Posts Tagged ‘films’

In her post ‘Prostitutes of God:’ Film Mocks, Belittles Sex Workers, Bebe Loff, explains that:

‘Last week,  four episodes of a film entitled Prostitutes of God were posted on VBS.TV, which is owned by Vice Magazine. Prostitutes of God producer Sarah Harris, spent time with members of Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (meaning ‘Prostitutes’ Freedom from Injustice’) or “VAMP,” [who] let her into their lives, their families and their workplace.  The result?  Films that are inaccurate and misrepresentative, and insulting to the people who agreed to participate and to the Hindu culture.’

The ‘Prostitutes of God’ film is part of the Vice Guide to Travel where ‘correspondents from VBS and Vice magazine are dispatched around the world to visit the planet’s most dangerous and weird destinations.’

This afternoon I didn’t have 30 minutes to watch the film that was being criticized in the post above. I did have 3 and a half minutes to watch the video response (below) from some of the sex workers and their family members who were part of the documentary.

Their reaction is one of anger and feelings of betrayal. They denounce the filmmaker (Sarah Harris) for laughing at them, making fun of them, disrespecting them, misinterpreting their stories and making public judgment calls on their religious practices.

They say ‘… Your analysis is wrong and we do not agree with it. Who is Sarah Harris? What is the research that informs her story?’‘ They ask ‘Who gave you the right to laugh?‘ They wonder ‘If I had come to your town and insulted your gods would you have liked it?

Tonight I watched the 30 minute film. To be honest, it doesn’t strike me as any worse than a lot of other stories told about people from developing communities or exotic or marginalized groups. We see these kinds of stories all the time, where people are held up to view with sensationalism, superiority and for purposeful shock value.

What is interesting about this case is that the community saw it and reacted publicly. It made me wonder, what is the back story? What steps were taken by the filmmaker to secure informed consent? What were members of the different communities expecting the film to be about? What about the local organization, what were they expecting? Where was the communication breakdown and what steps were taken to try to avoid it? What ownership of the content of the film and the storyline did the community members have? Did they expect to be paid? Were they put at high risk or otherwise threatened when the filmmaker released her film? Did the filmmaker think about the ramifications that her film would carry for the communities where she had filmed? What was the filmmaker’s purpose for telling this story?

I think we are going to see more and more of this type of scenario. I hope it will force media practices and ethics to be updated, more respectful and more legal when filming marginalized or disenfranchised groups in ‘developing countries’.

A third film about the Devadasi

I know of a third film about the Devadasi. I saw this one several years ago, and it was made by a group of Indian child journalists as part of a child media project. In that case, the children successfully used the film at the community level to press for compliance with established laws against the Devadasi practice and to discuss culturally appropriate alternatives.

I’m a big fan of local activists using media tools to push for social change on their own terms.

Here’s Insight Share’s great rights-based approach to participatory video guidebook.

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