This is a "news story" reflecting on the rise of "Godless" religious traditions amongst students at Stanford University. Written in 2008.
The statistic is well known – when kids leave grade school they’ve seen 8,000 murders on TV (AAP, 2007); and perhaps less well known-- advertisers spent $450 billion on advertising last year, often targeting youth (Economist, 2007). Turning the lens – literally giving kids cameras to make their own media-- holds much potential to counter such negative trends, both for participants and viewers, but can also raise many ethical issues. This paper will analyze the most effective and ethical approaches to collaborating with youth in filmmaking. Using Chain Camera (Dick, 2001) and Tenderloin Stories (VYDC, 1996), as case studies, I will discuss a number of potential benefits to youth filmmaking – in terms of the positive impact on the youth first, society second and filmmaker last -- as well as potential ethical shortcomings.
Though the light from the sun may shine nearly uniformly, when reflected on different people, the shadows appear in distinctive shapes. Like sun rays, the techniques used in both Children Underground (Belzberg), and Dark End of the Street (Okazaki) -- share many similarities, yet the uniqueness of the two groups of subjects spawn sufficiently different results. Both filmmakers, working in some degree with disenfranchised youth, present hands-off relationship with the subjects. In Dark End, this generally works to raise awareness and elicit sympathy, or at least concern. When dealing with young children in The Children Underground, however, the filmmaker’s “detached” approach backfires – the viewer’s feelings of sympathy and outrage at the situation are overwhelmed by confusion, questions and indignation at the filmmaker’s techniques. To illustrate this, I will discuss the apparent subject-filmmaker relationships, in terms of their lack of interference, interview techniques, narration/background info, and music.
[This was written in 2008, and is therefore somewhat outdated]
During India’s Independence struggle, people flocked to movies dealing with difficult social issues such as child marriage and the treatment of widows (Kaul 132). So, why, today is it so hard to find social issue films/documentaries in India? Is the class of producers and would- be consumers just apathetic? Is life so hard that watching three - hour fantasies is a necessary coping mechanism? Does the government censor films that deal with unflattering issues? While these, as well as broader economic and historical factors play a role, the majority of social issue documentaries are, unfortunately for their popularity, often anti- Bollywood. The Bollywood aesthetic – hereafter referred to simply as ‘Bollywood’ – a conglomeration of borrowed and created devices used repeatedly in Hindi fiction films -- is very popular. Independent documentaries might never be able to compete with big budget fiction films, but they can integrate some of the popular aspects to be more accessible to audiences, without losing the integrity of their mission.
[This was written after my first filmmaking trip to India. While filming Jeevodaya: Hope through Education I met Bhaskara, who inadvertanly led me to the Children's Project, the subjects of my current films. ]
Bhaskara’s dusty bare feet, which poked out from oversized pants, shifted until he caught my attention. He didn’t ask me for my south Indian breakfast, but just stared hungrily. I handed him a 2-rupee coupon (about four cents). That would suffice to buy a large scoop of oopama -- hot wheat cereal with tomatoes, onions, chilies and spices.
The term "racism" is being thrown around too much – masking the underlying issues facing new immigrant students. "Immigrant students share their frustrations with legislators" states that, “They [students] said too often they are segregated into English-as-a-second-language classes and are discouraged from rising to higher-level classes” (BFP 2/24/12). If this “segregation” is based on race, as opposed to English-medium academic level, then it is racism – otherwise it’s not.
[This is the first part of Nilima's undergraduate thesis. Please Contact me if you'd like a copy of the whole paper. This thesis won UVM's Wertheimer Award for Best Political Science Honors Thesis, 2006].
Only one half of the citizens in India -- the world’s largest democracy -- can read and write (UNICEF, 2005). As globalization flourishes, including industrialization and media technology, uneducated people suffer marginalization and disproportionately few opportunities. This project analyzes the Indian elementary school system’s failures on behalf of the poor and the potential use of media (broadly defined) to mitigate these failures.