Posts tagged ‘activism’
‘Welcome and thank you for coming. Before the films get up and running I’d like to invite us all to reflect on why we’re here and why we should care. The ideas shared today bare directly from the socially bound places and inherent relations that each film maker found themselves in. From Emilia’s discovery of the wasted abundance in bins to the experiences of reclaiming stolen power reflected by Kim. Through the woodlands and music venues of Canterbury, to the daily realities of several Greece based refugees this journey will take us through the moments of lives embodied to us through the camera’s eye. In the manifestations of what each found you will find a range of reactions to the interrelated social situations by which we’re bound. Although divided by geographical locations our films share a specific space in time and today we come together to reflect on where we’ve got to, as a rapidly dying planet inhabited by divided people, inherently unequal, these films speak to the realities that many go through – some positive, others much less so. As a planet we have many issues to solve and too much lonesome focus on this can become a minefield to behold. But together we are strong. Let the recent extinction rebellion remind us of the power of collective action against that which is wrong. And perhaps together we can come a step closer to embodying the, title of this event: Resolutionaries. Now I think that all that’s left to say is a big thank you to our judges: the alumni, Yasmin Fedda and Hugh Brody. Thank you very much, and enjoy.’ ( A Poetic introduction by Matt Rose)
To watch the films and learn more about them please click on the below links.
To get a taste of all the films in order watch our trailer:
To see which films won awards scroll down.
Technologically Ill Noemie Degiorgis
Sofi MX Ghislaine Howard
RECEPTION and REACTIONS
Public Engagement Prize
Dedicated to Lynn Bicker &
Martin Ripley -Awarded by Rob
Awarded for the website Future Fashion Index
New Horizons Prize
Awarded by Dr Yasmin Fedda
New Horizons Prize- Hana Jeal for F.I.L.T.H
New Horizons Special Commendation- Ghislaine Howard for Sofi MX
Awarded by Francesca Tesler &
Alumni Prize-Kimberly Ubendran for Flowering Rapeseed
Read her special project on The Bodies Battle for Identity.
Hugh Brody Visual Anthropology Prize
Awarded by Professor Hugh Brody
Watch Professor Hugh Brody’s commentary on all the films here.
For wonderful photography in the dark we thank- Ollie (Oliver) Trapnell
May 21, 2019
Dear students, friends, alumni and supporters of visual anthropology at Kent,
In the year when Extinction Rebellion protests caught the public imagination and led to the declaration of a climate emergency of the UK Government we would like to share with you seventeen films that capture our students’ filmic positions on contemporary experience and the challenges and opportunities we face.
We have chosen to create a title, RESOLUTIONARIES, that captures our desire to fight for solutions to address those challenges. The tagline, REBEL- RECLAIM- RECREATE, encapsulates the route to solutions but also describes the themes of the seventeen short ethnographic documentaries we will screen on Wednesday 29th May in the Gulbenkian Cinema.
The day is a celebration of our students visual anthropological film-making creativity, honesty and engagement. We will have four prizes that reflect the value we put on video as research and intervention. Yasmin Fedda returns to award the New Horizons Prize, informed by her award winning documentary films and PhD research in transdisciplinary films. There will be a public engagement prize, funded by Allan Bicker in memory of Lynn Bicker and Martin Ripley, and awarded on the basis of the students interactive websites. This will be awarded by our Director of Research, Rob Fish.
We welcome back some of our prize winning alumni from last year, Francesca Tesler and Johannes Walter, who will award a prize on behalf of our alumni. We look forward to learning how they are and how they are using their visual anthropological skills now. The alumni prize is for the film that best captures their excitement of the value of film in their current jobs, study and activity.
We are always happy to welcome Professor Hugh Brody to award the Hugh Brody Visual Anthropology Prize and continue his longstanding support of our programme. This prize is awarded to the most exceptional film in visual anthropological terms. Professor Hugh Brody is an inspiring anthropologist, writer, director and filmmaker whose films are informed by a deep respect for indigenous knowledge, particularly in Canada.
Please invite friends and interested students through our facebook event.
The events starts at 11.15 on Wednesday 29th May. There will be a vegan and vegetarian lunch at 12.30. Feel free to attend all or separate sections. Each session will be followed by a Q and A of the filmmakers. After the event there will be drinks in the Gulbenkian, followed by food and drinks in the Monument from 7.15, the only vegan pub in Canterbury.
We look forward to seeing you there.
