Five community youths learn film-making to document grassroots stories

Young trainees and trainer of the programme (L-R) S. Taro, H. Lyngdoh, R. Lyting, M. Chyrmang, A. Lyngdoh and B. Syiem

The North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) believes that documentation of agrobiodiversity is paramount for maintaining visibility to a wide audience. With this in mind, the organization has taken collaborative measures to document food festivals, agricultural practices, cultural diversity, plants, and most importantly, documenting people’s own stories.

Participatory Video is an important documentation tool, in which NESFAS wishes to encourage and train community members to document their Traditional Knowledge and different issues relating to Agriculture.

In an attempt to engage rural youths and train them to do the same, in July NESFAS launched a nine-month PV-training program for five youths from different communities. This initiative is part of the Rural Electrification Corporation Foundation (REC)-funded project ‘No One Shall Be Left Behind Initiative’ which aims to empower grassroot journalism among youths in the communities. Several potential candidates were selected by field coordinators of their respective communities and were then shortlisted for an online interview that was held in June.

After careful consideration, the NESFAS team shortlisted Silstar Taro from Plasha (Ri-Bhoi), Banteilang Syiem from Khweng (Ri-Bhoi), Ransing Lyting from Nohron (East Khasi Hills), Anthony Lyngdoh from Rapleng (East Khasi Hills), and Habanjop Lyngdoh fro Raliang (West Jaintia Hills).

The training session had various modules keeping in mind the importance of local communities’ documentation and have been divided into three phases. Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, the first phase of the training which includes theory classes were organised and held online via Zoom Meetings and online classrooms from July 2020.

The selected youths were introduced to the training that was prepared by the different associates of NESFAS and external resource trainers equipped with a copious amount of experiences in film making and photography. Merrysha Nongrum, Associate at NESFAS, conducted the first training and introduced the concept of PV and its different components. She also briefed the team about Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC): Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination, participation, and decision-making.

The trainees were also briefed about the importance of climate change, indigenous people, indigenous food systems, the United Nations global goals which include the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and many more.

Worngachan Shatsang, a budding videographer/filmmaker from Manipur, held a two-day training on the importance of storytelling. He briefed the five youths on the various storytelling techniques, rules of storytelling, components of a great story, etc.

The theory gradually paced towards the second phase of the training which is the practical training sessions held in Shillong at Destiny Inn, an Airbnb in Umpling, from September 10 to 19, 2020. Following the government’s SOP, during the 10-day training, the youths were taught various techniques of film making and content creation.

The program had training modules on ideation and brainstorming where the youths were taught how to ideate and communicate for developing progressive ideas and storytelling methods. The training was then followed by practical learning on scripting, screenplay, camera techniques, and video editing processes.

Monmi Chyrmang, a budding videographer from Shillong/Bangalore taught the team about several videography techniques which include camera techniques, important frame sizes, lighting, etc. He also held a one-day practical session with them to engage the trainees on how to handle camera equipment and create a short video at the same time.

He said, “I am very glad that NESFAS came up with such an initiative and I’m grateful to have been part of it. This is something that I have been wanting to do for a while now and I’ve finally got the opportunity to teach these young community members about videography in my native language (Khasi/Jaintia).”

Following the videography classes was the editing sessions conducted by Nixon Kharbithai, a seasoned professional who is armed with MTV EMA awards for his work with rap artists from Shillong. The training comprised mostly of video editing covering basic techniques and methodologies. He also undertook the effort to make the students understand the usage of a green and blue screen.

The next day, the trainees were asked to screen videos that they made throughout the training. The screening was held at the training centre and was aired via Zoom for the NESFAS team to view. The videos were shot and edited by the trainees at the centre and the videos in themselves bear testament to the fact that they have learned and acquired a new set of skills over the 10 days programme.

Bantei Syiem, one of the trainees, said, “The PV programme has been an eye-opener for me as I have an interest in photography and videography. This training has given me the confidence in how to communicate with people and how to document issues in my community and the state at large.” He added, “I urge the youths that if an opportunity comes by, then they should opt for such courses as it will enable them to strengthen their talents and at the same time such initiatives will also help in creating job opportunities.”

The third phase includes the trainees creating videos/films on several grassroots stories, indigenous knowledge, indigenous food systems, and many more. Under the guidance of the NESFAS team and the external resource persons, the youths are now preparing to start work on their final assignment before exploring this new venture independently.

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Damica M Mawlong
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