still birth) of public interest media”, then participatory video is more important than ever, funding for it is critical, and measurement and evaluation – to prove that it works – needs to kick into high gear.
Parts of the listed WUF session panel bio’s are from this WUF Bulletin, produced by IISD