I started curating videos about International Development in 2013. There was no particular criteria, I wanted to showcase a few videos that inspired some emotion within me. Some of the videos were thought provoking, others were inspirational, innovative, educational or brought a tear to me eye. Since then I have been on SAIH’s Rusty and Golden Radiator Panel which aims to critique the use of video in humanitarian communications. Below are a few videos I’ve found interesting this year.
Here are links to videos that caught my eye in 2014 and 2015.
UNICEF – #SyriaCrisis: 5 Years in 60 seconds
Adopt a Dane Foundation – Africa is rescuing old people from Denmark
Project Literacy – The Alphabet of Illiteracy
Charity:Water – Fight Dirty With Us
Plan International UK – What do girls really learn at school? Learn without fear
Islamic Relief – Countries in Conflict
UNICEF – A storybook wedding – except for one thing
So, I did have insider information that a sequel was on it’s way, but I knew little more than that. Here it is, the follow up to Save’s The Most Shocking Day. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I heard there was going to be a “sequel” and didn’t know what to expect. The new video is indeed quite shocking, sobering, depressing. It made me incredibly sad watching it – all the time thinking of my own two children who are a similar age to the child portrayed in the video.
A couple of questions spring to mind: Will it get as many views as the first video and Will it encourage people to donate? I’ll let you decide….
Whilst travelling to Madagascar to observe WaterAid’s Voices from the Field (VftF) project, I was reading an excellent book about photojournalism.
One of the chapters focuses on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and how many organisations have commissioned photojournalists in recent years, with reference to well-known campaigns.
The chapter critiques issues such as informed consent, representation, branding guidelines, negative vs positive imagery, authenticity, compassion fatigue and editing. It was ideal fodder for thinking about the week ahead.
Why do I feel uncomfortable about some of the debates? I think the main reason is because the majority of the photographers referenced in this particular chapter are of Western descent – but there are some highly talented photographers in the global south documenting the work of humanitarian organisations. Why are so few of them featured?
Maybe this is one of the reasons I was so intrigued by the VftF project when I first heard about it. I instantly wanted to learn more, hence my trip to Madagascar to spend three days in the field with Ernest Randriarimalala, WaterAid’s VftF officer there.
Making a film about Madagascar
During my time observing Ernest he was filming a video about Madagascar from his perspective with the help of the production company. After a few general shots of the capital, Tana, we set off towards Antsirabe, Madagascar’s second largest city.
On the way we made a few stops to take some background shots and the first thing I noticed about Ernest was his natural communication skills. Whenever we asked to film, no one challenged us. Ernest explained that he was making a film about his country and not one single person objected.
Having worked myself in marketing and communications for over 20 years, I often encounter people who do not want to be filmed.
Perhaps the Malagasy people are just too polite to say no, maybe they like being photographed more than some other cultures, or most probably they are charmed by Ernest and his enchanting smile.
Building long-term relationships
In my opinion communication skills are absolutely fundamental for the VftF role. Ernest speaks Malagasy, French and English fluently which means he can genuinely inform people of his work.
He is also able to relate to the communities he visits, as he grew up in a village with no water or sanitation and was often sick as a result.
I visited both pre- and post- intervention sites during my trip and I was heart-warmingly touched by the difference between the two.
The VftF project is about building long-term relationships with communities, documenting progress and creating stories to inform donors that their fundraising efforts are making a big difference to people’s lives.
Helping people thousands of miles away
For three weeks in June, Ernest visited the UK for training and advocacy work.
During this time he spent five days in Northumbria visiting a number of WaterAid supporters, which included speaking at a fundraising ball organised by Northumbrian Water.
To me, the VftF programme has so many obvious benefits, such as language, relationship building, informed consent and effective use of funds, but what I hadn’t thought about was the two-way communication and advocacy work that Ernest carries out each year.
At the ball he showed images of the toilets and access to clean water that have been installed, and more importantly the people who benefit, as a result of their fundraising efforts.
When he returns to the field, he is also able to tell beneficiaries about meeting the many people who have organised balls, raffles, cake sales, sponsored runs, all to help communities they are unlikely to ever visit nearly 10,000 km away.
As Ernest said, “It was great meeting these people in a city in the north of England, who are doing all these fundraising activities to help people thousands of miles away. It is so amazing that they organise so many events to help the Malagasy people.”
A watchdog for WaterAid
The other thing I’d never really considered was the accountability side of this role. Ernest is truly passionate about his work and in many ways acts as a watchdog for WaterAid and its supporters as he documents the installation of new facilities.
