Save our Syrians

Three years of war in Syria, and we bystanders are hardened to images of destruction and displacement – while the job of those trying to keep the issue in the spotlight just gets harder.

Save the Children got a bit creative, producing a campaign video about Syria that shows nothing of Syria. It’s had 26 million views within 10 days, and counting.

Continue reading “Save our Syrians”

“I cannot be heard”

At schoolWatching the ‘Amplify Dandora‘ video, below – they used some of my footage from the slum in Eastern Nairobi – brings back memories of a great group of people. The Amplify team are hoping to do more of the video work I started on a very small scale last November (more on that project here) – and improve education opportunities for young people in Dandora.

The link between teaching video skills to unemployed youth and improving a (primary) school is perhaps not obvious. Continue reading ““I cannot be heard””

Heartsinking headlines

Last week’s Uganda story – the President’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act – is heart-sinking stuff.

Not just for what it means for people trying to live a normal life – but also because it’s such a slap in the face of any attempt to talk of shared values.

And because it looks to be driving a wedge between the West, who are rushing to take the moral high ground, and the Ugandan political class, who have jumped on this chance to demonstrate their ability to resist imperialism while avoiding dealing with Uganda’s actual problems. And so, as Think Africa Press write, sexuality becomes part of (an inconsistent) foreign policy.

Maybe we shouldn’t give up on the shared values thing just yet, though. Continue reading “Heartsinking headlines”

A poor perspective

Seeing it from their side
Shifting the viewpoint

‘Very happy, very sad, or super determined’ –  the usual spectrum of emotions we assign to poor people, says sociologist Michael Woolcock.

His recent lecture at the Institute of Development Studies – watch it online, below – sets out to change that.

Woolcock begs for a more, well, human way of looking at what it’s like to be poor. How? Through the lens we’ve been using to look at other people’s lives since time began – storytelling, including in its more modern forms. Continue reading “A poor perspective”

Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo

ConcentrationI’d had my doubts: I have no qualifications in youth work, nor do I have years of filmmaking/photography experience. “’If you can’t – teach’… eh??” remarked some guy I met in London, the week before leaving – and I wondered if he was right. Maybe I was being totally irresponsible.

But – with a first full ‘participatory photo/video’ project behind me, with young people in Kazo, Uganda – I’m glad I stuck with my instincts. Of course, the doubts didn’t disappear (for a blow-by-blow account, see here) – but I know a few people learned something. As for me, here’s what I learned. Continue reading “Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo”

The Uganda chapter

Making ofThis month I’m in Kazo, just outside Kampala (Uganda), working with a community organisation called UYWEFA – who I found via idealist.org, a great resource for non-profit opportunities all over the world.

I’m doing film-making and photography projects with young people, schoolkids, and HIV positive women – not to mention a few other unexpected tasks like filming the local football tournament. More details, pictures and videos coming soon – in the meantime, I’m blogging from over here.

 

Like nobody’s watching

Dancers in the darkTwo-and-a-bit afternoons of shooting, many more of editing, and some frustratingly slow file transfers all the way to China ended up with this (see below): a 7-minute clip about using dance for adults with disabilities.

Challenges? Not enough time to shoot, you might say – but there’s never enough (though I would’ve loved to film the dancers at home or around the city). Attempting to interview people with learning difficulties who spoke no English? With a good interpreter – once I’d clarified she had to translate my questions, not answer them herself – it actually worked out ok. The really difficult bit, the thing I hadn’t even really thought of till I was standing there, camera in hand, was pretty basic. How do I film these people? Continue reading “Like nobody’s watching”

Pictures without pity

Which image of Africa would you rather see: skeletal, abandoned child, or healthy-looking working family?

Most people would say the latter; certainly most of those in the aid sector  – some of whom were discussing this at the recent PICS festival – now consider the starving child images not only unethical, but also unhelpful. They’re “not effective”, is the general view.

sunglasses
Provocative without the pity

But effective for what? Fundraising appeals today still deploy the same imagery, and the same language, as they did in the 1980s, when “poverty porn” made it to the mainstream with the Ethiopian famine hitting our headlines. That’s not only an indication that we’re seeing the same problems as we did three decades ago; it means we’re also stubbornly looking at them in the same way.

Continue reading “Pictures without pity”

Playing chess, and other facts

Not for kidsJust finished a first trailer for our short doc (watch it here). There are a few more stories and characters to be added to the mix. In the meantime, some things I’ve learned about boxing:

1. Interval training includes a spot of chess.  Seriously – sprints, to a quick session on the chessboard, to the skipping rope. Turns out it’s not so much about pummelling each other as careful tactics (and then pummelling). Continue reading “Playing chess, and other facts”

Kicking ass

There’s an unusual fundraising idea coming from a German NGO. Check out “Afrika Kicker”:

I love the idea, and the originality of it – not to mention how they are combining online promotion tools with (hurrah!) physical interaction and donation-gathering. I like that they’re making it less about donating and more about playing.  But of course… how effective is it really? Is it all worth it, for the limited number of 2-euro coins you can actually get from this? Or is it, more than anything else, something that just looks cool, and – as one campaigning colleague suggested, “a playground for the agency who tends to win creativity awards”? Continue reading “Kicking ass”