The world is a narrative.
Our lives are a narrative.
We are all part of one global narrative that is unfolding day by day. One global ensemble film.
It is no surprise then that films reflect the ongoing narrative of our world.
We can tell a lot about our world by the kinds of films that are being made.
Mark Cousins’ ‘the story of film‘, in either it’s written or TV form, is an expansive history of the narrative of film in the world. It beautifully conveys the overarching narratives in film and how they directly correlate to moments in history.
As someone who is deeply passionate about film and culture, I enjoy analysing these connections and I want to begin a series looking at different periods in the worlds story and how films reflect that. Using that as a basis, I then want to connect that into current youth work practice.
Found footage “is a genre of film making, especially horror, in which all or a substantial part of a film is presented as discovered film or video recordings, often left behind by missing or dead protagonists. The events on screen are seen through the camera of one or more of the characters involved, who often speaks off screen. Filming may be done by the actors themselves as they recite their lines, and shaky camera work is often employed for realism. While the genre dates back at least as far as 1980s Cannibal Holocaust, it was popularised after the release of such films as The Blair Witch Project (1999), Paranormal Activity (2007) and Cloverfield (2008).”
Now one can simply say that the reason for the sheer quantity of these types of narratives in recent years is a financial one. They are cheap to make. Simple. And in one sense that is true. But the question that must then be asked is, “why are they so popular?” Let me offer a couple of thoughts.
Since 9/11 the news has been filled with images and scenes from ordinary cameras; from members of the public. We have grown accustomed to shaky cam footage of war and other atrocities. Social media outlets like youtube, facebook and twitter, and the rise of the smart phone have allowed the general public to document the news as it happens. It has become part of our culture. It is embedded in our psyche. We associate shaky cam footage with reality; authenticity. Also, the rise of reality shows, beginning with Big Brother in 2000, also demonstrates our obsession with, so-called, reality.
And studios and filmmakers are well aware of this. It seems obvious then that in order to make films appear more real and authentic, they are made as found footage films. Shot on lo-fi tech they seem to produce reality. But, as we are all aware, they are not. ‘reality’ and ‘authenticity’ in film is simply a technique. It is a means to an end. It is just as superficial green or blue screens and special FX.
We want authenticity. We want to be transported from our real worlds and pry on someone elses. We want to snoop on other peoples lives. We see real footage on the news all the time and we want that in the cinema too.
I think, for youthworkers, this is both exciting and challenging.
Through this genre of film, we can empower young people to tell their story. It has never been easier for young people to make a film and showcase it online to friends and family. This is an area we should be exploiting (if that is the correct phrase) in our youth work.
Secondly, we need to make sure that we are being truly authentic in our relationships. “Found footage’ films appear to be real but they’re not and we can pretend to care about young people and their welfare but in reality we might not. The rise of scripted reality dramas like ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘The Only Way is Essex’ are a worrying trend because I believe they may be even more manipulative than ‘found footage’ films.
What is our agenda in youth work? Are we happy to get to know young people and that be the goal, or are we always trying to push them towards something?
What are your motives in youth work?