Village Tales, which won the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Research in Film Award (2016) in the Innovation category, is a participatory film produced by Bournemouth University’s Dr Sue Sudbury. Here she tells us more about the project and what it set out to achieve.
“A group of young women in rural India were being trained as video reporters, as part of a local government initiative to give women a voice. As child brides, they chose to make their first film about the problems of child marriage, a continuing practice in their villages. In ‘Village Tales’ I film them as they made their film and find out how the project was changing their lives. I also asked four of them if they would use their cameras to film their everyday lives. What the women chose to film was entirely up to them. It was their decision to interview family members and friends about child marriage. When they came back to me with the footage that they’d shot I had no idea what it would contain.
“My intention was to locate ‘the third voice’ – a concept created by Barbara Myerhoff in which, through participatory research, the filmmaker’s and subjects’ contributions are edited together to form a new perspective. Through this innovative layering of footage from different cameras, I was aiming to give the audience a unique insight into the lives of rural women in India today.
“I also developed the use of video diary interviews to access the women’s thoughts and feelings, asking them to sit in front of the camera and speak directly into the lens in response to my questions. There were moments when I was filming, and the women would be telling very emotional stories, and they’d be crying. I may not have understood what their words meant but you could feel from the atmosphere in the room that they were sharing deeply personal stories. I hope people are moved by what they see and hear and empathise with the four women in the film and that the film breaks down the barriers between the audience and ‘the other’”.