June 13, 2018
TRANSPARENCIES 2018 celebrated the creativity and initiative of our students, how they gave of themselves and collaborated to be able to realise the films they wanted. This year we awarded five prizes, each with distinct criteria. Professor Hugh Brody awarded the Hugh Brody Visual Anthropology Prize.
Professor Paul Allain awarded prizes for films that uniquely revealed presence and embodiment. Yasmin Fedda awarded the New Horizons Prize. A Public Engagement Prize in memory of Lynn Bicker and Martin Ripley was awarded by Joe Spence. Visiting Alumni, Charlotte Austwick, Hannah Evans and Alice-Amber Keegan awarded the Alumni Audience Award. You can read more about the prizes and what stood out in the films that were awarded below. The prizes give recognition to exceptional projects, but they also extend the audience and reach of the conversation the films initiate as audio visual gifts. The alumni lunch was an opportunity for current students to hear from alumni what new horizons are open to them. You can view below the video messages from Christiane Howe in Australia, Ruth Krause in Germany and Soffia Kristinsdottir in Costa Rica.
The cultural association of film with entertainment means we are very used to consuming documentaries and then moving onto the next one. While the documentary may seem to be the end result of the process of the filmmaker, for us the viewing can be the start of a journey. All the films screened today have emerged out of unique personal histories and intentions. They are the media manifestations of personal research journeys that gives us cause for conversation and reflection. The symbolic cameras (see below in brochure) was one artistic way that the students communicate this is in a material form. They speak to the issues and concerns addressed in the films while revealing or hinting at the personal intentions of the filmmakers. That is why it is really important to see the films as the start of a conversation, as an audio-visual gift to us and wider audiences, to reflect and learn more about our place in the world and our aspirations for the world we want to live in.
The Q and A after each series of films was an opportunity to start that conversation by exploring how the films spoke to each other. Another opportunity are the interactive websites in which you can learn more about the intentions of the films and how they are located within visual anthropology and social anthropology more broadly. The Public Engagement prize is explicit recognition of the interactive website and its ability to reach out to wider audiences. To view the films and learn more about the projects through the interactive websites click on the links below. We encourage you to make comments on their websites to reciprocate the audio-visual gift.
With thirty one films Transparencies 2018 was the largest screening of visual anthropology projects in the long history of visual anthropology at Kent. It necessitated two parallel screenings in the morning, in the Gulbenkian Cinema and Marlowe Lecture Theatre 2.
1. GULBENKIAN CINEMA
Our first series of films explored the challenges of migration and the current refugee crisis. For Alex Douglas Bailey her Jamaican father is the focus of her exploration. Shalini Arias Hurtado travels to Berlin to try and meet refugees in the Tempelhof refugee centre. Ellie Bush travels to the Calais jungle refugee camp to learn about the life of volunteers. Liam Rowan takes us on a powerfully visual journey, pregnant with repeating motifs, that force reflection on our engagement with migration as we join Liam on a walk to Dover.
Images from WENDEING, were used for our poster above.
These three films use artistry as their methodology or focus of exploration. Sophie Bell’s focus is her sister’s band and their inspirations. Judith explores sexuality and art practice in a creative and inspirational way. Aadam Khan richly produced soundscapes and pointed interviews encourage us to better feel and understand anxiety.
Nature is explored in three very distinct ways in these three moving films. In Forest Alone, Georgious Ntazos, makes us aware of the forest in and around campus and the politics and effects of coppicing. What do the trees think is his underlying question? Liona Jupolli narrates a mystical exploration into her experience of Jungian synchronicity. The future of the planet and climate change is explored through the motivations of Miguel Alexiades’ Anthropocene module, in Liam Hodgetts film.
2. MARLOWE SCREENING ROOM, MLT2
From the mysteries of mapping, via the creation of community in Margate and ghosts in Canterbury to the five rings of combat, these films take us on a journey of simulation in and around Canterbury.
These three films that encourage our appreciation of the inbetween. Andrew Brittain, explores the political situation in his native Ashford, Derya Iyaz, goes on a journey to Whitstable with a local busker and Alice Brucass counterposes two different ideas of masculinity.
These films demand our attention to their desire for change. Just Listen is Aisha Al-Abdallah’s creative exploration of young women of colour, their voices are powerfully critical and emotive. R. Mohammed asks for an appreciation of what it means to be non-binary. Danielle Fletcher, takes us on her journey of transformation to her new found activism.