As he puts it: “I really enjoy my job. I get to meet all these people whose lives have changed as a result of our work. I’m really glad that I get to see both the fundraising side in the UK as well as the end result.
“If I ever thought that money was not being spent well, then I’d quit my job. Simple as that. I’m lucky that I don’t feel that way at all. I absolutely love it.”
UNICEF has partnered with trap and bass DJ/producer, RL Grime to produce a harrowing video about child marriage in Chad. The music style video, called #ENDChildMarriageNow, features RL Grime’s song “Always” from his first full-length album Void.
The film starts with a girl dying from child birth and is then shot in reverse until later in the video where it starts to play forward but with a different scenario where the girl gets an education her life changes positively. I actually found the sequence of the story quite difficult to decipher on first viewing. Maybe this is a deliberate strategy? I certainly wanted to watch it again to fully understand the narrative . I have not seen an NGO attempt a music video style like this before, especially using a popular dance artist.
Melanie Sharpe from UNICEF commented “This collaboration is part of a two year long UNICEF series that uses music to tell the stories of important issues affecting children around the world – issues like child marriage, HIV/AIDS and ending violence against children. As a very influential figure in electronic music today UNICEF approached RL Grime to collaborate on this video and amplify the message that child marriage must end.”
UNICEF has also collaborated on music videos with BANKS, Moderat, Four Tet, Hauschka, Nils Frahm, IAMNOBODI, and ODESZA. By teaming up with RL Grime and these other artists UNICEF’s aim was to raise awareness and provoke conversations about children’s rights issues among young, socially engaged online audiences around the world. These videos have resulted in almost a quarter of a million views via the UNICEF YouTube channel.
Ms Sharpe commented “The RL Grime video was created to show the painful realities behind child marriage – violence, abuse, social isolation and limited education – but also to create a sense of hope that child marriage is not inevitable, ending the harmful practise can be done.
The video was filmed in Moundou, southern Chad, which is located about 400 kilometres south of the capital city, N´Djamena. The people in the video are actors from the Altonodji theater club in Moundou. Chad was chosen to highlight this issue because it has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world. Chad ranks third in child marriage rates, with 68% of girls married as children – and, unlike many other countries, the practice is prevalent in both wealthy and less wealthy households.”
In addition to the video being used to raise awareness, it was also used to support the African Union’s #ENDChildMarriageNOW campaign. The First Lady of Chad herself presented the video to African heads of state and their spouses at a side event on child marriage during the 24th Summit of the African Union on 30th January in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
I really like the video, and it’s quite unique for an NGO. I’ve seen music spoofs, lipdubs and the use of powerful soundtracks used by NGOs, but NOT a music video style film. I’d love to know why did the filmmaker chose to tell the story in reverse. It reminds me of Sliding Doors, but also of the horrific but acclaimed film Irreversible which is totally shot in reverse and features a brutal rape scene which is unbearable to watch.
In my next blog I will interview Nicholas Ledner, Digital Knowledge Coordinator from UNICEF’s headquarters in New York to discuss some the creative process in this beautiful but disturbing series of videos.
Oxfam have recently released a video highlighting the ever growing inequality in the world. The video tells the story of inequality through an online conversation between two friends using Facebook Messenger, status updates and and Skype video chat. The conversation starts off talking about one of their Dad’s being like a grumpy cat, and then there is a news announcement that according to Oxfam “the combined wealth of the world’s 85 richest people is equal to the 3.5 billion poorest.” One of the friends jokes about the Dad being one of the 85 richest. It then turns quite upbeat with one of the friends receiving a scholarship to attend a top school. The music turns sad and one of the girls explains that their father is having to move his factory abroad due to tax reasons. Things go from worse to worse and the father is killed in a mining accident.
The video then jumps to a quick succession of authentic news items from Al Jazeera, France 24, PTV Philippines etc announcing that inequality has reached an all time high and the richest 1% in the world will own more than the rest of 99% of the population by 2016.
To date the video has been watched by just over 6,000 people and has 31 likes. It’s different from most of the other charity videos I’ve watched in recent years, but I’m not sure how effective it is. A ‘like’ for every 200 views is fairly impressive, but obviously people aren’t sharing it that much in their networks or it would have had more views. I wonder why they chose to use this social media / news reporting mash-up style. Maybe they are educating a future group of latent activists? Or perhaps they just want more teenagers to sign their petition to take action against inequality?