Monday, May 2, 2011

WAVE videoblogger Vandana invited from Himachal Pradesh to speak at Lady Doak College, Tamil Nadu

At the South Asia Film Festival in Lady Doak College, Madurai

15-17 February 2011

Girls interested in producing videos raise their hands

Participants: 48 college students studying subjects ranging from zoology to economics. All the students were women. Teachers teaching gender studies, environmental studies and economics also attended the festival. 81% of them had never seen a documentary before they attended the festival.

Organisers: International Study Centre and Women’s Study Centre (WSC) at Lady Doak College and South India Term Abroad (SITA).

About the film festival: Film South Asia aims to popularise documentary films among people as a source of information and enterntainment. 15 outstanding films from the festival are selected to make up Travelling Film South Asia. This festival travels all over the subcontinent and the world. TFSA’s each edition has been to 40 venues. The festival helps in creating awareness and understanding among audiences across borders in South Asia.

Objectives of the film fest:

  • To expose students to the various social issues that exist in South Asia
  • To give them a platform to talk to filmmakers and build new perspectives
  • To motivate young women to learn about media and develop an interest in film

Day One: The inaugral session was held in the evening of the first day. I chatted with a couple of students before the session began formally. Some of them were friendly but some were also shy. Though I had been told that they all spoke English, it seemed like they were more comfortable conversing in Tamil. By talking to them, I tried to get an idea about what kind of media they are exposed to and how much technology they use. The session began with the screening of Goddesses, a Tamil documentary film by Leena Manimekhalai. Leena is an independent filmmaker, poet and actor, based in Chennai. She has directed more than 10 documentary, fiction and experimental poem films. After we finished watching the film, students and faculty had a small discussion about it.

Day Two: In the morning, three documentaries – The Promised Land, Children Of God and In Search of Riyal, were screened parallely at 3 different venues. The screenings were followed by a session on Videblogging and WAVE with the students. I began the session by asking the girls about their opinion on media and women’s reprsentation in the media. A few students pointed out that media can deliver misleading information. Most of the students were clueless about the profit-driven, elitist and gender-insensitive side of mainstream media. A small task was given to the students - analysing women’s roles in advertisements on TV. As the discussion progressed, students talked about how ads completely promote gender stereotyping. I asked them if they could escape the mainstream media? Most of them said no.

This was just the right time to introduce to the concept of alternate, people-participatory and community media. When I asked the girls about their internet usage, most of them said they use the Internet but only for looking up information, sending emails and using social networking sites. None of them blog.

The discussion moved to how young people’s perspective and opinion on issues affecting them is important, the power of Internet, freedom of expression, blogging and videoblogging.

Videoblogging was a very new concept for them. Very few of them had used YouTube. Most of them knew how to use a digital camera. They said if given a little training, they could easily use handicams.

I talked to them about how WAVE was born and what it aims to do. I showed them WAVE videos made in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, and Tamil Nadu. After watching the videos, they had a lot of questions – do Himachali hats have a market, how much does a weaver family earn, how much time does it take to shoot a video, etc. They said they had never realised that women have no land rights. They found the plastic roads video impressive and wondered if something similar could be done in their city where plastic waste is a menace. Students left the room with a question – could they make advocacy videos about issues affecting their city?

In the evening, they got an opportunity to meet Leena, who talked about what inspired her to make films and the different films she has made. There was a long discussion on Goddesses. After that, two other films directed by her were shown. I could see that students completely related to these films because they were in Tamil.

Students watch the WAVE introduction video

Day Three: Students watched films all day and came together in the evening for the closing session of the festival. This is what they had to say about the fest:

  • They learnt about real facts and gained a better understanding of social issues.
  • They felt inspired to think critically and got new ideas.
  • All of them said if given a chance they would like to learn film production and work on a project!

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