Participatory Video: Wapikonimobile

As many of us already know, the people we see in mainstream media are generally not representative of the public at large. Although efforts have been made in recent decades to make our media more reflective of our population, some groups are still sadly under-represented. In Canada, the First Nations, or natives, are unfortunately nearly absent from both our big and small screens.

After discovering photo-voice last April, I learned of another wonderful project here in Quebec that uses participatory video (PV), another means of giving a voice to marginalized peoples. PV gives communities the opportunity to tell their stories, explore issues and be proactive in finding their own solutions, while the end product, the video itself, serves to show their lives to the outside world.

After the extraordinary experience of making films with youth in the First Nations community of Wemotaci and with homeless youth in Quebec City, Manon Barbeau drew on her inspiration to create Wapikonimobile, a traveling film-making and music-recording outfit, which has been crisscrossing the province since 2004. Barbeau wanted to offer native youth a type of forum where they could exchange among peers, develop an appreciation for their culture, learn some technical skills and fulfill their dreams in a substance-free environment.

The National Film Board of Canada and other partners provided the necessary support to make the project possible. The Wapikonimobile has since traveled more than 16,000 km to First Nations communities throughout the province. The team of instructors arrives in a community and teaches a group of 12 youth the art of film making, editing and music recording. After the project is completed, there is an area presentation.

Last October 13, there was the annual mini-festival in Montreal featuring 13 of the best shorts to come out of the Wapikonimobile project in 2009. In addition, the first permanent studio was inaugurated in Wemotaci in 2006, and there are plans for more permanent studios in other communities. Barbeau's long term goal is to set up a series of studios to form the first Aboriginal audiovisual production co-operative in North America.

A short to come out of this project, "War of Life," is a 7-minute short about a young woman who questions her Mohawk identity. NB: You will hear the narrator speak of Native Americans. Please bear in mind that the Mohawks live in Quebec, Ontario and New York State.

Related posts:
Photo-voice: girl behind the camera
Doc Review: Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh


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