Video Journalism can be dehumanizing. Everything and everyone is perceived through the lens. The barrier between you and the subject can be significant. As a videographer, I am responsible for getting the video even if I have to make some people uncomfortable. Even words used for cameras are violent like “shoot” the video or “capture” the action.
From this perspective, the people we take videos of can feel inhuman. There is a language barrier, cultural barrier, and now visual barrier. The interviews we do are mostly one dimensional. They are about refugee related things. We don’t really get to know the people. It makes sense since we don’t have all the time in the world and probably will never see them again. We go in and out. We don’t get to see the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them feel human on a deeper level.
I understand intellectually that everyone of the people we meet is a human being. But, it doesn’t always feel like it. It can seem like we are intruders or exotic objects from the looks we get.
Seeing the students’ show is what made the humanity click for me. Instead of being a two-dimensional video, they became multidimensional human beings. Seeing the smiles on their faces as they showed us what they had practiced made my heart smile. They played a piece using indigenous instruments, performed a poem, sang, and danced. Seeing such a multidimensional view of their culture and themselves left me in awe. It gave me a glimpse of what is happening here. There is tremendous suffering, but that is not where the story ends. There is beauty and hope still growing here. Their smiles are worth the effort to create a better future for them. It signifies a life that is changed. It is a gift no money can buy.
The temptation to view the refugees and their stories as objects happens minimally. Just during the first interview, my perspective about the documentary changed. The way the interviewees responded to our presence surprised me. People stare at the bus. Children sometimes wave. The interviewees are so grateful that we are listening to their story and sharing it. Their facial expressions and bodily movements all showed this. It was moving for me. I thought we were just going to create a documentary about the south Sudanese refugees. Now, I realize we are giving the world eyes to see the neglected struggles of these human beings. We are letting the world glimpse at hearts which nothing can destroy.