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Participatory video production in Tanzania: An ideal or wishful thinking

Mhando, M. (2005) Participatory video production in Tanzania: An ideal or wishful thinking. Tanzanet Journal, 5 (1).

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Documentary is a mode of communication that most people are familiar with and have strong held perceptions about. However recent attempts at adapting to conditions of story telling in diverse societies have triggered the use of novel approaches. Needless to say this is based on the assumed capability and capacity of documentaries to evoke truth and accurate representation of reality. Compared to fiction films, audiences, for whatever reason, watch documentaries with an anticipation of truthful representation. On the other hand documentaries also exist as forms of archiving of material belonging to another time suggesting a sense of history. This reality has more to do with the accurate representation of the location, social relations and views of the participants and not necessarily the "realities" of filmmaking. Indeed it is necessary that the production crew be aware of the possible disempowering situation that the asymmetrical knowledge, skills and experience conditions could present in a community production environment.

Under such a method, the subject communities have a certain level of control in the film production process and are able to have some input into the production such that they are able to influence some representations in the documentary. According to Johansson et al. (1999, 2000), in participatory video it is the group of actors or film participants that create the narrative unlike in conventional documentary production methods where there is an emphasis and need to create an individual artist filmaker's narrative about some people or a topic. This method is indeed different from the five modes of documentary production acknowledged by Nichols since in participatory video, the power and control of the film has considerably shifted from the filmmaker to the participants (Nichols, 1994). Indeed Okahashi (2000) notes that participatory video helps people share stories as well as increase self-esteem and community connection. The process of participatory video itself is enriching, participants may feel that they have control over what is reported about them and as well as have some form of power to influence and harness the benefits of media. It is therefore important that we describe these processes and encourage others to reveal the processes by which they get to make documentaries so that the exchange of ideas and experiences might lead to the creation of new knowledge.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
Publisher: Tanzanet Electronic Networking Community
Copyright: 2005 TANZANET Inc.
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