Perhaps the best example of global citizenship we have seen in recent times is the respnse from British people – and particularly British youth – to the camps along the French coast, namely The Jungle in Calais and the camp in Dunkirk.
I was part of a Facebook mobilsation last summer that saw thousands of people respond to the dire situation they saw happening just three hours away from London
There were a few people who spearheaded the response, people like Liz Clegg, who you may have heard of, who traveled to the camp and stayed for many months providing co-ordination within the camp.
Others set up small organisations – CalAid, Care for Calais, People-to-people solidarty, Help Refugees, Volunteer Action for Calais – who used crowd-funding to raise money and collected donations. People’s living rooms were filled with sleeping bags, tents, clothes, food to the point where more space was needed and warehouses were sought, both in Britain and then in Calais, to deal with te sheer volume of items that were being donated by ordinary people in their tons. This was true global citizenship.
This outpouring of compassion came partly from the heartbreaking picture of baby, Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. However, many of us had already been moved to action by the posts of Jasmin from The Worldwide Tribe, who had gone to Calais and posted on Facebook what she saw.
Here is a section of an interview that World Film Collective did with Jasmin talking about that time:
You can see from Jasmin’s experience how influential grassroots media is and how much of an impact her work had. It was through Jasmin’s post that I came to learn about what was happening in Calais, to connect with the people as human brings and that was part of what motivated us at World film Collective to run a programme there last September for a week.
In preparing for this programme, I designed a curriculum that took into account the transient nature of the camp. This curriculum is available of the website. If you click on GUIDES & RESOURCES and then the tab FOR TUTORS you will see that one of the training programmes on offer is called Quick-Fire. This is specifically for use in refugee camps
We decided to focus on Syrian refugees and gathered a group through an intepreter that we took with us from London. Notes on how we did this are included in the Quick Fire programme so I will not go into the details here.
I will now show you part of a short trailer for a longer film, which I will tell you more about later on. This clip shows the students working and giving commentary so you have a sense of the group we were working with, and a window into the programme
Many times we were asked by students how this filmmaking programme would help them and that was a very difficult question to answer. On the one hand, it touches on the relarionship between media and power, which is very difficult to measure. What I am aware of is that many people who watched these films then becamse engaged in the plight of the people in The Jungle and took part in the active citizenship that helped individuals with food, shelter and clothes. It is also important to note that the destruction of The Jungle came a time when the camp was gaining maximim publicity and increasingly numbers of people were going over there to help. I might suggest this was not a coincidence.
Arguably more important than that, however, was the impact that the filmmaking course had on the people involved. Simply on an emotional level, the fact that people cared about what they were experiencing, what they had experienced and what they would do next, gave these people hope and sustinence at a time when they were at the lowest point in their lives. This course was a place they coud be honest about their feelings, which is not always the case when they talked to loved ones back home who they were often trying to reassure.
We became very aware of how they felt during an event in London to which we invited the members of the film training group who had made it to Britian. One got up an made a speech in which he talked about how the course had pulled him out of a very dark place. Global citizenship should be seen not just as membership of global structures and systems but also, as Jasmin says, as members of the human race. Showing fellow human beings care and love is a vital part of this.
In addition, these films gave these people a voice. I have spoken earlier about the agency and empowerment that comes from having a voice and how this chimes with the philosophy of global citizenship. It is worth remembering that these people have lived their whole lives under a dictatorship and so their ability to engage in civil society has been limited. I cannot comment on the degree to which this filmmaking programme altered their view of themselves as citizens but I am aware – as I am still in touch with them – that they have things they want to say about the political situatuon in Syria and, in my view, these things should form part of the dialogue that we are having about how to find a peaceful, political solution.
Now I will show you some of the films that were made during the project. They vary in tone and style, and in the level of skill reached. This is to do with the technical aptitude of the filmmakers and, in the case of the last film, the assistnace they has in putting the film together:
You Want Coffee?
Abu Walid and his tent
We stayed in touch with the students with whom we worked right though to the point where successfully gained asylum either in Britain or Germany. The students continued to make films and we are now working on a longer documentary project in collaboration with them. You have seen the first part of the trailer for this earlier.
Here is the rest:
What has also happened is that we have made connections with other organisations working in Calais and Dunkirk and this has had a further impact in bringing grassroots voices into the conversation. This is part of creating culture and I believe that cuture is a hugely important force in influencing the way that people behave towards each other, from local contexts right up to the global village in which we live.
The pioneering social scientist, Marshall MuLuhan, who coined the phrase ‘global village’ and whose writing helped us to understand the concept of globalisation and global citizenship, wrote of the relationship between technology and culture:
‘In the electric age…we necessarily participate…in the consequences of our every action’
As global citizens, we see our role in the global village as active participants, and as such, we take responsibility for bringing about a world in which our fellow inhabitants are not forced to suffer, to leave their homes in terror and to die in war.
The response I saw in Calais and Dunkirk showed me very clearly how small acts of kindness and compassion – often driven by a sense of responsbility for the welfare of fellow citizens – can make an enormous difference to people in very difficult times.
I am speaking in a personal capacity now, but I would sugget that the emphasis this country has placed on multicultural education and nurturing a culture of pluralism, tolerance and liberal values as part of our democracy has served us very well and should make us very proud.
Finally, it feels important to sat that even if you have never made a film before, the World Film Collective website will show you clearly how to do it. Grassroots filmmaking is not just about running programmes with people who are voiceless and marginalised. It is filmmaking for all.
There will be people in your own social groups and your own communities who are facscinating. You, yourself, are undoubtedly fascinating. Your views and your thoughts are interesting to me and to others. The World Film Collective website will show you how to work with a number of simple formats, from video diaries to shooting live events as they are happening around you. These films don’t need to be depressing or hard hitting. They can be films with a call to action or films that convey a message the you think is worthwhile. This message may be about how beautiful and wonderful something is, like Abu Waleed and his tent.
You may also not be a natural filmmaker and not enjoy it. That is also fine. Filmmaking requires many, many disciplines. We have a section on the website FOR PROJECT MANAGERS, with all the templates you need to run your own programme.
Equally, a really important part of filmmaking is gathering an audience. You may feel this is where your strength lies. We at World Film Collective are always seeking new platforms to show our films. If you would like to help us, please come and see me or Farzana afterwards.
I would like to end this section with a TED film that highlights the importance of supporting other people who have good ideas. As Derek Sivers points out, we focus constantly on leaders, but it is actually the first few followers who enable a movement to really start
A final word on my own personal journey: since World Film Collective transitioned into an online resource for grassroots filmmakers worldwide, I have gone back to grassroots filmmaking in a personal capacity. This is a film that I made with members of the new camp in Dunkirk. The woman running the camp asked me send a call-out for volunteers as they were in desperate need. I arrived and worked with young men from the Iraqi Kurdish popuation in the camp. I trained some to film and others contributed ideas and worked on production.
This was a community of global citizens mobilised to bring about a more humane situation for these people. The first few shots are taken from a film I made earlier this year in the previous Dunkirk camp. I firmly believe that the media response to the conditions in that camp contributed to the new camp being authorised by the mayor of Grande Synthe.