We are seeing the emergence of new models of local filmmaking that have the potential to greatly increase the diversity, equity and inclusion of production and distribution around the world. Thanks to a rapid global increase of mobile media devices, more people than ever before now have the ability to capture and share their stories. Countries with high percentages of youth, in particular, are creating local media content through smartphones, web video platforms, and social media. The rise of memes is just one example of an emerging mode of a collective story ladders. Another is the amassing of super short videos that scaffold into substantial narratives.
In participatory, the group formerly known as “the audience” creates collective layers of hyper local stories that thread together to create a global connection.
–Kaitlin Yarnell, Chief Storytelling Officer, National Geographic Society
From Our Eyes, a film project launched by the Shan Shui Conservation Centre in Beijing, and the Centre for Indigenous Documentary and Cultural Perspective in Yunnan province in southwest China, has trained over 300 people in rural communities in western China to make films about their environment and way of life. “The countryside in western China is undergoing tremendous changes. We want rural people there to record how the changes affect their way of life. Many of the films have a strong environmental protection message,” says Lu Bin, the director of the Centre for Indigenous Documentary and Cultural Perspective in Yunnan.
Distribution models are evolving as well, with a greater focus on ensuring that local communities are able to see the films in which they participate. Our Gorongosa (2019) (See Case Study) , for example, will be screened in rural areas around Mozambique using a solar bus. This engagement fulfills a primary goal of the film: to support local communities in learning about and protect the cultural heritage of their country’s wildlife.
Filmmaker Kalyanee Mam is taking her film, A River Changes Course, to communities across Cambodia to encourage conversations about environmental issues, the effects of a globalized economy, the country’s history of oppression, and more. She plans to use a solar-cinema pop-up to screen the film in areas without other forms of electric power. “In this new model of distribution, the film is first given to the community it is about, and then shared more broadly by the community with their sensibilities for how to distribute the film.”
It is hard to know how much the COVID-19 has permanently altered the impact media landscape. The pandemic restrictions have given rise to an unprecedented virtual globalization. Film festivals, once local and on-site, are now virtual and global. No longer can festivals bring people together for intense periods of time, where the impact of media is heightened by conversations around screenings. These emerging trends may have long-range influence on media impact:
The rapid transformation to virtual globalization is an indicator of how quickly we can adapt. We can use this new norm to include more diverse voices from around the planet; to share a broader range of perspectives through curated virtual screening events; and, to build greater capacity through on-line workshops.