The Constellation is made up of many stars, communities that are taking action, addressing global challenges in our local context, using our own strengths to find solutions that are within our reach.
In The Constellation, we are sharing the solutions that we are finding.
One way to share is through storytelling, through small movies. Hence the project of Visual Journey, which was at the centre of attention on Wednesday, the 18th of October 2023, on the occasion of the yearly ABCD Unconference.
A short presentation of the Visual Journey project:
“I used to believe that, to do a good video, you needed to have a very good phone with good resolution or a good camera. But Visual Journey taught me a lot about my phone that I did not know, settings that I did not know despite the fact that I was using it to do videos and take pictures.” — Paul Birungi Semwogerere who is preparing a film with the Africa Albinism Umbrella in Uganda.
Participants of the Unconference included filmmakers of Visual Journeys, who have already produced their own movies, as well as those who are currently being trained or started filming. Other speakers were Marlou de Rouw (The Constellation) and Jessica Rossi (Visual Development), initiators of the Visual Journey project. The session was facilitated by Meble Birengo and Miel Nora.
The filmmakers are mostly community members and rightsholders from Voice grantee projects for whom The Constellation is facilitating a Linking and Learning Process inspired by SALT and CLCP. They highlighted the extent to which the process involves and develops many different skills: mastery of the technical aspects of filming, of course (phone settings, sound, lightning…), but also logistics, narration, interview techniques, listening… A challenging undertaking inspired by the pleasure of being able to share a story on a global perspective simply by using a phone, getting technical assistance from a passionate expert, and being accompanied by a facilitator to reach a community agreement on the way to tell the story.
“At first, we were very excited, but then, as the process went on, it was very slow, very detail-oriented, but it rewards us with a comprehensive storytelling of a community that has not been shared before in the open or to the public,” recounted Eloisa Mesina who is preparing a film with the Asia Young Indigenous Peoples Network (AYIPN).
The power of Visual Journey is manifold.
The prospect of making yourself known (better and wider) and inspiring other communities is a power driven to overcome the challenges.
As told by Margaret Musumbi who facilitated the making of the film Bringing Back Life:
“Dorcus Beads is one of the groups that started responding to HIV and AIDS from 1998. It was born as one way to respond to HIV/AIDS, including other issues in my community. […] Dorcus Beads being an enterprise of ladies who are making beads, very beautiful jewellery, baskets, it was also a way to tell the world: “This what we are doing,” and, you know, because the world has become a very small village, it is also a way to have people come and visit us. In fact, as I talk today, we have Norwegians who are visiting Dorcus Beads, and we are having a beautiful day together.
The change that happened in this community is very significant because it goes to people’s households. Young people who are born in those households are able to get education. They are able to get a better life even if there is a lot of unemployment in this country.”
“We can tell others about what is happening. We talk about our challenges. And maybe other communities that have passed through those challenges can tell us how they overcame the challenges,” adds Patricia Kamende of the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) in Uganda, filmmaker of From Noise to Voice to Impact:
Visual Journey strengthens relationships within the community.
Patricia explains that learning interview techniques has enabled her to go further in her conversations with members of her community and even with her mother:
“The first interview I did was with my mom as practice. Asking her questions, first of all, it was just fun. I had asked her to help me so that I could do this much better. But in the process, I found that I was really asking… They were real questions. The responses that she gave me were quite unique, things that I did not know about my mom.”
“In the community, we don’t usually have one session where we ask: “OK, tell us about your life.” They were given that opportunity during the interviews and we were more bonded with each other and everyone after it.”
Visual Journey also allows you to discover the strengths of your community.
“One of the challenges that we foresaw was translation, but I want to really appreciate the fact that the young people, Florence, Anthony, Francis, and others who were part of the filming are part of this community and so they know their local language and they could translate to English,” said Margaret.
Added to this is the power to give a voice to those who have none.
Paul told this story:
“We really want to tell our story to the world, but very few people are willing to take it in. There are very few people who actually are willing to maybe hold the camera or maybe sit with children and listen to their stories, listen to what happened, and listen to their experiences. And you feel, even if you are just sitting with this person, this person is relieved. You feel that there is a burden that is being lifted, lifted from her or him.”
“It may be the experience of that one person, but it is echoed in many others because in the end we are all looking for the same thing which is a connection in love,” adds Jessica. As a professional filmmaker, she enjoys dedicating a moment of calm and concentration for another person’s experience. She was happy to see that the filmmakers of Visual Journey experienced the same feeling.
Tunaweza, by the African Albinism Network:
Enthusiastic, the filmmakers of Visual Journey already have new projects in mind:
“Having another one I think would be very beautiful,” says Margaret, and Eloisa added: “And we know that there are hundreds more communities in The Philippines, and even outside The Philippines who need this kind of skills, this kind of initiatives and projects where they can share their stories fully. We know that the mediums that we used before [infographics, TikToks, Instagram reals, and photojournalism] cannot do what a film makes.”
And the enthusiasm is communicative:
“I am going to transform every organisation I am in to grab a cell phone camera and go for it; share the stories of strength and, I was going to say success, but it is really the journey and the meaning of the journey. Just Beautiful,” said Deborah Teplow of the Institute for Wellness Education (IWE), USA.
“Are we willing to tell the story as raw as it is?”
Responding to this provocative question by Biira Sharon, Action for Community Development (ACODEV), Uganda, Marlou de Rouw concluded:
“It was so beautiful. All the sharing and the possibilities that come from there. More sharing is needed. Individual voices, raw stories. We are sharing stories of strength, stories of change. But I think the most valuable is that they are true stories, the raw version as we want to show it, as we have lived it.”
“Thank you all behind the screen, in front of the screen, for all that you are doing in your community first of all and then in gathering those voices and bringing them above.”
Six more Voice Visual Journeys will be released in the coming months, we will inform you when the launches of those are taking place!
Would your community like to learn how to use a phone to share its story of change? Don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!