Video can be a tool for mobilizing people to take action, empowering victims of human rights violations, and promoting reconciliation in affected communities. There are, however, a number of questions that remain as to the effectiveness of video, how it can be made more accessible to different audiences, and how to empower different communities and organizations to use it. The dialogue “video advocacy” explored how video can be used in human rights campaigns for educational outreach and documentation.
Using Video for Advocacy
Videos are beneficial for advocacy campaigns because they are a simple and efficient way to convey the main points of an idea or project to many people.
- Using language in video: Creating videos that do not depend on language to tell a story would make the videos more accessible. However, it may not be feasible to convey the message without using language and there are concerns that the images would be overly graphic and traumatic.
- Turning video into action: Often, videos can be become short-lived fads. To ensure that they serve their purpose of informing and compelling people to take action, it is necessary to provide an action component to the video and make the viewer feel like they can create change. It is useful to include video as part of a larger advocacy campaign, ensuring there is context to the video.
- Video production: Video activists must apply ethics to their productions by providing accurate information and anticipating how it will be received by their audiences. Being intentional about the style of film is one way to make sure that the film’s production value aligns with its content. When interpreters are needed during production, it is important to recognize that they are filters of culture and information and can impact the final product.
Engaging the Audience and Distribution
Audience should play an important role when video creators are thinking about the intention of their video. It is necessary to have a clearly defined audience in mind during production and to make sure the video is appropriate for and understood by the intended audience. Test audiences can be useful in this process.
Audiences can often become desensitized and feel like they cannot make a difference when shock value is used as an outreach tool. One way of avoiding this is to train individuals to tell their own ‘human stories.’ If audiences are hostile, videos should be catered to their direct concerns. Video can also be used to put pressure on particularly hostile audiences to join negotiations by threatening a public release of a video that puts them in a negative light.
With the availability of new technology, video production and distribution has become more accessible, particularly with the mobile phone. Cell phones are great for allowing nearly anyone to participate in documenting human rights violations and distributing videos generally, but there are also concerns about privacy and consent because videos can be uploaded without first seeking others’ approval.
Resources for Advocacy
- Video Volunteers: find volunteer filmmakers
- The Hub: network with video activists
- Animations about filming strategies
- Kaltura: on-line tool for video editing and collaboration
- Make Internet TV: information about recording and publishing on-line video
- Video for Change: A book from Witness