World Economic Forum blog: Hollywood, the Citizen Journalist and a GMM Initiative

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM BLOG, published March 2013

by Wendy Dent

What do Hollywood and the citizen journalist have in common? The need to tell a powerful story.

The other month, I received a tweet to Human Rights on Film that was heartbreaking: “Please can someone make a film about my country?” It got me thinking. Where are the films from that anonymous tweeter’s nation, and where are the citizen journalists?

I searched for videos about the country in the twitterverse, and found just a few. But they all – shockingly – looked like a mash-up of the bloodiest scenes of Tarantino’s greatest works: corpses, dismembered body parts and the brutal scars of torture – without any mention of who, what, where or why. They left me knowing little about the people or human rights issues under threat, and were so graphic I “turned off”, feeling emotionally alienated.

Tarantino’s films, though, are gripping for a reason other than their graphic violence; because he knows how to tell a powerful story. Therein lay an idea …

Two of the most inspiring movements of recent times are the rise of citizen journalists and the rise of human rights filmmaking. Think of this year’s Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature, Five Broken Cameras, by Palestinian farmer and first-time filmmaker Emad Burnat, co-directed with Israeli Guy Davidi. Then think of the even greater impact that human rights filmmakers and citizen journalists could have on the world stage if the film and media industries connected documentarians to citizens armed with cameras to help them share their experiences as powerful citizen storytellers.

Imagine if Hollywood were to offer to the world its heroes, both on camera and behind camera, as teachers inspiring and training a global generation of citizen storytellers. Imagine if the world’s leading media and film schools offered their boldest and brightest, too. Imagine if the network of international film festivals and universities were to host training sessions for citizen journalists, both in person and online, led by these world media leaders.

We could use our networks to launch a new initiative: Global Media Mentors (GMMs)

Perhaps each country could be championed by a leading filmmaker or journalist, training citizen journalists in storytelling skills and mentoring them to become an international voice.

Through Human Rights on Film, I’m working to connect filmmakers, industry, NGOs, citizen journalists and the civilians at the heart of it all – such as the anonymous tweeter who cried out for filmmakers’ help. The blogosphere lit up over the KONY2012 story. It would be a wonderful day when we can also search the twitterverse and find moving stories trending from citizen storytellers around the globe, with the help of GMMs, about worlds we rarely see and people we’d love to know more about.

Author: Wendy Dent is a Visiting Scholar at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. She was named one of 199 Young Global Leaders, Class of 2013, by the World Economic Forum.