ALUMNI LUNCH AND MESSAGES
We were very happy to welcome alumni to the lunch and to screen messages from visual anthropology alumni. Our current students wanted to know where current alumni are and how they got into their current jobs.
Ruth Krause now works at a video journalist, Tv reporter and producer for DW, the German International TV station. She mainly covers environmental topics in Latin America and Africa.
Soffia Kristinsdottir. won the Hugh Brody runner up prize in 2016 for ‘Asocial‘. She sends her message from the Pura Vida Hostel in Costa Rica.
A local gaming store is the focus of Jess Moorhouse’s loving examination of Canterbury’s haven of gaming. Thomas Hessom meets Japanese young people and journeys with them to understand their idea of home. Cafe des Amis will never be same after you go behind the scenes with Adrian Cotkova’s roving camera. Gabriele Zukauskaite’s focus is home education, we meet those who were home educated, those who home educate and those who intend to.
OUT ON A LIMB
These films go out on a limb. Johannes Walter travels to the Orkney Islands, to reconnect a Ni Vanuatu woman to her family with photos and video of her family. Surviving is powerfully truthful, ironic, cathartic and inspirational. It confronts us with our assumptions ‘We are all suffering, let’s be honest’. Madeline Spencer tries to understand her brother and mend the relationship in this moving journey to the past. We are left uplifted.
These four films subtly suggest solutions to the challenges of being active in the future. Furusato focuses on a Zen Buddhist Japanese temple in London. Emily Malkin takes us on a deeply personal journey of activism in three parts, each a different facet of our need to act for change. Ellie MacPherson uses the camera to better know her grandfather, whose ailing eyesight means he will never see the film. Milly Wernerus takes us to a snowy forest to understand the joys and possibilities of living off-grid.
Current SAC PhD student Joe Spence showed a trailer and gave an update on ‘From the Cubby with Love’ which won the Audience Prize last year in last year’s Caremotions. He then awarded the prize for public engagement in memory of Lynn Bicker and Martin Ripley, one of the subjects of ‘From the Cubby with Love’. This award was funded by Alan Bicker.
Public Engagement Prize
Jack and I, Madeleine Spencer
Madeline Spencer, in her film “Jack and I”, charts the changing relationship between her and her brother through childhood and up to the present day. This deeply intimate and personal account accentuates the fragilities of family life whilst softly voicing the importance of reunification and forgiveness in the wake of rupture. Spencer’s project is especially courageous given that it not only engages, but attempts to reconcile through film making, painful and potentially unresolved tensions between loved ones. As the credits rolled her audience appeared moved, perhaps guided to reflect on their own lives and family trajectories; emboldened even, to account for lost time and rectify ‘the gap’ (as Spencer puts it) in those relationships. In accompaniment to her film, Spencer offers a well-structured and easily navigable website, populated with a variety of audio/visual materials and engaging reflexive commentaries as to the production process. This is a film for anybody who has known separation in their family, and a hopeful reminder as to the possibility of reconciliation. (Joe Spence)
Glass Walls, Danielle Fletcher
Danielle Fletcher, in her film “Glass Walls”, sets out on a mission to an Essex Pig Save event to discover for herself, whether popular media perceptions of animal rights activists are justified. The film maker takes centre stage, declaring her biases at the outset and expressing humility to reconsider her opinions based on her observations. This reflexive approach successfully engages popular audiences, who are encouraged to remain similarly open minded to new ways of thinking. In contrast with many films on the topic of animal rights, which rely on authoritative and grotesque images to force messages across (for example see Earthlings 2005), Fletcher employs powerful subtlety and restraint. Much is left to the audience’s imagination, and it is this clever omission of ‘shock tactics’ which creates room for more productive dialogue across ideological divides. In addition to the film Fletcher offers a website where video diaries draw audiences deeper into the production process, and a directory of activist resources implore continued engagement with the subject. All considered, Fletcher serves up a masterclass in public engagement. (Joe Spence)
Paul Allain Prize
Winner The Paul Allain Prize
Go Kambak. Johannes Walter
‘This film won because of its capacity to shift time and space as film can do as well as its moving content. Its main focus was on a young mother looking at photos of her extended family, taken by Johannes, now separated by years and 1000s of miles – from Vanuatu to Orkney. Johannes, as filmmaker, was the catalyst that collided these things together. The impact on the film’s protagonist was extraordinary for how she reacted: laughing, crying, swearing, gasping, often all at the same time. The camera just watched, impassive. Her reactions revealed the pain of separation, the joy of discovery, the celebration of memories which coursed through her body and voice as she grabbed at and drunk in the photographs, presented to us witnesses by being overlayed on to the film. Although not technically perfect, it demonstrated the power of the simplicity of allowing a remarkable human story to be told through film.’ (Paul Allain).
