Empowered by video
MAY 18 — One of the main objectives of the existence of the media is to give a voice to normal people, or the rakyat.
But sometimes, this objective gets lost when the media themselves get a bit overwhelmed (or big headed?) by all their obligations.
That’s why I always jump at the opportunity to help give a voice to the common folk, or the rakyat.
That’s how, last week, I found myself in a small village called Kampung Sukau in Sabah, teaching locals how to tell stories using video.
The workshop, which was organised by the NGOs GDF (Global Diversity Foundation) and SUARA in conjunction with the upcoming Borneo Eco Film Festival, had kindly invited me to conduct it.
The participants were actually village locals from different community NGOs that help to do research to improve their own quality of life.
The workshop that I planned was simple. They all had 2½ days to learn the basics of video making and produce a short documentary.
I knew that some of them had a little bit of experience and some of them had none at all. So I was hoping that by breaking them up into groups, they could share their knowledge with me as the facilitator.
I have conducted formal university classes and informal workshops before, and I have to say that this group in Kampung Sukau was one of the most genuinely interested groups I have ever met.
There was a connection and they realised that by making videos, they could actually highlight many of the local issues affecting them that media organisations tend to ignore.
At the end of the three days, the group of about 25 locals managed to complete six short documentaries discussing all kinds of issues that they felt were important to them and their communities.
While conducting the workshop and mingling with the locals, I got to know that the reason they were so enthusiastic about the workshop.
The first has to be the fact that they watch a lot of television and have this romanticised perception of the glamour of the industry.
Each morning they would discuss the shows they watched the night before (Their favourite singer got voted out of “Mania”, or how Faisal Tahir came on the “Mentor” stage with an ankle cast!).
But the second was what got to me. They all agreed that the Malaysian national media organisations always sideline the stories that matter to their part of the country.
They do acknowledge the fact that the big general stories from Sabah would be carried, but what affects them directly never gets the airtime it deserves at all.
In fact, some of them even suggested that I propose to the media organisations that I am involved with to start community programmes with them.
The idea is simple. Once they have honed their video-making skills, the media organisations could then purchase their content to be put on air.
Not only will this help them tell their own stories and highlight it on a national level, the revenue they generate can also come in and benefit their communities.
A very sound idea to me!
As for now, the videos that these locals have produced can already be shown anyway on other platforms, from YouTube and Facebook to, hopefully, the Borneo Eco Film Festival.
The locals have the right attitude and are taking the right actions. They are taking matters into their own hands and doing something to improve their own situation.
Take Bersih 3.0, for example. Many media and press personnel were obstructed from documenting police violence. In the end, it was footage from the common rakyat that highlighted it.
So it just shows that at the end of the day, it is people that make a difference and not big organisations.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.
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