The power of film

Today I watched my second ever Lacrosse game. It is like playing hockey with a stick that has a net on the end that you use to throw and catch the ball. I have always thought of it as a sport for the old school English bourgeoisie but the very reliable Wikipedia tells me that Lacrosse originated from Native Americans. Watching the game, took me back to the days of reading Malory Towers. Which makes me wonder what do kids now a days read – Harry Potter I guess, I grew up on a diet of Famous Five, Secret Seven, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew which then graduated to Sweet Valley High and then Mills and Boon (the last one I admit ashamedly).

Film maker for social change

Anyway onto my real highlight of the day which was a talk I attended called “An insight into film media in development” a seminar based discussion by Dominque Chadwick. She showed us various documentaries that she has produced mainly from developing countries and a few from the UK. All the films covered social issues like genocide in Rwanda, street children in Ethiopia, birth registration in Cambodia. She describes herself as a film maker for social change using phrases like “the power of film to document and advocate” and “films as important agents of change”. Her humility and kindness speak of a person who has travelled to distant corners of the Earth and immersing herself within the stories that she is telling.

NGO self promotion

The first clips she showed came off to me as NGO advertising, self promotion– Plan International showcasing their work on children rights, how many children have now been registered and the difference registration has made in their lives. I am not denying the importance of the work that Plan is doing, I just think such films are geared for funders and not the average uneducated Mrs. Phiri in a rural village with eight children. After watching the first set, my first thought as a science communicator in training was who is the target audience? The target audience drives everything – the message, the format, the content – so of course for funders you want to make videos showing the positive impact of the project.

Participatory film making

Her later clips are what got me thinking. She has done some amazing work in training local people to make their own films. They develop their content, direct the filming e.g. in Ghana women made a movie about Polygamy. These movies are then screened in the community and comments sought from the audience and recorded on tape then aired the next day on the local radio. This is truly powerful, for the people and by the people. The story of street children in Adugna, Ethiopia who received training in either contemporary dance or film making is nothing short of remarkable. These dancers have won international awards. In Ghana, local people for the first time knew the hardships of the street children who beg at their car windows. While the film commemorating the Rwandan genocide showed the resilience of the African spirit.

Food for thought

Its time to put my science communication movie making skills to practise:

Participatory film making for development programs in Malawi like my mother’s work on gender based violence, rural women farmers, and climate change. The women could make their own films.  I am sure some NGOs would be willing to support such a project.

For my African science hero project, a school project to get children to film what they think science is and or ask them to describe what they think science is and then show them a film of African science heroes.

3 thoughts on “The power of film

    • I like, i like a lot….i hope when all is said and done that u will have an exhibition in Malawi – I can put u in touch with the Museum of Malawi people in Blantyre. In future what about having a day in the life of different school kids around the world and how they learn science…think about it?

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