Street life : a case study on the social impact of participating in a film project on youths from the streets of Durban.
In the spring of 2010, I worked with four street youths from Durban to create a short fictional film based on their lives. There were two main components to this project: first, a series of drama workshops and second, the film-making process. The filmmaking process consisted of the participants improvising scenes based on their street lives that I captured on film. This project engaged with Theatre for Development and Participatory Video practices. The young man who initiated this project did so because he wanted to change people’s perceptions of youths who lived on the streets. Additionally, he wanted to change his own perceptions of himself. The film provided baseline data regarding how the participants viewed themselves and their lives on the streets. Analysis of interviews conducted after the completion of the project, when compared with the baseline data, demonstrated social impacts that occurred as a result of making the film. This data was coded and interpreted using François Matarasso’s (1997) positive criteria for the social impact of participating in arts projects as well as corresponding negative categories that I generated. The film, once coded, demonstrated that the participants felt negatively about their lives on the streets, with many examples emerging from the categories Lack of Social Cohesion and Lack of Agency. In contrast, the interviews revealed positive social impacts across all categories, but especially in relation to Personal Development, Local Image and Identity, and Community Empowerment and Self-Determination (Matarasso 1997). The participants reported that they felt differently about themselves as a result of the project. They also said that there had been a change in the way some people treated them. Findings revealed that the film project resulted in positive social impacts on the street youth participants. As a result of the film, they engaged in critical thinking and reflection related to Paulo Freire’s (1970) notion of praxis. They also wished for changes in their lives and in some cases enacted change. It was significant that social impacts and change extended to youths in difficult circumstances. In conclusion, this research proved that participating in the film project broadened and enriched the lives of the participants. Problems arose in terms of sustainability. Further projects and research are needed to establish the possible impacts from longterm and sustainable arts projects on youths from the streets.
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