British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Spotlight on Community Filmmaking

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Professor Yudhisthir Raj Isar, University of Paris

The parallel session ‘Place and Community Filmmaking’ critically reflected on geographies of filmmaking and their contextual dynamics. The first paper by Shawn Sobers, Jonathan Dovey and Emma Agusita at University of the West of England considered the case study of South Blessed Community Channel in Bristol as an example of contextual platform between community, pedagogy but also entrepreneurialism. Anita Chang, from University of California at Santa Cruz presented a case study from her work as Asian/American Independent Filmmaker and reflected on the collaborative praxis behind her work but also on the importance of linking the past and the losses experienced with contemporary communities. Finally, Anwar Akhtar, Director of The Samosa and Jane Barnwell from the University of Westminster discussed the RSA Pakistani Calling project, reflected on the educational value of engaging students in community filmmaking but also on the role of community filmmaking in bridging across national boundaries and its use for conflict resolution, citizenship and integration.

Charles Davis from the Roger Communication Centre in Canada provided the first keynote paper on Day Two of the conference, looking at the issue of diversity in screen media in Canada.  Whilst diversity is a fundamental element of Canadian media policy, the industry is characterised by white males in position of power and self-reinforcing networks with little acknowledgment of de-facto exclusionary practices.

The subsequent panel session attempted to tackle head-on the ways in which film might be regarded as a ‘radical tool’. This session was particularly rich for the film excerpts that were screened and how these were set within the cultural and political contexts within which they emerged.  Deirdre O’Neill from InsideFilm and the University of Ulster talked about the importance of considering class as a specific community that also intersects with important debates around cultural diversity. David Montero from the University of Seville gave a fascinating insight into the “Indignados” movement and participatory filmmaking on the Internet. Orson Nava spoke from the position of a practitioner, about race, youth culture and media participation and proposed that clear industry routes needs to be developed for existing cultural forms engaged in by many young Black communities.

The penultimate break-out session considered a range of perspective on ‘Gender and sexual politics’. Nandini Sikand from Layafette College, USA critically engaged with the concept of collaboration. Highlighting the problematic reality of many community filmmaking projects in the Global South turning ‘misery into entertainment’ she reflects on how often there is a blurred line between ethnographer and ethnographic subject. Similarly Sarah Marie Wiebe from University of Victoria highlighted the value of community filmmaking in allowing people to ‘speak up and act out’ and enhances situated knowledge, in the context of a youth group in a highly polluted place. The final paper from Helen Wright representing the filmmaking collective ‘Lock Up Your Daughters Filmmaking’ reflected on the relationship between queerness and community filmmaking.

Concurrently, the ‘Engaging communities through film’ panel contrasted two modes of community film making practices and environment between the US and the UK. The presentation by Chi Do on the work of the Independent Television Services created by an Act of Congress in the United Stated in 1989 alluded to the legitimacy and stability that national legislation can bring to community film making production and dissemination. In contrast, the presentation by Karen Gabay and Heather Nicholson on an inter-generational project combining archives footage with contemporary interviews highlighted the difficulties of conducting such community film making projects in the UK.

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