The art of storytelling through film is a powerful tool for understanding the world we live in, from its mind-boggling complexities to simple tales that lift the soul.
Three of the five winners of the Research in Film Awards, set up to recognise the best in film-making from arts and humanities research, write about the films they made and the people from diverse walks of life who shared their stories.
Amanda Ravetz, Manchester Metropolitan University; Pollyanna Ruiz, University of Sussex, and Sue Sudbury, Bournemouth University
The film attempts to capture the ambitions of a group of people in recovery from substance use disorder to “feel and be felt by other feeling people”. This is the phrase Will Self uses in the introduction to the Recoverist Manifesto on recovering from addiction. I think it’s a fitting description of what unfolds over the course of the film.
We see and hear participants connecting emotionally and aesthetically with themselves and each other and we witness in a small way the centrality of emotional truth-making to recovery. Feelings are central to the methodology used by Cristina Nuñez, the artist who features in the film. Nuñez uses photographic self-portraiture to explore human vulnerability, allowing those who take part, as she puts it, to: “turn shit into diamonds”.
The film was shot during two intensive three-day workshops run by Nuñez at the Manchester School of Art. The action unfolds within two slightly claustrophobic spaces – the photographic studio where participants are guided to take portraits and a classroom where the resulting images are reviewed by the group together. The message I hope the film conveys is that by bringing recovery and art together and hearing people speak their narratives as they want to tell them, people in recovery can throw off stigma and imagine better, more socially just futures.
A group of young women in rural India were being trained as video reporters as part of a local government initiative to give women a voice. As child brides, they chose to make their first film about the problems of child marriage – a continuing practice in their villages. In Village Tales I filmed them as they made their own film and found out how the project was changing their lives. I also asked four of them if they would use their cameras to film their everyday lives and use video diaries to access their thoughts and feelings.
My intention was to locate “the third voice” – a concept created by Barbara Myerhoff in which, through participatory research, the filmmakers’ and subjects’ contributions are edited together to form a new perspective. Anthropologist Jay Ruby described such films as “blended in such a manner as to make it impossible to discern which voice dominates the work … films where outsider and insider visions coalesce”. Through this innovative layering of footage from different cameras, the audience is given a unique insight into the lives of rural women in India today.