Films have the potential to engage a far wider audience and reach further than an academic paper ever could. A film is shared, watched sociably, discussed, and screened at public events. By integrating visual and auditory language, film is an active, direct, and engaging form of communication. It speaks to people in all different walks of life, age groups, and literacy levels. A carefully crafted film tells a story which captivates, touches, empowers, and inspires its audiences to act. It is this accessibility and expressive clarity which makes film such a powerful medium for supporting academic research, raising awareness, and – above all – creating social impact.
At Chouette Films, creating meaningful and impactful films is our goal and passion. That is why it is so significant for us to be awarded third prize for Videos highlighting impact made in social sciences at the SSH Impact Conferencein Vienna. Hosted by the Austrian EU Council Presidency and bringing together around 350 participants from across Europe and international partner countries, the conference looked at the impact of social sciences and humanities (SSH) research.
Our award-winning film, GlobalCommunities: Our City, Our Say, follows the story of how research in social sciences is making a profound impact on the accessibility and maintenance of electricity infrastructure in Ghana. The Citizens Report Committee (CRC) has been instrumental in making technical support available for people experiencing electrical failures and has helped to build relationships and trust for service providers and electricity-users living in Ghana.
The films were judged on three criteria: content and scope; dramaturgy of the video; and technical quality. To us, this award not only commends our skill in film production, but also recognises our dedication to social impact and our determination to make a difference. It is a huge source of encouragement and empowerment, fuelling us to continue on our research filmmaking journey as a social enterprise.
Film is a collaborative process. Although it can be complicated, the cooperative characteristic of filmmaking adds more levels to the value and effectiveness of film as a deeply communicative and research-led craft. The more different teams that a film brings together and the more people that it actively involves, the better. It is often through the interaction and discussion sparked by a film, both during its production and after it is released and viewed, that the greatest insight and impact is realised. An effective research film is a co-creative venture and an invitation for further reflection and conversation. The voice of the film represents the voices of everyone behind it.
It was not only us as filmmakers who made this project such a success. We do not believe in working in silos. Without the enthusiasm of the participants and their readiness to be interviewed, without the invaluable work of the NGO Global Communities and the support from Hivos, there would be no film. It was thanks to Global Communities that we were given access to translators so that we could interview people in their native language. This overcame barriers, enabling us to talk to more people and meet Ayeshatu Puplampu, the Ghanaian woman who gave the film such insight into the change that the research project has had on the families.
Film leaves a long-lasting legacy. It is not only about how people feel whilst they are watching it – the power of film lies in the thoughts, discussions, and actions that it stimulates. An engaging film is memorable. It uncovers truths and issues, planting ideas and questions in the minds of its audiences. Research films and documentaries are not finished projects, they play a part in ongoing conversations, progressing social movements, and reaching out and raising awareness.
Dr Sheila Ochugboju, who worked with us on the project, said that ‘Social innovation is perhaps the most complex type of dynamic to stimulate, especially in developing countries. What Making All Voices Count (MAVC) succeeded in doing was to design a simple change agent incubation model, from this complex concept, without compromising any potential impact. The project transformed individual lives, communities, and sectors through its committed work. It was my privilege to be Chair of the Global Innovation Competition (GIC) aspect for three years and I intend to apply some of the lessons learned from the GIC to support new innovation hubs throughout Africa.’
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