The concept of participatory movies
The participatory movie method was applied in three of the four case study regions as part of the research trip in the beginning of 2012. The movies were produced to illustrate the local problem-based solutions that could be transferred. The concept of participatory movie making means that local stakeholders by themselves make a movie on their living conditions, problems they cope with in the region and what kind of solutions they figured out to overcome these problems. The methodology has been developed by Don Snowden in 1969 and has been established as a tool of community interaction since. The community members volunteered to make most parts of the filming and decided on which content is most important. As none of them had sufficient experience, they were introduced in central techniques and camera handling by the team. Jeanine Reutemann always accompanied them during the filming to improve their technical skills in the process.




Participatory movies in the case study regions
In the four case study regions the process of the participatory movie method actually resulted in three movies. Especially in Marujá (Brazil) the participatory video production worked excellent. The involved directors, the interviewed stakeholders and the local community were all very enthusiastic about the production process and the movie itself. Due to the confined area on the island, all locations of the movie where easy to reach. At the last day of the case study visit a raw cut of the film (20 min) was shown to the wider community. It was highly attended and a big success.

In both Tocantins (Brazil) and Osa (Costa Rica) the shooting and production of the participatory movies also lead to satisfying results, though it needed more supervision and technical support of the team in some parts of the stages of the production process (story line, shooting, interviewing and editing). During the visit to the case study regions it was not possible to finish a raw cut version of the movies and they could not be shown to the local communities. In these two case studies, the filming was done partially by stakeholders, CSO staff and Jeanine Reutemann. This will be done when the editing of both movies has been finished.


Tim Schloendorn – Institute for Environmental Decisions, ETH Zurich

Jeanine Reutemann – The Basel School of Design, FHNW Switzerland


Two participatory videos were produced as part of, a multi-stakeholder EU-FP7 research project on the transfer of successful, community-based management of environmental challenges in Latin America. The research team was composed of social scientists, policy researchers, an economist, a videographer and local partners in Maruja, Brazil and Térraba Sierpe, Costa Rica.

Technological prerequisites were not, as commonly done in participatory videos, only full-automatic camera mode but the participants were introduced to semi-professional cameras, visual language strategies and media theory. The creative process enabled by the enhanced technical possibilities and media-theoretical knowledge encouraged and motivated an aesthetic experience of the moving image by the participating »reflective amateur«.

The first case study, Maruja is a small village-community on an island in a state park on the atlantic coast in the very south-east of Sao Paulo State, Brazil. The local partner, Fundação de Apoio à Pesquisa Agrícola, is affiliated to the university of Sao Paulo and has conducted several research projects in the community of Maruja. Nevertheless, it does not have a permanent representation on the island leading to a weak connection to the community. The participants in the video production had no prior relation to the partner. Maruja is on the far side of digital divide, as there is only one land-line for the entire village and the next internet access point is a 2-hour boat riwde away.

The second case study, Térraba Sierpe is a region in the south-west of Costa Rica. The local partner, Fundación Neotrópica, has a permanent office in the region since 1993 and ran several participatory environmental projects in the area. The partner’s local representatives were recruited from the area and have strong ties to the community. All participants in the video production were either employed by the partner or had been involved in prior projects. Both phone and internet coverage are widespread in the region. Both case studies are located in sensitive coastal forest and revolve around eco-friendly mangrove management.

Comparing the two cases, we use the framework provided by Berghöfer & Berghöfer (2006) to categorize the different types of participation and extend their framework by adding media/technology as a fifth axis to their analysis.
We demonstrate how community access through an embedded organization, while crucial for classical, interview research, can inhibit the added value of practice-based participatory research, which fully flourishes only when trust building is required.

We also show the feasibility of producing high-quality video material with inexperienced stakeholders under the condition of having a professional videographer with media theory background in the facilitation team. While confirming the importance of process for the participatory project, we also claim that aesthetic quality is an underestimated factor in participatory video implementation with a wide range of positive impacts on the process and outcome. When producing high-quality video, the participants get more engaged as the »techné« can evoke a passion for the production process itself.

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