EngageMedia Video for Change Impact Case Study

Video: Surat Cinta Kepada Sang Prada (Love Letter a Soldier). Implementing Organisation: EngageMedia Project/Video detailsLove Letter to the Soldier is a 7-minute video that tells the story of Maria 'Eti' Goreti, who was still a school student in 2008 when she was courted by Samsul Bacharudin, an Indonesian soldier from Java who was stationed at her village in Bupul, near the border of West Papua and Papua New Guinea. Samsul left Bupul when Eti was five months pregnant and promised to return; but Eti never heard from him again, even after the birth of their daughter, Yani. This video was made by Wenda, a West Papuan activist who had made just one video prior to this. The ‘Love Letter’ video was one of more than forty that was made as part of the Papuan Voices project, led by EngageMedia in partnership with Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.  Papuan Voices is a video for change initiative that worked with Papuan activists for one year, starting in 2011, to support them to more effectively tell their stories to the world in order to raise awareness about the everyday realities for West Papuans who have endured decades of hostility and violence. By the time ‘Love Letter’ was shot, narrated, edited and uploaded to late in 2011, EngageMedia had integrated open source collaborative subtitling into their website. ‘Love Letter’ is currently the most subtitled video on with nine languages currently available (English, Indonesian, French, Portuguese, Tagalog, Tetum, Thai, Malay, and Russian). The film is also embedded within the Papuan Voices project website and it comes with a ‘Study Guide’ which summarizes the video and asks questions to the audience. The video has been screened all over the world, including in Indigenous communities in the US and Bolivia and at a number of film festivals. The video also won South to South Documentary Film Festival in Jakarta, which included prize-money of 7 million Rupiah (around US$720).

EngageMedia and Measuring Impact

In this post we report on an interview with Andrew Lowenthal, from EngageMedia, who are one of the network members. We ask Andrew about EngageMedia’s experience of measuring the impact of their Video for Change projects.About EngageMediaEngageMedia is a non-profit organisation, based in Australia and Indonesia, that employs twelve staff. Since 2005 EngageMedia have used video, the internet and free software technologies to create and support social and environmental change. EngageMedia are perhaps most well known for their training events for video activists, social movements and human rights organisations working across the Asia Pacific region. They are also known for Plumi, an open source software platform they have developed to support the distribution of video for change projects. This platform also supports video subtitling and EngageMedia have their own subtitling group, which focuses on mobilising human rights and social justice video content across languages, particularly in the South east Asia and Pacific regions. This group has more than 350 members and 80 active subtitlers.EngageMedia, Video for Change and Measuring ImpactAndrew Lowenthal, Executive Director and co-founder of EngageMedia, says they use the term ‘Video for Change’ because it covers a range of different kinds of work that they are engaged with including video activism, participatory video and video advocacy: “I would describe video for change as a practice whereby video provides the critical tool through which change-makers seek to augment the social impact of their work.”

Another video4change Approach? Video Mash-ups

Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman by Dara Birnbaum. One of the earliest examples of subversive political remix videos. While it falls into the high-art category, this video inspired many video artists to work with pop culture imagery (McIntosh).One of the approaches to video4change is change-focused video memes and mash-ups. This the remixing of existing video footage and clips to make new videos towards a social change or political end. Jonathan McIntosh, in his A History of Subversive Remix Video Before Youtube, says that:Filmmakers, fans, activists, artists, and media makers have been reediting television, movies, and news media for critical and political purposes since almost the very beginning of moving pictures. Over the past century, this subversive form of populist remixing has been called many things, including appropriation art, détournement, media jamming, found footage, avant-garde film, television hacking, telejusting, political remix, scratch video, vidding, outsider art, antiart, and even cultural terrorism.[1]

Video for Change Approaches (Part 2)

By Tanya Notley and Julie Fisher VIDEO: Burma VJ tells the story of independent Burmese reporters who used pocket-sized video cameras and a networked approach to expose the repressive regime controlling their country, following a people's uprising. In our last post we looked at three (historical) approaches to ‘doing’ video for change: guerilla video, participatory video and social documentary video. In this post we examine the final three approaches we have documented in our literature review. Again, we focus here on the most critical characteristics of these different approaches in order to consider how they may shape the way impact is understood and measured. Video advocacy: By the time we start to find the term ‘video advocacy’ being adopted in the 1980s camera ownership had become far more common among everyday citizens. In 1991 footage of African-American Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers for a traffic violation, was played on networked news channels around the world. This footage had been recorded by a man watching the incident from his apartment window and this is considered to be one of the first citizen eyewitness video recordings of human rights violations. The footage, and its dissemination around the world, inspired the development of the organization, WITNESS, the following year. By the end of the 1990s ‘video advocacy’ was a term they used to describe the use of video to address clearly defined aspirations for social change. Video advocacy remains a popular approach to video-making and it often has a focus on changing laws and policies (corporate and government) as well as contributing to legal justice. But as can be seen with the work of organsiations like Video Volunteers, the focus can be on legal and policy change while also equally emphasising elements considered critical to participatory video (see our last post) or community media such as empowerment processes, media diversity and media representation.

Video for Change Approaches (Part 1)

"Video: The Videofreex were a pioneering video collective who used the Sony Portapak for countercultural video projects from 1969 to 1978." After defining Video for Change (see this post) we came up with a list of different approaches to ‘doing it’ based on a review of the literature. Below is a brief overview of approaches we’ve identified found so far:Guerilla video: This approach emerged when video become more accessible in 1965 following the release of the first domestic and portable video camera.[1] Since this was the first time non-television industry actors had access to video this was a time marked by experimentation and rebellion as people tried to figure out what video might be used for. Writing about the early says of Guerrilla video in the United States, Deirdre Boyle says there was a “utopian goal of using video to challenge the information infrastructure in America” through the making of “people's television” and, initially at least, a preference for ethnographic-like and experimental recordings of counter-culture and marginalized groups.[2] The above guerrilla video highlights some of the ways small guerrilla video collectives operated in terms of production and distribution and how innovators imagined the role of video in society.  We would say that guerrilla video-making today is an approach made distinct because of its focus on independence, small budgets and creative autonomy. However, we would also say that it’s an approach no longer focused on marginalised voices and perspectives (for example, it is sometimes used to describe low-budget Zombie films!). Because of this, we’re not sure how important guerrilla video may be to understanding curret and emerging video for change practices.


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