Wednesday, 24 June 2009

First day of training

I spent Tuesday in a town near Nablus, running a preliminary training workshop with a media NGO here (I'll give the details once I leave..) Hundreds of cameras were distributed around the West Bank as part of a programme to document human rights abuses and so far it's been a huge success, footage broadcast around the world on international news channels. Now I've been hired to run a few workshops and training sessions - a review for some and an introduction to those who have just picked up their cameras for the first time. We're aiming to bring the skill level up a notch, to facilitate them eventually making their own short films.

There are several brave families in the room. Husbands and wives, some young children, all of them volunteered for the programme because they could both see the value of it, and wanted the feeling of having a role in documenting their own lives. Tired of seeing the news and finding so may holes in the representation of Palestinian lives. Tired of taking their cases to court only to be told "where's the evidence?" Now they have evidence. Things won't change overnight, but at the least the possibility for a video camera to empower these families is promising.

Bassam, on the right in the photograph, never used a camera before. He came to the workshops because a friend told him about it, and he liked the idea of documenting what he was going through in his village of 'Aqraba. 144,000 Dunums of farm land, it's on the border with the Jordan Valley, and as the whole of the Jordan Valley is under military law (far more strict than that in the West Bank) the authorities keep creeping into 'Aqraba. They restrict the movement of 'Aqraba farmers, they take a little more land, they take a little more water, they suddenly designate an area as a closed military zone. Things are getting worse, Bassam explains.

Maybe the cameras can help...

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