Synchronicity, Liona Jupolli
‘Liona was brave and bold in all her choices and was so actively engaged both with and in her film. It was creative and risky, sometimes beautiful. It didn’t always work, yet was pushing at what was possible and, as a result, I immediately wanted to see it again, to understand more. Why were she and her group dancing in the streets and underpasses of Barcelona? What did her dance through Canterbury bluebells tell us about her simple one word title, her theme? Her own investment in her work somehow made us seek our own synchronicity with it. Such attempts and creativity are surely to be celebrated.‘ (Paul Allain)
New Horizons Prize
The New Horizons prize was awarded by the award-winning documentary filmmaker Yasmin Fedda, whose films have focused on themes from Edinburgh bakeries to Syrian monasteries. Her films have been BAFTA-nominated and screened at numerous international festivals including Sundance. Her undergraduate background in anthropology and master’s training in visual anthropology at Manchester was inspiring to many students.
Winner: Being There by Jess Moorhouse
Runner up: Breaking the Binary by R. Mohammed
“Breaking The Binary (‘We do not exist!’) was a conversation starter on the existence of gender non-binary people. That is, people who are neither strictly man nor strictly woman, but any combination of between, both, and not. Mostly it was a snapshot of non-binary individuals as real people (wild, right), with a splash of the fact that there does not yet exist any formal legal structures that recognise the status of being not of the binary. The fact that this film cannot be shown without worry is point towards the precarious situation non-binary and other trans people may face. There is, however, increasing material out there on the existence of non-binary people, and it is with my hope that films like these may be shown freely in the future.”
Alumni Audience Award
This award replaced our previous audience prize and acknowledges the importance of our alumni’s engagement and support of our students in making the next step in their journey as visual anthropological filmmakers and researchers.
Charlotte Austwick won the Hugh Brody Runner Up Prize for her film ‘Welcome to the Country’ that was screened in Resolations 2015. She recently worked as a film co-ordinator for the Kenya Quest Expedition, a wildlife conservation and humanitarian aid expedition. Hannah Evans screened her film ‘About Dad’ in Resolations 2015. After graduation she worked in the Campaigns Teams at Restless Development, the youth- led International Development Agency, drawing on her experience volunteering at Amnesty International UK. She left Restless to be a Team Leader with the Youth- Citizenship NGO Pravah, in India, supporting a team of young people in a community engagement programme in Rajasthan. She is now working as Programme Coordinator for Wikimedia UK- focusing on their diversity target to make Wikipedia a more diverse source of open knowledge. Alice-Amber Keegan graduated in 2015 and after teaching English in China for a year is now doing a funded PhD at Durham University on birthing centres and parenting.
Hugh Brody Visual Anthropology Prize
In November 2017 Professor Hugh Brody received an honorary doctorate at the University of Kent in recognition of decades of research and work with indigenous peoples. You can view his inspirational speech to graduands at the Graduation Ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral from 6.00.
Professor Jim Groombridge, our Head of School, introduces him at the beginning of the clip.
Unfortunately Professor Hugh Brody was not able to join us in person, but he viewed a selection of films and made comments on them. Dr Rob Fish, our Director of Research, stepped in to share Hugh’s comments and make his own comments of the day. He speaks about how the screening served as an introduction to the department and how the films speak to you in your own experiences.
Gabriele Zukauskaite. – Boats And Forests
‘The narrow boat gliding along a canal is captivating, and the interview that sets up the first part of the film is beautifully shot. I loved the image of the young mother filmed from a low angle, standing up against the sky, the sun and its beams of light behind her head. She stood there tall and strong, with strong and clear words about life and children. I also liked the way tight shots were used – the tying up of the boat, for example, to create a sense of watching closely, of being there. Then the fade out at the end of the boats section and cut to the children and then a wonderful shot of two feet at each side of the frame, and a fallen tree, the forest, holding the centre of the image. And the final line is so great: ‘Don’t have children if you can’t be nice to them. It’s not that hard.’
