The session this week included only Carmen and Marcos. The others were having an exam in computers. Marisol (who you know as coordinator of education and my right hand “man”) and Erin (a new hire at Maya Traditions) were with me today. Erin is the new director of development and was interested to learn more about the project first hand.
Even with only two student, things moved along as planned. The focus today was to follow up on the ideas from the previous week. That is, we focused on the different between conversations and interviews. Our goal in doing these documentaries is to capture the ideas, beliefs, and knowledge of the community. At this moment, most of the video interviews are didactic In their defense, we did focus on creating open-ended interview questions. The idea of using those questions solely launching points for discussion and not scripts is a little lost on them. Just “telling” them this has not seemed to impact their interview styles. The question at hand: How do we help make their process more ethnographic?
I find myself thinking about the power of modeling and examples. These often facilitiate new ways of seeing things. Luckily, we had an example from from last week – the conversation between Gustavo and the girls. We also had translations from the interviews that Emilio, Marcos, and Carmen did.
I reminded Marcos and Carmen of the conversation with Gustavo. But what seemed to be more powerful was the visual example of Emilio’s translated (KChe to Spanish) interview. I asked, “Why is this interview good?” The conversation evolved and we eventually got the the point of agreeing that this was a personal account of someone’s personal experience with alcoholism (Emilio’s topic). Emilio had allowed the person to express her knowledge of the theme, her beliefs related to it and her personal – and difficult – account.
Erin interjected at this point. She the goal of allowing the audience to become more connected with the community by allowing us to capture meaning, feeling, and personality.
With this in mind, we reviewed the films that Carmen completed over the past week. We discussed the what the differences were – both in the way that conversation was framed and how the video was shot. Carmen understood the difference in the interview style. She also realized that she forgot the video techniques that Drew taught her. Each time it becomes more clear that this process of catching emotion was a combination of both words and images. It was a perfect “teachable moment”.
We took advantage of putting what we learned into practice right away. We packed up our equipment and off we went into the community to search for people to interview. What I found out quickly was that the kids were not independently going into the community to do this work because they felt a little timid about doing so. As a team though, they felt more empowered to make this happen. It took a few tries before one person agreed to be interviewed. Carmen worked as a professional (and looked like one!) to create a comfortable setting for this amiable volunteer. Together, Marcos and Carmen began shooting. Carmen – the words; Marcos – the images.
The results yielded an obvious shift. Although not many of us can understand K’Che, we can just see by the body language that this interview is a more natural conversation that Carmen creates. Step by step, they are becoming video ethnographers!