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Videos To Voice

November 10, 2009 | By

Community Video is a unique and new initiative in India. These units provide a platform for the disadvantaged communities to voice.

Each and everyone have something to say, stories to share and solutions to suggest. People have various ways of expressing themselves but sometimes due to the lack of right medium they couldn’t. Audio-Visual medium have the strength to help people document issues that abuses human rights, prevent violence, exposes various unknown stories/issues to common people and make those commit crime to face justice. Hence, the purpose of social media is not merely to tell you what is happening in the grassroots but to ask what you intend to do about it.

Handicams aren’t anymore for only documenting leisure moments, family vacations, weddings etc. but marginalised people armed with this visual technology are articulating and expressing their views and trying to create revolution.

India is known as a democratic country but yet its media industry remains controlled by a handful of business barons or houses. However, over the last 10 years, a few media professionals, filmmakers, academicians, individuals and organizations have worked tirelessly to truly democratize media. Community Video is a unique and new initiative in India. These units provide a platform for the disadvantaged communities to voice. When New Technologies are powered by Indigenous knowledge, the results can be amazing.

As community media practitioner we believe that the core of democratization of media is when media is ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’. This is also the root of Community Media. Community Media is a media that is truly owned, controlled by and accessed by the people living in the margins such as remote rural areas, ethnic cultural communities, tribal hinterland, on streets, railway platforms, urban slums etc. A media in the hands of community people is the most powerful tool to ‘Empower Communities to Voice’.

Community Video Units are initiated within the communities in collaboration with local non- profit organisations working with them. Core objective is to train inhabitants from the community in various aspects of filmmaking so that they can build their own media initiative with the perspective of development. They showcase their own stories and nitty-gritty about different issues prevalent in their communities effectively through visual language. Films has it’s own rhythm and language and inspite of barriers of illiteracy, diverse language, culture and superstitions create a harmony between various communities. Community Video Units are open spaces for the communities to share their experiences, pathos, new ideas or innovations through videos.

This training in filmmaking is conducted by a full time trainer located in the community video unit of the local NGO partner/collaborator over a period of 18-24 months to create content related to their lives. The content is decided by the Community Editorial Board comprising of people who live and work within the community. The content created by the community members is screened back in the community after it has been made into a film. The content reflects the stories of their experiences, their joys, sorrow, struggles, dreams and aspirations in their local dialect or language, through their local cultural art forms and idioms. Thus creating a media owned and controlled by some of the most marginalized and exploited communities in the world.

Each Community Video Unit (CVU) comprises of 6-10 community members who are trained as full-time Community Video Directors. They produce a “Community Video Magazine” on different social issues prevalent in their communities every two months. These magazines are screened in around 25 to 30 slums or villages on widescreen projectors to up to 10,000 people.

These Community Screenings play a pivotal role in mobilizing it’s members. Community Video Magazines creates immense change among the people and is the most cost-effective way to reach large numbers of people. It provides a platform to demand accountability and transparency from those in power and also acts as a forum for communities to discuss critical but unspoken or less spoken social issues Video is a tool to enable communities to aware, advocate, protest and negotiate regarding their rights with relevant authorities. It also empowers communities with a voice, both locally and globally, by disseminating their films to the mainstream media, uploading them online and also by sending as entries to various film festivals across the globe.  It bridges the literacy barrier and communicates to people in the visual medium they like best. Most importantly it promotes community-led change, through focused discussions and follow-ups with audiences around an “Action Point,” in community screenings that often reach the majority of a village or slum.

Since ages marginalised communities have been exploited by technological dominance. With the emergence of community video we are trying to democratize communication spaces so that the people belonging to marginalised communities can share their voice and expression within their community and also with the outer world.


Inputs from Kavita Das Gupta, Programme Manager, Community Video Programme, DRISHTI Media

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Poulomi is a development communication professional and is currently associated with Travel site as an editorial coordinator
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