Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

1/15/2014

A Flipcam For Justice

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

It may be an obsolete object in the United States, but in India, Flip cams are used to right the many wrongs of a country where more than a quarter are officially poor.

India Unheard is a project of Video Volunteers, an NGO that teaches video journalism to marginalized communities. By putting Flip cams in their hands, Video Volunteers reverses the flow of information from top to bottom, to bottom-up. Rather than hear the news as interpreted by reporters, the audience hears from the affected themselves, without misconstruction.

As the Economist's Intelligent Life explains the process:

.. find someone with something important to say. Put a camera in their hand and teach them to use it. Ensure that the resulting films are screened in relevant communities, be they urban slums or rural villages, and that the audience is suitably galvanised. And be sure to document any change with a second film, the "impact video". These are some of the most compelling films made by Video Volunteers. Correspondents get hold of government officials and show them, on camera, some injustice that they have the power to undo—their discomfort growing as they become more accountable and realise that denial is no longer an option. [emphasis mine]
India Unheard has tackled issues like rebuilding efforts that haven't gotten government support, putting toilet infrastructure in a slum devoid of one in 35 years, and hooking up a village to an electrical grid. It's not just bringing those issues to light, but in many cases, even gets it solved and documented (of course) through Impact videos. The videos aren't just all calls for help. Sometimes, they also become sources of inspiration for budding changemakers.

In September 2011, Community Correspondent Rohini Pawar documented the plight of the sewage workers in her village. After two years, her constant efforts have brought the sewage workers the protective gear they had wanted for 20 years. Here is an account of how this slow process unfolded.
Part of this initiative's winning formula, I think, is the community screenings. Without it, it is just another documentary-type video banking on the initiative of the few. The portability of the video also makes it a great tool for cornering erring politicians, I think. I'd love to see some of these bottom-up approaches applied to improving government action.

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