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The University of Southampton
FilmPart of Humanities

Participatory Filmmaking in International Development Seminar

Centre for International Film Research
Phendulani's story and me
16:00 - 18:00
5 February 2019
Lecture Theatre C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Huw Jones at .

Event details

Part of the Centre for International Film Research 2018/19 seminar programme. All welcome.


The aim of this presentation is to reflect upon the findings of the recent AHRC project ‘Troubling the National Brand and Voicing Hidden Histories’. Working in Brazil, India and South Africa’ this project used participatory filmmaking to support specific marginalised communities in country to challenge the way these nations present themselves to the world via 'nation branding' and other 'soft power' initiatives. In so doing, the project sought to raise awareness nationally and internationally of these communities' precarious place in society and to support them in campaigning to effect change in their lives. 

In South Africa, we worked with the Bishop Simeon Trust and Themba Interactive to support vulnerable children and young people in townships across Gauteng, focussed in particular on the problem of xenophobia. In India we worked with Budhan Theatre/Nomad Films and with the 'Denotified Tribes Rights Action Group' (DNT RAG) to explore the historical predicament of these ex-'Criminal Tribe' communities in the cities of western India. In Brazil, we worked with Plan International to support groups of vulnerable girls in Codó, a region within Brazil with one of the lowest scores on the Universal Human Rights Index.

In each case participants had to reflect upon the role of ‘participation’ as both a tool for creativity, on the one hand, and the delivery of ‘practical’ development outcomes on the other.  Why use filmmaking as an international development tool? What are the enablers of – and barriers to – successful participatory filmmaking initiatives? What does ‘success’ mean in this context? What is the role of the filmmaker? Is s/he an artist? A community worker? A therapist? What happens after a project takes place? And what about the films? What happens to the ‘art’ when someone is labelled as a ‘participant’ in a ‘participatory filmmaking process’, rather than an individual who has decided to make a film? This session will explore some of these issues, before screening the short film The Born-Free Generation, Phendulani’s Story and Me, which is one of the films to emerge from this project.


Phendulani's story and me
Phendulani's story and me

Speaker information

Professor Paul Cooke, University of Leeds. Paul Cooke is Centenary Chair of World Cinemas at the University of Leeds. He has published widely on European Heritage Cinema and the public history debates it generates, as well as on film culture as a national ‘soft power’ asset. He is currently running the AHRC/GCRF Network+ project Changing the Story: Building Civil Society with and for Young People in Post-Conflict Settings as well as a number of participatory filmmaking projects in the UK, South Africa, India, Cambodia, Beirut and Nepal.

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