Lamin recently participated in a two-week participatory filmmaking workshop made possible with the collaboration and support of Venice Arts, the Sundance Institute, the Skoll Foundation, and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). Tostan organized the workshop as part of larger project to increase participant-led storytelling after receiving the ‘Stories of Change‘ grant. 

Lamin Fatty and fellow workshop participant, Khardiata Bodian, practice using the cameras at Tostan’s training institute in Thiès, Senegal.

I recently took part in the participatory filmmaking workshop organized by Tostan in Thiès and Kolda, Senegal. The training consisted of both theoretical and practical elements and lasted for two weeks.

The theoretical aspects gave me and the other eight participants an introduction to documentary filmmaking, an overview of the evolution of filmmaking and cinema, and insight into the fundamental concepts of visual storytelling with emphasis on light, sound, composition, and story. We learned how to use a Flip video camera and basic editing techniques, completed homework assignments, and took part in group critiques. I really enjoyed working with the trainers from Venice Arts because of the participatory nature of their presentations coupled with their cooperativeness, understanding, and friendliness throughout the training.

Venice Arts trainer, Brigid McCaffrey, demonstrates how to use the tripod.

For the practical part of the workshop, we traveled to the region of Kolda in southern Senegal and divided into three groups to produce three films for Tostan’s Peace and Security Project. For this portion of the workshop we learned how to use higher quality video cameras and sound equipment.

My group made a film in the village of Karcia, 30 kilometers away from Kolda, about conflict resolution and inter-ethnic marriage. The film tells the story of a man, Oumar, and a woman, Aissata, who come from different ethnic groups; they fall in love and wish to marry despite resistance from their families. A marriage between two different ethnic groups was regarded as impossible even ten years ago and is still a source of conflict between families and communities. The film we made provides an example of how this kind of traditional conflict can be overcome with open minds and communication.

The filming process involved several stages. We started by meeting with the village chief and local imam to inform them of our activities and make sure they were in agreement. Over the course of five days, we gathered images of the village and conducted several interviews. We interviewed the coordinator of the Community Management Committee (CMC), a mother and a daughter, the couple, and Aissata’s grandfather. My favorite interview was with Aissata’s grandfather because he was very comical and reminded me of a typical village elder.

Lamy Fatty films family members at the home of the CMC Coordinator in Karcia, Senegal.The most challenging aspect of filming in Karcia was the initial resistance and even refusal of some community members to be filmed. Once we explained that the goal of the film was to tell the story of Karcia as a positive example of conflict resolution, most people were willing. We also had difficulty quieting the curious village children! 

My favorite moment of the workshop was on the final day of shooting when we were filming the re-enactment of Oumar and Aissata meeting for the first time at the river. It was a beautiful scene and symbolic to have the two ethnic groups coming together at such a natural source of sustainable livelihood.

Workshop participant, Khardiata Bodian, records sound at the river in Karcia on the final day of shooting.

The workshop was very important because it has given me, along with others from Tostan, a great opportunity to learn for the first time about the fundamental concepts of visual storytelling and to acquire new knowledge, skills, and techniques using the Flip video cameras.

With my new knowledge and filmmaking skills, I will be able to contribute towards developing stories that can be shared in the countries where Tostan works and internationally. I will also be able to share what I have learned with the Tostan Gambia staff as a contribution to Tostan’s commitment to spread knowledge. I believe that building the capacities of Tostan’s local staff in skills such as filmmaking is essential in achieving Tostan’s mission of promoting sustainable development and empowering African communities.

Stay tuned for the final films on Tostan’s YouTube channel

This post is from Lamin Fatty, Tostan Supervisor in The Gambia.

Photographs by Alisa Hamilton, Tostan.