Durante il FIFDH Impact Day, è tutta questione di porre le domande giuste
di Marta Bałaga
- I relatori della parte industry del Festival internazionale del cinema di Ginevra e del Forum sui diritti umani hanno spiegato come cambiare il mondo con il tuo film
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During the third edition of the FIFDH Impact Day, the industry part of the Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, which – according to FIFDH's head of Impact Day and Partnerships, Laura Longobardi – “aims to gather filmmakers and changemakers to use the power of storytelling to make a positive impact on the world we live in”, the message was clear. When the right story meets the right audience, it has the potential to change the world. But there are some questions that filmmakers need to ask themselves first.
Also including presentations featuring Paco de Onís and Pamela Yates, of Skylight, as well as a panel discussion about the role of philanthropy in financing film impact production, the event started with Natalie Bullock Brown, a filmmaker, professor and lead StoryShift strategist for Working Films, who outlined six core values for ethical filmmaking during her opening keynote: striving for accuracy, integrating anti-racist practices in your work, being transparent in your relationships, acknowledging your power, respecting the dignity and agency of the people of your film, and finally, treating your audience with dignity and respect.
What they loosely translate into, she said during “A Vision for Accountable Storytelling: From Beginning to End”, are the kind of ideas and questions that everyone should consider prior to filming. “Are you the right person to tell the story you want to craft? Who do you need to add to your team to tell this story accurately and without harm? Collaborate from the onset with someone who is in sync with the values of the protagonists and assume that vulnerable, marginalised communities are the experts of their own lives, not you. Honour your relationships, also with your protagonists, and avoid oversimplified character portraits.”
Praising the methods of some of her colleagues, including Adam Mazo (“He seems to embody what we are trying to encourage,” she noted), Bullock Brown also referred to her own experiences and projects, including Baartman, Beyoncé & Me, examining the historical context and social impact of Western beauty ideals on black females.
“We all have power, especially when we are behind the camera,” she said. “Typically, filmmakers who are not of colour are often thought about and used as an example when we talk about extractive storytelling. There have been examples of films that have done the opposite of what we hope to encourage, but it’s not just the filmmakers who are not of colour that need to think about these values; they are for all of us.” As long as we are open to learning, that is. “Bias is something that's ingrained, that we are often not aware of. We have to be willing to do the work and see ourselves for who we are, and then move past that.”
Nicole van Schaik, director of Development at Doc Society, added her thoughts during presentation “A Pathway to Impact Production: How Do You Create Social or Environmental Change with Your Documentary Film?” It’s a change that's possible also during the pandemic, she stated. “What we have seen is that the community has been, as ever, resourceful and adaptive. We know that documentaries are powerful change agents, and the new generation of filmmakers aspires to do more than just get their films into the marketplace. They use them to serve social justice movements, and they want to connect with audiences that matter. This is where impact production comes in.”
However, in order to make any kind of impact, apart from a great film, one needs to start by thinking what the movie can actually do. “What are the key messages that are highlighted in your film? How does your film fit into the context of the current movement? Answering these questions helps develop a strategic plan,” she said. The Impact Film Guides, available online, can also come in handy in this respect. “This way, you don't have to solve a problem that somebody else has already cracked!”
Nicole van Schaik also presented two successful examples of such an approach: Julia Dahr’s Thank You For the Rain [+leggi anche:
scheda film], about a Kenyan farmer trying to raise awareness about climate change, and Ali El Arabi’s Captains of Zaatari, now heading to Sundance. “Look at this filmmaker – he did it, and got into Sundance. It's possible. Just do it, that's it,” she said. “Do you want people to be better informed? Is it really about raising understanding or changing behaviour? Actively mobilising people not just to think, but to act differently? Who are the people who should see your film in order to create change, and how to reach them? Dream big – that's always my motto. Nothing is too small or too big, so just go crazy!”