Interdisciplinary Inquiry

05/16/2012

New Documentary: Rural Zambian women use film to tell their story

Written by Jordan Roberts (March of the Penguins) and narrated by Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman, “Where the Water Meets the Sky” tells the inspiring story of a group of women in a remote region of Northern Zambia who achieve the unimaginable: they learn how to make a film as a way to speak out about their lives, raising an issue that no one will discuss – the plight of young women orphaned by AIDS.

There are a number of valuable insights that can be drawn from “Where the Water Meets the Sky.” At a general level, the video demonstrates the vast potential that media offers in allowing people to tell their own stories, in their own way. In this particular case, a small group of women living in Northern Zambia were able to come together, share their experiences, create and strengthen a community support network, as well as cultivate a variety of skills related to filmmaking.

In addition, the women were able to confront an array of traumatic events, including the loss of both parents at a young age, a vicious cycle of AIDS, prostitution, pregnancy, and death, and an overall lack of hope. Yet, the introduction of media in Northern Zambia became a tool for changing this dynamic. In creating a video that resonated with their life stories, women from different backgrounds gradually became a team that collectively was able to address the often-ignored topic of girls orphaned by AIDS.

However, despite the legitimate and inspiring achievements of the film project and the women that put it together, it is worth noting a set of potential problems that can be associated with this type of project. First, there is always a danger of external (foreign) interventions working in a local context with limited resources and within a limited timeframe. That is, when videos like “Where the Water Meets the Sky” are financially and materially supported by international organizations, there is always a fear that after the project is finished and the organization leaves the country, the participants in the film or project will be left vulnerable to members of the local community that disapprove of the project’s message or objective.

Although these types of concerns do not necessarily apply to the video examined here, they are important to keep in mind when weighing the positive and negative aspects of media projects in developing countries. While it is possible to celebrate “Where the Water Meets the Sky” and the accomplishments of the women who created the video, it is also necessary to critically assess the impact of such a video on the overall society from which it emerged.

Watch the video here: “Where the Water Meets the Sky” - Viewchange.org

For a large collection of videos that address similarly difficult issues and present equally challenging questions, go to the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) PeaceMedia website: http://peacemedia.usip.org/

This message by Jonathan Barsness is crossposted from the International Peace & Collaborative Development Network.

Posted at 10:07 AM

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