Some admirable short films make up the winners of the Ctrl+Alt+Shift film competition. Of particular note are ‘War School‘ and ‘No Way Through‘ (below) that use the technique of placing the violation in the audience’s world (if you live in the UK that is). I think this can be used just as powerfully in ‘constructed‘ still images, and wonder why it is not used more? I like it as it tries to tackle the gap between the audience’s world and that of the so-called ‘distant other‘ we can so readily ignore, even though we may extend our pity (geez, got to stop reading that academic stuff!).
Anyway, for me the power of visual media is its ability to try to bridge that gap, to get us to see others within our circle of concern, produce empathy, and so to extend our assistance.
This innate human capacity was discussed in some depth by Professor Conor Gearty, ex-Director the the LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights, in a lecture in May 2009, where he links Darwinism and human rights. Interesting stuff (plus he is very funny). In short Gearty focusses on reciprocal altruism, and how this works to extend our compassion to those at a distance as well as our immediate ‘clan‘. This can produce both great acts of humanity and atrocities, depending on whether we extend or close the circle of who we help. I particularly love his focus on what human rights mean as feelings and acts rather than laws and treaties, again pointing to the vital role visual media can play in the human rights movement with its power to touch us deeply.
Congratulations to Alexandra Monro & Sheila Menon for ‘No Way Through‘, and Ben Newman for ‘War School‘.
As yet another aside, you may wish to compare the above videos with this ad made by Amnesty International UK. This reverses the technique and puts the audience in the world of the ‘distant other‘. The implication being that the acts of individuals who are distant can have an impact on others’ lives. Whether this is disingenuous, even as a metaphor, is up for debate. A more interesting point is how the individuals are depicted as an outside intervening force to predominantly helpless people who seem rather irrelevant to the whole process, or at least don’t get much focus. Couldn’t each ‘saviour’ have been depicted with the person they ‘rescued’ rather than alone? Or could we have seen acts where individuals from (in this case the UK) joined others in protest or action, rather than them being passive?