Adriana Cotkova – Of Sizzlers and Men
‘The restaurant, the place where “an intimate art should be shared in lightly” – that’s a great thought to set up the feel as well as a theme of this film. I was fascinated by the place itself, the work, the energy and enthusiasm. And the images worked brilliantly to take us there and hold us. The camera work is so good, as is the sound quality; and I liked the flow of the edit, the use of such strong material to make it even stronger. I thought that the mix of interview with fly-on-the-wall observation was very skilfully done. Everyone seemed so at ease with the presence of the camera. Classical documentary being done well!There are many powerful images, but I especially liked the shot through the window, with cacti in the foreground and an outside world beyond. Also the window cleaner, at that same window – wonderful! A very compelling and elegantly made film.’
Ellie Bush – We are Here
‘This is a film close to my heart – I spent some time at that warehouse in Calais a couple of years ago, and it was a treat to be taken back there. And a treat to see how this film reminded us that the refugee problem at Calais did not go away just because the authorities there brutally cleared the Jungle camp. The opening of this film is especially strong, I thought, both for its images of posters and the intensity of the sound-track. I found the shot of the two people in the front of the car, driving along and sharing thoughts about wha they are doing to be very compelling. Light problems within the warehouse were obviously quite a challenge, but the interview with the organiser there is still compelling. It was good, and important, to be in Calais, realising that the refugees are sleeping rough, having their tents wrecked or impounded by local police. Many thanks to Ellie Bush for this.‘
Emily Malkin – Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
‘What a great title for a film! And it is a great film – impressive in many ways, but especially because it takes us to a flow of protests. I was particular impressed by the NHS demo sequence, knowing how hard it can be to get voices from within a large and noise event. Each face seemed to be a reason for hope. The cut to the plastic sequence was wonderful, and the sudden appearance of a beautiful beach, and then the image of the bits and pieces of plastic that had been gathered and, as someone says, begins to look like an art work. But the powerful surprise in this film was the shift to the father-daughter relationship, the two of them sitting together, a little self-conscious – not because of the camera, I thought, but because that’s the way it often is between fathers and daughters: the image, the set up, the way the camera was placed, captured something so true and somehow magical. And crucial to understanding the genesis of this film, and of resistance itself. And then the final shot, of the lorry loaded with pigs heading into the abattoir – expressing both failure to save the pigs and a continuing resolve to resist. This is a strong and powerful film.’
Johannes Walter – Go Kambak
‘I loved this back and forth between Vanuatu and some cold northern part of the British Isles. The contrasts of climate, pace, voice. The earlier footage, giving glimpses of Vanuatu and of the people we meet, is fascinating. Even the speeded up and blurred quality – creating a paradox: the place where life moves slowly is rushing along – making a point about memory perhaps; but making me think. I found myself very much liking the film-maker as gentle source of reminders – questions, interest and then photographs. Then the astonishing sequence when Donnelyn is laughing and weeping, all at the same time, in a single complicated burst of feelings, when looking at photos of those she loves who are far far away. I also liked the way some of the stills she is looking at are set into the left side of the frame, so we see the image and her. The final images, carrying the end credits, are unforgettable: using a horizontally split screen to show the two roads, the one in Vanuatu, the other where the family now lives…. Wonderful. Then the last words: ‘I have sent the film back…’Maybe this breaks the rules on length, but it’s a pleasure to watch!’
Francesca Tesler. – Furusato
‘ I very much liked the way this began with a screen split into three, and then resolving into just the one. Then the move into a Buddhist ceremony – we don’t know where we are, or what is going on…. All this shot with elegance. The interview with the Buddhist priest is wonderful – the way he holds a sheet of paper, his notes for what he wants to tell us perhaps, but never looks at them… His quiet dignity. This interview set a tone for the film – this is about something of such deep importance to all who are part of it. And it is a celebration of culture carried by the strength of the images and the quality of the sound. (Though I was sorry that the long prayer did not get translated and subtitled.) As I began to realise that this was culture in exile, the film became more and more compelling. And the wonderful, central thought: cultural practice can be sustained, and given all kinds of new intensity because it is not taking place ‘at home’. So the commitment to what we see is coming from having left where it originated. The shots of the box and the cupboard at then seemed to be full of poignancy. The whole film fascinating and beautifully made.’
Jess Moorhouse – Being There
‘This is perhaps the most surprising of the films I saw: people playing board games….I very much liked the way the film shows us games and the way they are played with very strong and fascinating images and glimpses of all the strange complexity of utterly unfamiliar rules and counters and dice. And I liked the way we went from evening to evening, with a sense that each was special. The camera work to show all this is strong and clear. But for me the power of this film came from something else: as I watched I was suddenly very moved by what it meant for these young men and women to gather together and play games. I felt I was being taken to a powerful if underlying issue of loneliness, and the combating of loneliness. There is a quality to this film that is gentle and respectful – for me, it is these qualities that gave it its strong and surprising intensity of feeling. A fascinating piece of work.’
