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How Cell Phone Films Empower Marginalized Youth

In today’s world of increased social media and the prevalence of cell phones, youth from “marginalized communities” are finding ways to use these tools for democratization and empowerment, according to World Film Collective (WFC) Founder Alice Bragg.

Bragg spoke this week to students at the Civic & Moral Education Initiative (CMEI) meeting about how WFC trains young people with limited access to employment and education to make films and distribute them around the world.

Due to the cost of equipment and need for studio backing, film has traditionally been hard to break into, but with the invention of cell phones and continual advances in technology, almost anyone can create films. Bragg desired to teach youth how to make affordable films.

Launched in 2008, WFC began by partnering with local organizations in areas like South Africa, Brazil, the West Bank, and Russia that helped bring 364 young people (aged 16–24) to film trainings. The lessons focused initially on skills such as framing, lighting, and holding a camera. Teaching how to make films also offered opportunities to teach about confidence, self-belief, faith, work ethic, team-building, and communication. According to Bragg, for those youth who had failed or struggled in education, many of these skills were hard to develop.

The videos produced by the young people dealt with a range of topics in their communities including HIV prevention, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, and domestic violence. Bragg found that the videos were having a direct impact on the young people making them – forcing many to reflect on their own lives and communities, and to become agents of change within their communities.

As another stage of learning, the youth began sharing the videos via various social media platforms. “A film has impact only if people watch it,” Bragg said.

The impact of the videos empowered many of the youth, who suddenly found that they could have a voice in their communities.

Doctoral candidate Nikhit D'Sa discussed Bragg’s work, noting how the special the process of creating a film allowed these youth to reflect.

“Lens gave them that space,” he said.

D'Sa added that in an age when we often hear a lot about the oversaturation of media, especially social media being used for negative things like bullying  or for inessentials like “too many cat videos,” that the distribution of WFC films had positive results.

“It gives the youth tools to look back on their lives,” D’Sa said.

As WFC continues to refine its curriculum and lessons, Bragg said that she hopes to grow the program, possibly adding lessons via an online platform allowing access to more youth from around the world.