Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The videos from the Revolutionary Filmmaking Project, Guatemala

The Revolutionary Filmmaking Project, Guatemala was an intense 5 week/6 day project I created in order to teach youth about revolutionary cinema, feminism, and violence prevention with the end goal that they create their own videos based on the ideas they learned.  In addition to creating this project I created a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in order to purchase 10 Flip video cameras which the students would keep at the end of the project in order to motivate them to keep learning, creating, and provoking.

I blogged about each day of the project in Spanish on a separate blog with photos and videos on this account if you are interested in checking it out.  That blog was more for students in the project and those interested to see what we were learning, discussing and creating on a weekly basis.

Here is what we did in brief:

Day 1: Introduction to Gender, Film Theory, Violence and each other
Day 2: Feminism, Sex, the Body, Body Image, Sexuality, Sexual Health, Sexual Pleasure, Sex, Gender Identity and LGBTQ Ally Training
Day 3: Revolutionary Film Theory, Brainstorming, Group Formation, Introduction to the Cameras,  Storyboarding.
Day 4: Domestic Violence, Filming, Editing
Day 5: Oppressions, Event Planning, Filming, Photos
Day 6:  Filming, Editing and Interviews

In order to get a better idea of what the project was all about check out the following videos:

I made this video for the Kickstarter website in order to fundraise for the cameras.

This video is comprised of footage taken on Day 3 by a student named Michelle.

This video is a glimpse of what we did on Day 4.

This video is a glimpse of what we did on Day 5.

I made this video to show at the Premiere so the students could explain the Project in their own words and discuss how they were affected by it.  An extended version in Spanish can be found here.

The following video, ¿Cómo eliges vivir? (How do you Choose to Live?) was made by students from the University of San Carlos (USAC) and the Normal Central American Institute (INCA), a high school in Guatemala City.  The filmmakers names are Flaviana Morales (USAC), Maria Esther Mendoza (INCA), Nereida Vanegas Reyes (INCA), Mauro Montejo (USAC), Karla Vanessa Coronado (USAC), and Vilma Chiroy Cua (USAC) with the mentorship of Olga Lorenzana and Emmi Samayoa of USAC.  The unsubtitled version can be found here.

The students that created this video had a variety of ideas.  Mauro wanted to discuss domestic violence, Flaviana wanted to talk about child abuse, and Karla wanted to talk about homophobia.  After the students storyboarded on Day 3, they were very excited to film on Day 4 so even though it wasn't in the schedule I wanted to let them film a scene just to get an idea of what goes into making an entire short video.  After much deliberation among the group they had decided to make a video about a family which would address all the themes they wanted to address.  The problem was that they would be filming at the University and their video took place in a living room and a bedroom.  The other problem was that Mauro, the only man in the group, originally refused to be in the video so Karla dressed up as a man.  The students ended up filming their two scenes on Day 4 and scrapping them.  Then on Day 5 they changed their approach in order to account for the University setting and Mauro decided to be in the video.  After Mauro, the director, and I went over the footage that weekend we decided that the last part with the vignettes of PSA-type calls to end the violence  was great but that since the entire group was in the last part and only Mauro and Vilma were in the beginning part, that they would need to film all over again.  Additionally the footage was a little shaky.  Thus, Mauro and I found a way to keep the last part by incorporating all the characters in the end in a small scene in the beginning and connecting everyone.  In this way everyone's ideas were still represented.  Mauro also added the beginning and ending words which provided a frame for the video of provoking action, something encouraged by Revolutionary Film Theory.  

The students chose to show how one can be oppressed meanwhile oppressing or dicriminating someone else in order to hold ourselves accountable.  As Mafer said in the interview video, we are not only trying to stop society from being oppressive and violent - we are also part of society and need to change ourselves as well.

The following video, Mi Mejor Amiga es Una Mujer y Mi Enemiga También (My Best Friend is a Woman and My Enemy) is the second video made by students of the project.  It has yet to be translated into English.  This video was made by Michelle Rojas (USAC), María Fernanda Bracamonte (USAC), Carolina Chacón (INCA), and Guiby Sical (INCA).  

The four young women involved in this video also had varying ideas.  Guiby wanted to talk about gender roles, Mafer wanted to talk about sisterhood, and Michelle wanted to talk about gender role reversal in order to expose gendering.  The ideas were all fantastic and the young women said that they were incorporating everything, but when I got to take a look at the video (which was admittedly difficult as they were not as open to meeting and discussing their progress) the video was all over the place and longer than 15 minutes.  The theme of sisterhood was the only story that was complete so I cut out the other pieces that did not fit and was able to trim it down to under 9 minutes, still 4 minutes longer than the preferred time frame.  However, the video is a great way to show a problem that is rampant in Guatemala and that many men don't realize is happening.  The women said that the idea behind this video was to expose the lack of sisterhood and solidarity among women in Guatemala and that the goal was to provoke introspection and change in women to make us realize that we should see eachother as allies instead of enemies.

So there you have it.  All the videos from this project that I created based on years of experience, work, classes, and research.  I am happy with the results since for me the real results are the videos, the continued communication from the participants as they go forward in their work in feminism, video, and violence prevention, and the knowledge that they have the wisdom and resources to keep going. 

I know that if I had tried this project in my neighborhood it would have been ten times easier since I would have had a car, people would have working cell phones, internet, no fear of being outside at night and all the other conveniences that make communication and travel easier in the United States.  But I chose to do this in Guatemala and considering all the obstacles (especially the flake-out of a bilingual mentor) I am filled with pride in the students and in myself.  As I told the students the entire time, this project is only the beginning and during the project and afterward they should rely on eachother and keep up the community they built.  From what I can tell so far, its working!  For me, for them to have inconspicuous cameras that wont put them in danger was important, but not as important as leaving them with a feminist community.  That is priceless.

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