Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Dada Factory Humanitarian Division: Teaching Film in Palestine!

All's been quiet on the productivity front for this boy. Last time you heard a peep from me about work it was either my job as mobile teacher with the 337 Project's Art Truck or back with the Tale of Don Giovanni. I've been busy, here and there, ever since, but it's time for another big project, which I'm very pleased to announce.

I'm going for 3 months to teach film in Palestine as a volunteer with Project Hope. This is a culmination of several personal goals of mine that stretch so very far back to the last time I was in the Middle East, the summer of 2006, in Egypt. Also embedded in this trip are my desires to use the mediums tentatively under my control to do some good and spread ideas, stories, and information worth hearing about, in this case through film. I'm a little leery of the role a documentarian holds, the recorder of other people's stories, it seems to walk a fine line between authorship and ownership, I'm attracted to other ways.

The premise of my project in Palestine is simple: Give kids cameras, let them tell their stories. If that particular mission rings a bell, it's with good reason. I've always been inspired by co-SLC'er Geralyn Dreyfous' Kids with Cameras project, most well known for their involvement in the excellent movie Born into Brothels. Then there's my co-conspiritor John Schafer, of Children's Media Workshop, who goes around with the audacity to use cameras to make education fun. I'd be working with these folks, hopefully, and following in their footsteps, but in a whole different direction.

Palestine's a hard place to get your head around, harder still to articulate, and often divided along contentious ideological lines that go back generations and even epochs. I hope to do a little good while I'm there, make some friends with Jews and Arabs, and learn a ton.

I'll be living in the City of Nablus, north of Jerusalem, entirely Arabic speaking, surrounded by Israeli checkpoints. The city has a beautiful, warrenous old city Kasbah and sits in the hills, it's a mix of humming contemporary development and impoverished decrepitude.

via Velvetart

Unemployment is at 60%, as high as 80% in the refugee camps I'd be teaching in. I'm excited to explore there, this image search has a smattering of relevant pictures. Notice, even in the rhetoric and claims behind those images, how ideologically contentious this area is.

My goals: To enable students to capture aspects of their situation, stories, and lives on camera in a skilled and watchable manner.
My teaching will have an emphasis on narrative, clarity, and image control, with very little agenda when it comes to content or message. If the youth I work with want to write a screenplay and execute it to practice their English they can, if they want to do stop frame animation or mini-documentaries we'll go in that direction. I'll encourage it all. Due to the social and political climate in Palestine my lesson plan in the program will be very flexible, but my goal is to enable a few kids to get their images out, both through blogs/youtube/social media and hopefully through international children's film festivals.

It is important for underprivileged youth to be connected with the world at large and to be able to express their perspective in a creative, compelling manner. This has the benefit of giving the youth a constructive outlet for frustrations and creative energy. In teaching students how to construct a comprehensible film narrative you also build their analytical and communication skills across the board, while allowing them to invest, explore, and break rules.

After the production-based learning experiences, the product of these explorations can be published on a variety of scales. All of which inform the external world about a situation whose media coverage is typically biased, glossed over, dehumanized, or distanced. Further, Internet access is one of the few amenities Palestinians have, it should be used to its maximum capacity both as a connector and a validation for the youth.

In any case, it'll be quite the experience, I'm incredibly excited and looking forward to it. If you're in Salt Lake I'll be having a going away party on the 16th of December at the Salt Lake Art Center:

Music, food, fun. The race before'll be cold and great. I'll maybe play a scene or two from "Paradise Now" and maybe some film stuff I've done. I'll be raffling off two of my bikes to raise money for the trip too, more info soon :).

If you feel so inclined, you can even donate to the project through the sidebar on the right, I'd really appreciate it.If you're not the money type you can make a music mix to speed me along my way, or bring food/snacks/drinks to the party at the Art Center.


Elaine said...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah so excited!

Zed said...

good luck on your journeys. z

Luke Williams said...

A truly awesome project, sir. So happy you got the gig!

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