Milly Wernerus – Off Grid – A day in the life
‘The snow is a character in this film – I loved the way it seemed to be happening in some very remote northern world. Was I being transported to the Canadian subarctic? This made the idea of living off the grid so real and especially compelling. I very much liked the sequences that showed the working of wood. These are beautifully shot, and I thought I could watch forever this remaking of the natural world to meet everyday needs. The splitting of a log into roof shakes is wonderful. I was also very struck by the decision by the film-maker to include herself in shot as a mix of interviewer and conversationalist. And to leave her appreciative laughter on the sound track. Then the final shot, with the film-maker getting up from an interview and walking towards the camera – to switch it off, to end the film. That was a very nice touch.’
Maddie Spencer – Jack and I
‘A snowy day, a young may playing a guitar… The film begins with strong and mood setting images. Then the box of letters. I thought the way we saw and heard bits of a letter was very powerful – drawing me in, giving me a sense of great reality. I found every moment of this film compelling. And it built the story the blend of history ad memory, with great skill. The pieces are put together – Jack’s difficulties, the difficulties these present to the family; the father who is so loving and so absent; the pain of memory and the use of exploration of time to deal with pain; the resolve of the sister to get her brother back. The stills, showing old photos of the father, the family, happy times; and the surprising scenes from some old video footage. These were cut Ito the live-action footage to great effect. I had a sense of being taken right into the lost time. This film seemed to me to be utterly honest, a sharing of a story with us that was very much theirs; and the skillful way the shots and interview materials build the story meant that I was held every moment by being allowed into something so personal. Yet it also resonated – and I am sure that many many families can watch this and see some part of themselves.’
Hugh Brody Runner Up Prize : Jack and I
I choose this for its combination of strong film making skill and remarkable emotional power. It is wonderfully personal but also has large and wide resonances. I think that this is a remarkable achievement – and a tribute to everyone who is shown. The openness and honesty; and the skill with which it is shot and edited. There are many reasons for admiring this film. And one of them is that, for all the difficulties it spells out and owns up to, it delivers a message of hope. The film-maker takes us to lost time to make sure no more time is lost. Thank you for a great piece of work.
Hugh Brody Visual Anthropology Prize: Furusato, Francesca Tesler
This is a beautifully made film that takes us to a culture in exile. It is rich with images and compelling sound. It delivers something special and surprising. The central interviews are straightforward and powerful. The feeling it gives for Buddhism, and for culture in exile, seem to me to be remarkable. There is also great subtlety in the film making. The pacing of interviews, the way the light plays, the mix of shots, and even the wonderful formal garden that so well symbolises the large being retained and caught for its essence in the small. As documentary film must aim to do – so we are reminded that film itself is the Japanese garden. This is a film that gives rise to and allows space for many kinds of thought and appreciation. A great treat to watch. Thank you!
After a long and inspiring day, we all exited to the Gulbenkian bar for drinks and to continue the conversation.
@Porchlight1974 @KentSAC @CTunaker @Pelaris
Carin Tunaker is a PhD student in social anthropology at the University of Kent. Her research examines the conditions and circumstances that contribute toward LGBTQ youth homelessness in East Kent. Carin and the co-director for this project, Prem Konieczny from Porchlight, used participatory film-making as a research tool for this project. Below she explains the process and the outcomes both for the young people and for her own research.
The film was a project by and for young homeless people living in Porchlight’s young persons’ services in Canterbury and Tonbridge. It follows three young people, Josh, Shaunagh and Michael, through their journeys as homeless youth living in hostels in Kent. In making this film, they wanted to show people that being young and homeless isn’t always what you think it might be; they wanted to challenge negative stereotypes of homeless people and show what the ‘reality’ of homelessness is, for them.
There were never any grandiose intentions for this film project, it simply started out with me, as a Support and Resettlement worker in Porchlight, asking the residents in the project where I worked, to sit down and brainstorm with me about perhaps making a film on homelessness. I had little hope of engagement and excitement about the project, because engaging young people who are going through a traumatic time in their lives in something as time consuming as making a film, seemed a distant and optimistic idea. But after a few false starts, one young person, Shaunagh, who had done a course at college in film, decided she felt confident enough to take the lead and motivate others to join in too. All in all, around 15 young people from Porchlight took part in the process of making this film. There was one simple guideline: the film had to be about homelessness. The rest was up to them.
