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The making of Sharing Paradise
By Amelia Hapsari

As an anthropologist, Gene Ammarell has been conducting research in Balobaloang for more than 10 years. From listening to Balobaloang people, Gene Ammarell realized that the threat to Balobaloang marine ecosystem needed an urgent response. Gene Ammarell approached Amelia Hapsari, her student at Ohio University to create a documentary with a participatory approach to address this problem.

Participatory approach was taken because the video was intended to be tools for Balobaloang community to create their own stories and to control the way their life was represented in the video.

Balobaloang is a remote island around 100 miles away from the capital of the province. The community felt that one way to address the problem was to convey the problem to the Regent of Pangkep, who lives a hundred miles away from them. The community saw that a participatory video could serve as a communication bridge between the villagers and their authorities.

Environmental problems are very common in the Regency of Pangkep, South Sulawesi. The regency consists of hundreds of small islands scattered on the vast Makassar Strait. Stories of illegal fishing are very familiar for local authorities, but participatory video is not only about making a story. It is more about the process.

Participatory video production encourages community members to think about their situation, the source of their oppression, so they can find ways to liberate themselves. This idea is based on Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where he argues that liberation can only be obtained when the oppressed have become aware of the source of the oppression and find ways to liberate themselves. Shirley White, one of the early initiators of participatory video believes that participatory video production can help the communities to be more aware of their daily life and to find creative ways for liberation.

The process is not always straightforward and smooth. Local politics and various other factors can limit or prevent participation. The degree of participation is also negotiated with the amount of interest among various stakeholders in the community.

In this project, the community had access to editorial process, where they could choose to eliminate or to include parts of the story. The participants were not trained to shoot with a camera and was not operating the editing equipment. This setting was not a perfect condition to facilitate full participation, but it was decided due to time and budget limitation of the project.

The power that the community fully reserved was access to get into the story. The filmmaker relied on the community to find access to most of the scenes and interviews. In the beginning the filmmaker asked questions and proposed some scenes to shoot. As the community began to understand the video production process, they were more involved in deciding who were best to be interviewed, what scenes to shoot, and things that matter for the community.

All community members were allowed and encouraged to participate in the project. The introduction of the project was done formally at a village meeting, as well as informally, as the filmmakers meet community members who show interests to the project. Informal approach was taken because in formal meetings, fishermen who hold lower social status than ship owners were silent or absent. Participation from women also had to be pursued individually, because culturally they were constrained within household works.

After several scenes were captured on camera, community members would gather to watch the edited sequence and comments on the video. In these producer meetings, they gave suggestions on how to get to the next step. These meetings were conducted informally either at various different places. With the availability of home VCD players in the island, the sequence was easily transported, reviewed, and commented by community members. By going around the island to watch the sequence with different community members, the filmmaker got feedback from different groups.

This method has opened the access to the project for people who have lower social status; those whose voice often ignored. If the video was only discussed at one place, only people who were comfortable with the host would come to the meeting. When the host was friendly to fishermen, more fishermen would come to give comments. When the host was highly respected and sometimes feared, only people with high social status would contribute their opinions.

After several weeks of production, the product was brought to the main island of Sulawesi to be viewed by the Regent and the head of the provincial marine police. They watched the 10-minute video and gave their comments. As the people in Balobaloang watched the videotaped comments from the authorities, they were very happy that they were heard. The video has become an initial step to recognize the problem and getting the problem to be heard, but the journey to the solution remains long and arduous.

In this section :
The making of Sharing Paradise: An anthropologistís footnote

What is a participatory video?

Challenges:
Participation
Getting the fishermen involved
Sharing Paradise: Living in a tangled web of relationships

Ethnic and religious dimensions:
America, the evil empire
Chinese, the emperor of the market

Patron-client relationships and the participatory process

Language dimension

Reflections by the filmmaker

 

 

 

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