AN INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON DOCUMENTARIES’ SOCIAL IMPACT POTENTIAL

Since 2008, the HUMAN International Documentary Film Festival has hosted an annual forum focussing on how to create and strengthen documentaries’ ability to change attitudes, societal structures and policies, and on how relevant documentaries can be used in a practical manner as part of social impact work. To these annual seminars we have invited experts from abroad to important discussions on social impact, human rights work, collaboration and funding.

With this seminar HUMAN IDFF invites you to a forum which is useful and interesting to people working in the documentary film industry, with NGO’s or with funds allocated to documentary film production.

In 2012 the festival arranged its first Filmmakers/Changemakers seminar, The Power of Documentaries. Among the speakers were the filmmakers Margreth Olin and Thomas Østbye, together with filmmakers from the UK and Afghanistan. One of the aims of the seminar was to bring human rights organizations and documentary filmmakers together to lay the foundation for collaborations that can strengthen documentary productions on human rights issues and so that these films can be used actively in human rights work and in this way expand its audience.

One of this year’s discussions focused on the documentary How to Start a Revolution and the imporant role it has played in making the non-violence strategies developed by Gene Sharp and The Albert Einstein Institution known to a big international audience. Gene Sharp‘s ideas and books on non-violent strategies has had a tremendous impact on political work around the globe, with a special focus on non-violent resistance against repressive regimes. Gene Sharp attended the festival himself, together with the director of How to Start a Revolution, Ruaridh Arrow.

In 2013 the festival invited GoodPitch and BritDoc to Norway, together with the company PUMA, which has invested extensively in documentary productions focusing on human rights issues and other social challenges. GoodPitch is for the present the only large-scale international forum arranged on a regular basis with the aim of bringing together documentary filmmakers, funders, NGOS and others working with human rights issues and driven by an intention to provoke social change. As part of the one-day seminar, there was also a speed dating-workshop, where filmmakers met with representatives from various NGOs to discuss their new film projects, which resultied in a total of 180 one-to-one meetings.

In 2014 Dan Cogan, founder of Impact Partners, a New York based investment company, visited the festival and talked about his company’s experience with investing in documentaries that both give them a profit while at the same time achieves a strong social impact. Impact Partners has invested in a number of well know documentaries, amongst these Big Men, about oil extraction in Ghana. Its director Rachel Boynton, in conversation with investor Dan Cogan, talked from her perspective as a filmmaker about making social impact through film and about the relation between an independent filmmaker and a commercial investor such as Impact Partners.

In 2015 the internationally acclaimed activist group The Yes Men held a workshop titled Filmmaking and Activism: How to Create Change.

In 2016 the organisation Witness participated in the seminar with representatives from New York and Kuala Lumpur, and discussed their educational work within video documentation of human rights violations.

In 2017 the focus of the Filmmakers/Changemakers seminar was on journalistic objectivity and constructive journalism as a method, combined with presentations and a panel discussion on how filmmakers can develop fruitful and constructive collaborations with NGOs in a way that strengthens their film’s ability to create social change and reach a broader audience. Among the speakers were Cathrine Gyldensted, director of Constructive Journalism department at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands and filmmaker and producer Femke van Velzen, who established the Mobile Cinema Foundation in The Congo to screen her education films on sexualized violence in villages with no access to cinemas. Norwegian filmmaker Margreth Olin and Anne Kari Garberg from The Future in our hands – FIOH, Norway’s largest environmental organization working for a fair distribution of the world’s resources, took part in the panel discussion.

In 2018 the seminar Making Change discussed social impact as method and practice. Documentary filmmakers often aim beyond merely entertaining their audience. They want their film to provoke actual change – that is, change in behaviours, beliefs and values within a group, system, institution or community. Social entrepreneurs, NGOs and companies have also discovered the potential in documentary film to initiate change in policy making or societal structures. Some private financiers even ask for a social impact strategy before they decide to invest in documentary film productions. Making a solid social impact strategy is therefore key to releasing your documentary’s potential.

In this seminar, we went through the steps of making a strong impact strategy, and gave filmmakers and film workers a hands-on guide to achieving the effects they would like their film to have. Deputy Director of Doc Society and Good Pitch Europe Outreach Director, Nicole van Schaik, gave us the practical tools for making a good social impact strategy. Following her presentation, there were presentations and evaluations of the campaigns of three new film projects: Thank You for the Rain, 500 Years and Burma Storybook. All three films were screened at the festival and represented by the films directors and producers. The seminar closed off with a panel discussion.