(Docu)-movie as an effective tool in development education

Documentary films are very helpful during development education workshops. Thanks to one single screening you could visually explain the young audience how their peers are living in developing countries. However, you should be aware of fact that each film (also a documentary) is an illusion of reality.

Documentary movie is a genre of art, not of journalism, even though many people think otherwise. It is not just about reproduction of happened situation, but a subjective interpretation and presentation of the author’s attitudes (by selecting the image size, editing recorded material, adding voice-over, choosing the angle and location – where to put camera, when tu push „on record“ button etc.). If movie-director wants to manipulate the audience he will easily do it. Watching the documentaries should raise more questions than answers…

Boba Baluchova during her documentary-movie shooting in Kenya (2011).

Kony 2012 as the example of viral video’s impact

Movie „Kony 2012“ told us the story of a man who had carried away around 30 thousands of children and his army killed another 30 thousands of people in northern Uganda. The video was spread on Twitter, Facebook (more than a hundred million people watched it on YouTube channel). Invisible Children NGO was hoping that the video will increase the support for Kony‘s arresting and bringing him in front of the international court.

The plan of activists was successful – the video of forgotten war in the middle of Africa has become a major event on the Internet in big countries like USA, China, Peru and Nigeria. Politicians and experienced journalists have been asked about this anti-hero Kony by general public. But people in Uganda and specialist on African issues were surprised – why this theme was hyped in cyber-space when the whole region now suffers from much more serious problems (including the spread of the HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases).

But we have to remember that this is very well recorded and edited video that encourages whole young „on-line generation“ to take an advantage of its potential – to shape political decisions and public opinion. During next decade this video will be used at schools as an illustrative example of building a common identity. „Kony 2012“ is the viral video (with tens of millions of Internet viewers) and it is unique also because of its thematic seriousness. According to the film director Jason Russell: „in future not a narrow elite will build political agenda but the masses – related to social networks“.

The use of documentary movies in teaching

The use of multi-media at schools is the same like the use of book or black-board in past. The difference is in technological progress and much wider possibilities. Development Education workshop, using the documentary-movie as an important tool, should be open for children and their own builing of critical thinking and analytical approach to media messages. This should encourage pupils and students in their sense of neverending questioning.

Pedagogical and human rights based approach to create an adequate environment for exploring global issues could not take place necessarily at the school. Youngsters will be aware of their responsibility also during film screenings, thematic movie nights. For example during Kerry One World Centre’s annual Human Rights Film Screening Day.

In December our NGO offered to the public five short movies from the short-list of 4th annual Irish Council for Civil Liberties Human Rights Film Awards. The most inspiring movies you could see in Tralee, Killarney or Waterville in December (but you can do it anytime – on-line). Short films presented to audience their main protagonists in various life situations as dissidents, human labor workers, children separated from their parents, same-gender couples or adults struggling with adoption decisions.

How to deal with what we saw

Sometimes it is good to watch a movie without reading the description of it. It is the case of “Hold on Tight” directed by Anna Rodgers. Some people will not want to see it when they read key words like “kissing in public” or “same-sex relationships”. But this documentary is presenting an internal choice of gay or lesbian couples to show up their love in public (or not) in very decent way. There is nothing obscene or vulgar and thanks to it you can better understand that homosexuals are like heterosexuals – equal – under the same sun.

“Machine man” by Roser Corella is breathe-taking presentation of manual human labor not only for these people who have never visited developing countries. Manual Bangladesh workers in very poor and unhealthy conditions show us what is the difference between life-style in global South and global North countries. In these two types of places for living the meaning of “freedom of choice” is completely different. When it comes to freedom (of choice): another movie from ICCL awards shortlist was interesting, even if not everybody understood the message (it happened also during the screening in Tralee). But if you have ever lived in non-democratic regime you would understand the point of animated film “Caged Bird” directed by Trish McAdam very clearly. Anna Byrne’s documentary “Leave to Remain” is very intimate diary of young asylum-seeker (refugee from African continent) in Dublin and his “from hand to mouth” life. This movie was very special in telling us boy’s story – we were so close to him, but we have never seen his face.

The most inspiring movie during that December’s Human rights movie night in Tralee was the feature movie with very surprising end (but I’m not going to tell you this): “Parents” directed by Liz Lobato. We could see very clearly the feelings and thoughts (also doubts) of a couple going through whole administrative nightmare of adoption process. When the movie was finishing I started to cry – and this is the proof how strong influence could have a simple short movie on our thinking about future. I hope that primary and secondary schools’ students (attending DE workshops with the use of movie as an important educational tool) will agree with me.

Author: Boba Baluchova (Grundtvig media assistant at KOWC, Tralee, Ireland)

About Media about Development

Writing hope-based stories and reporting about global challenges, international development topics, community development projects (in Slovak, Czech and English language)
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