After careful consideration, the girls decided that they wanted to make a film about youth homelessness, to show people what it’s REALLY like. They often hear homeless people described as rough sleepers, dirty beggars, drug or alcohol misusers and generally a drain of society’s resources – descriptions that they felt do not fit them in any shape or form and they wanted to challenge this. So then they had to figure out HOW to make their point. Initially, they thought that just filming different activities and doing a general tour of the hostel would be enough, but it wasn’t long before they realised that they needed some hard evidence of people’s ignorance and misconceptions. Reluctantly, all agreed that they would need to go into town and ask the general public for their opinions – on film!
We borrowed equipment from the Visual Anthropology programme at the University of Kent, but at first, nobody wanted to touch the camera and nobody wanted to be ON camera, which gave a bleak outlook for the entire project. To take the pressure off, I decided to keep the camera in the hostel’s office and told the service users that they could wait until something ‘interesting’ happened and come and get it when they felt inspired and wanted to use it. Eventually they did take the camera away and returned to me with it full of footage of interviews that they had done with each other on their ideas of youth homelessness. Most was not useable because of issues with sound and/or image, but because they had now broken down the barrier of fear of the camera, the film project could now mature into something that they felt capable of taking ownership of.
Week by week, they got more and more confident with the camera and eventually we could have a session talking about HOW to use the camera, what to think about in terms of positioning of the subject, background noise and other technicalities. Keeping the camera on site for ‘interesting’ moments turned out to be a much better idea than trying to produce interesting moments on demand, so this is how we proceeded. All the service users taking part were dealing with issues of their own during this time period, such as difficult family relationship problems, depression, self-harm, problems in college, trying (and mostly failing) to find work, relationship problems and so on. These, of course, took precedence, so finding ‘good’ days to film was always a challenge.
Eventually, despite personal fears and inhibitions, a group of our young service users took to the streets of Canterbury and bravely approached strangers to ask them what they thought a homeless person looks like. The replies were shocking and showed exactly the kind of negative stereotypes that they were expecting to hear – and worse! There were comments such as homeless people are dirty, disgusting, smelly, have a lack of personal hygiene, and (a personal favourite), they always have long hair (!). While filming in Canterbury town centre, I started out as the cameraman, since nobody else dared to do it, but after a few of our interviews, confidence grew in the group and eventually everyone had a go at either asking questions or holding the camera.
Film as Method
Most of the filming was done by the young people, but my colleague Prem Konieczny (who edited the film) and I also did some. I took the camera with me to any activity I did with the service users and rigged it up for some group discussions as well, for which I asked the questions. I had my own agenda for this film project: I wanted to get the service users to engage in meaningful conversations about their ideas of what ‘home’ is to them, and what ‘homelessness’ actually means, which in turn would inform my own research into youth homelessness. A lot of the conversations ended up far less serious than intended, with more banter and jokes than thoughtful ideas; breaking through this hurdle of protective chitchat was quite challenging. One of the more successful ideas was to put the questions up on the wall behind the camera and allow the service users to speak freely about them, rather than me probing and asking questions directly to them. This somehow seemed to give them more power over the conversation and removed the teacher/student aspect that can sometimes feel more like an interrogation.
By allowing the service users to be in charge of this project, not only did they get a huge confidence boost themselves and learned a great deal in the process, but it was also a method for me to open different channels of thought and reflection from them, as opposed to normal casual conversations or interviews. As an anthropologist in the hostels, I had spent significant time trying to get them to talk about these concepts in general conversation and interviews, with mixed results. Suddenly, with them in charge of the camera and their own voice, they felt the need to put words to their thoughts in a way that was never necessary in my previous inquisitions as ethnographer and fieldworker. Rouch, in his 1973 essay ‘The Camera and Man’, couldn’t be more right when he said that “The situation is clearly this: the anthropologist has at his disposal the only tool (the participating camera) that offers him the extraordinary possibility of direct communication with the group he studies-the film he has made about them.”
