Make room for other perspectives
One of the first workshops that FilmForward organized at the request of the film industry, formulated questions on diversity and inclusion in the industry and the stories we tell. The participants examined their own “positionality” and cleaned up the lens through which they look at the world.
Diversity and inclusion are currently hot topics in the film and media landscape. De Aanjager Kleur shook up the Dutch film industry this summer: we are hopelessly slow when it comes to diversity and inclusion. In order to provide the Dutch film and audiovisual industry with tools to work more inclusive and diverse, both in front of and behind the camera, FilmForward organized the workshop Multiple Voices – Inclusivity in Storytelling with various partners.
In the run-up to the Dutch Film Festival, journalist Hadassah de Boer also held five roundtable discussions with various makers in collaboration with Kleur to make the diversity of the sector visible, but also to discuss a number of pain points. The resignation of the older generation who fought this battle as many times before. And the tricky point: quota or not?
The workshop Multiple Voices – Inclusivity in Storytelling started at the end of September with a preview of the film Rocks in Eye in Amsterdam. Filmmaker Beri Shalmashi interviewed the all-female team that had been built as a collective as much as possible to allow experienced and inexperienced voices, and as many people of color from the East London area where the film is set, to speak. Rocks is an inspiring example of how it could be: togetherness instead of authorship.
After that, NFF opening film Buladó was on the program of Inclusive Storytelling, as well as the keynote that Aminata Cairo, professor of Anthropology and ambassador for diversity and inclusivity at both academic and social level held during the festival, and the conversations that Kleur herself held during the NFF Conference. had organized.
Nourished and inspired, the participants, a group of 10 people consisting of journalists and filmmakers, then went to the Vogeleiland in the Amsterdamse Bos to take up their own position for three days under the leadership of Winnie Roseval, philosopher and researcher at the Inclusive Education (HHs) lectorate. director Norbert ter Hall uses various forms of research to make his films more diverse and at the same time increase their creative richness and scope. The workshop was concluded with a stakeholder mapping and a discussion with Aminata Cairo.
The dominant story
Roseval’s motivation to lead the workshop goes back to her humanistic, personal mission: connecting people. “As soon as you have insight into your own social conditioning and your unspoken and unconscious judgments and prejudices, you can consciously work to make room for other stories.”
Roseval shared her vision with the participants by introducing herself through her own story. “What is our own story? Where has our cradle been? The living environment in which you grow up determines your “gaze” (look). It is important to map out your own “positionality” and viewing and reaction mechanisms and patterns so that you know how you relate to all other people in the world. ”
Roseval works with a step-by-step plan in its training. First, the concept of “positionality” was explained in more detail. Subsequently, the opposites “the dominant or the other”, the dominant and the other position in a story were discussed. The first term, or the dominant story, is considered the norm and is embodied by people from the dominant group: for example the white, male protagonist. The non-dominant group is the opposite: for example, women, people from a lower social class, people with a migrant background, or LGBTIQ +. The participants then investigated their own implicit prejudices and whether they inhibit their work. Finally, they had to use keywords to structurally map their projects with the concluding question: “what do you want to have the courage for in the coming period?”
Participant and documentary maker Sacha Vermeulen: “Winnie is a skilled teacher who created a pleasant and safe environment to approach the subjects honestly and openly with the other participants and exchange ideas. It was a rediscovery of yourself: “I hadn’t looked at things like that yet”, or: “Maybe I should have fought harder for this” and: “This is what I stand for”. I wondered “What do I really stand for?” And: “Who am I as a maker?” I wanted to clarify this for myself and the training provided very good guidance. ”
As a filmmaker, Norbert ter Hall also recognizes his responsibility: “Fiction does not have to be reality, but I am convinced that much underrepresentation is the result of ignorance rather than a conscious choice. By entering into dialogue with the makers of the future, I hope to help increase that awareness. Especially with myself. ” Ter Hall states: “Every person wants to see and be seen. The stories we tell each other in series and films are the result of that need. As makers, we have the power to determine what we see of the world around us. Power, as always, comes with responsibility. If there are groups that are systematically under-represented, it is largely our fault.”
In a Zoom presentation, the filmmaker showed a case study about his series A’DAM-E.V.A. seeing, for example, how the demographics of the place where your story is set can make you aware of your own ignorance. And how that research can inspire you and strengthen your story. In Amsterdam, about 35 percent of the inhabitants have a non-Northern European background, more than 16 percent are homosexual and 12 percent have a moderate or severe physical disability. How do those percentages relate to the story you want to tell? ”
Ter Hall then talked to writer and social geographer Floor Milikowski (Who owns the city; A small country with faraway corners) and urban planner Wouter Pocornie. Ter Hall: “Milikowski described how city and countryside continue to grow apart and what that means for the people who live there, while Pocornie enthusiastically elaborated on the impact that the things we make have on people, and that makers therefore carefully that power should go. ” Participant Sacha Vermeulen: “It was nice to hear the personal story of an experienced filmmaker, and it was also instructive to see through the case study how a maker puts diversity into practice both in the script and in the performance.”
Participant Charlotte Scott-Wilson, director and screenwriter, indicates that the right questions were asked in the workshop. “It went back to basics:” Why are you telling something? ” From the conversation that journalist filmmaker and programmer Tessa Boerman had following the screening of Buladó with screenwriter Esther Duysker and director Eché Janga, a valuable lesson remains: “Your intrinsic motivation to tell a story really has to be right.”
Charlotte Scott-Wilson is developing a feature film based on her Scottish-Burmese family about her sister’s journey to Islam. The story is told from a Western perspective and one of the lenders questioned this. Scott-Wilson: “I went to the workshop to find answers to this. “Do I have to do this?”, “Do I really have to tell the story from the Islamic side, and what it is like for them to suddenly get a Western family there?” In the workshop she was able to see the value in her story through conversations with the other participants about the dominant and non-dominant story structure.
The workshop gave participants the tools to work on inclusive storytelling forms in their projects. It is a step forward towards more inclusive forms of imagining and diverse and idiosyncratic stories from talented media makers. In order to break through any bias and constantly question their horizons, they must dare to proactively question their own position in the world.
The practical tips from the four-day workshop stayed with Charlotte Scott-Wilson the most: “How you as a creator should be alert when creating your story, and keep an eye on your intrinsic motivation to believe that your story is also valuable.” Sacha Vermeulen: “There was an underlying urgency that things had to be changed, and how you as a maker relate to it. Entering into a dialogue with other makers was an important part of what I hoped there would be room for in the workshop, and there was. ”
By: Giselle Defares
Foto: Anas Khatib