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DOXA Connexions: Narrating Change Social Justice Forum

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This post was written by one of the young women participating in the 2011 Kris Anderson DOXA Youth Connexions Forum, as part of the DOXA Documentary Film Festival. “Connexions” is an immersive 2-week program where 6 selected emerging female filmmakers create 6 short films in 6 days, while also connecting with industry professionals & checking out all the doc films & panels.

As part of the Kris Anderson Youth Connexions workshop with DOXA and the National Film Board of Canada, myself and 5 other emerging female filmmakers have been running around the city to attend exciting meetings and film screenings. One of the unique opportunities that is part of the festival is a discussion forum entitled Narrating Change.

The forum took place on Tuesday May 10, at Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver. The forum allowed audience members to engage in discussion about narrative and its power to affect social change. The panel was quite diverse as it was made up of a lawyer, a filmmaker and 2 activists. It was interesting to see that the power of storytelling was all a prominent theme in their lives and careers.

One of the panel members, Cameron Ward, a human rights and social justice lawyer, admitted it had not occurred to him how prominent storytelling was in his career until he had been invited onto the panel. He realized that in defending his clients, it was his job to their personal stories. He uses narrative to paint a clear picture of his clients and the events affecting them to a group of people so that they can make an informed decision about the injustice of the situation. He emphasized the importance of communicating and presenting the story in a clear succinct way so that the message will be properly received.

The filmmaker of the the panel, Barry Stevens, related to this aspect of storytelling. In filmmaking the director is always trying to consider their audience, and in a character driven film, balance the subject’s personal story with the overall message of the film.

Erin Mullan activist and event organizer said that her strongest ties to narrative were the family stories in her life and their ability to shape identity and connect people. She told a story of her grandfather and explained that although she had never known him personally she felt close to him and had gotten a sense of who he was through photos and the stories that her family would share about his life.

Barbara Wood, Executive Director of CoDevelopment Canada shared a story of her travels to Guatemala where impoverished women shared personal accounts of brutality and violence in their villages. She was inspired and compelled to make change and because of the power in these women’s narratives, she decided to set her career path working on human rights with CoDevelopement Canada.

It was inspiring to see that narrative is such a part of human culture and translates into many professions. It is through story that people connect, build identity, make sense of their own lives and the world around them. Narrative is strong tool that has powerful potential to affect social change as it breaks barriers between our differences and allows us to push forward to make positive changes in our world. It unifies people on a real, visceral, emotional level and is one of the oldest traditions still relevant throughout the lives of people around the globe today.

Janelle