I never had any intention for ‘true objectivity’ or a search for the ‘truth’ for this film, if ever such a thing existed (Pink outlines this debate well in the introduction to her book Doing Visual Ethnography). As Vertov’s concept of the ‘cine-eye’ dictates, my own intent and actions inevitably shaped this film. However, as Rouch advocated, I did engage in ‘audiovisual reciprocity’ where the participants were a part of the process, from start to finish: the service users that took part in this project had a say in what the film should show; the participants “staged” the reality that they wanted to portray publicly. In a way, it feels like fulfilling the dream of Jean Rouch, when he said that this type of ethnographic filmmaking will help us make a ‘shared anthropology’; “Which is to say, the time of the joint dream of Vertov and Flaherty, of a mechanical cine-eye-ear and of a camera that can so totally participate that it will automatically pass into the hands of those who, until now, have always been in front of the lens. At that point, anthropologists will no longer control the monopoly on observation; their culture and they themselves will be observed and recorded. And it is in that way that ethnographic film will help us to “share” anthropology.”
Once the filming was done, Prem and I started the painstaking process of sieving through hours of footage, much of it unusable, to find the hidden gems – footage of the service users interviewing each other and thinking seriously about their own situations, about homelessness, about being young and living in a hostel, about their potential futures, hopes and dreams. We constructed a rough draft of the clips and invited the service users to the Visual Anthropology lab at the university to watch the draft film and comment. They deemed the film inconclusive, and a bout of new shooting ensued. They had a clear idea of the direction they wanted the film to take, so they constructed interviews with each other targeting the information they felt was missing. This part of the project was truly inspiring, since at this point the service users had really taken charge of their own film and displayed a proud ownership of it.
The young people that joined us in the Visual Anthropology lab had mostly never visited a university and never thought they would ever do so either, and after the end of this some had grown aspirations for taking up study and possibly even continue onto university to pursue a career in filmmaking, grades permitting. Seeds of hope and possibilities were sown and self-esteem grew and blossomed in a way that you could almost see and feel. It all culminated in a cold but sunny afternoon at the UKC campus, where some final shots were done in the UKC campus’ labyrinth.
I was a mere bystander while Shaunagh walked through the labyrinth, making her way to the centre, through the maze of paths, filmed by her friends from the hostel. The shot captured the apogee of the film project, where the service users thoughts and realisations met in the middle of the maze, expressed by Chelsea who exclaimed in realisation: “Hey, the maze totally symbolises everything about this film, about us and what it is we want to say!”
Finally we added the music. Porchlight had for some time collaborated with an agency called Rhythmix, who visited our hostels to teach our young people to make their own music. Michael (a.k.a. ‘Ike Boi’), who appears in the film as one of the main characters, provided most of the music that he had created together with Rhythmix, and another service user Amy provided the songs for the start and end credits with her own wonderful talent.
It took over a year for the film to make its way from the end of filming to the finished product. In that year, our service users moved on, moved out, and quite possibly forgot temporarily about their experiences as filmmakers. Unfortunately some made themselves un-contactable as well (purposefully or un-purposefully), so they missed the opportunity to see the film in its finished form, screened at the Lupino Screening Room at UKC in November 2014. Those who came told us they felt very proud to have taken part in something like this. They spoke of their hopes for futures in the film industry – they want to send the film to the BBC and E4, and some hope to start careers in singing and/or film. In the least they want to pass the buck to other young homeless people now living in Porchlight’s hostels, for them to continue with ‘Episode Two’ of Homeless Youth!
April 10, 2011
In her film Rehearsing Reality, Nina Simoes explores the lives and faces of Brazil’s Landless Movement and their struggle for land at the point of interaction with Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, a technique that breaks with the conventions of traditional theatre by transforming passive beings into active participants of a theatrical scene. As part of the Film & Advocacy Series, Nina Simoes participated in a Q&A on the 2nd of February 2011 concerning the above issues.
March 25, 2011
A retrospective examination of Hugh Brody’s life in Film and advocacy. Presented as part of the Film and Advocacy series, hosted by Visual Anthropology at the University of Kent, 26 January 2011.
February 1, 2011
Kicking off the Film and Advocacy series for 2011 was Hugh Brody, with a retrospective look at his career and his work in filmmaking and visual anthropology. Below are some photos from the evening. At some later point, there will be a podcast to download and a film of the event, but this has yet to be edited!
Vodpod videos no longer available.
December 9, 2010
The following is an audio-recording and photos from the teach-in at the University of Kent on December 8th, 2010. The event was part of the National Day of Action against the proposed tuition fee increase and cuts to public funding of Higher Education. Speakers included John Fitzpatrick, David Ormrod, Julia Twigg, Peter Taylor-Gooby, Jan Pahl and Helen Wood.Vodpod videos no longer available.