“I get enraged when people start telling other people how to live their lives.”
- Brad Pitt, an American actor and producer. He has received a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and three Academy Award nominations in acting categories, and received three further Academy Award nominations, winning one, as producer under his own company Plan B Entertainment. Most recently, he produced The Big Short (2015), a biographical comedy-drama based on the 2010 non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis about the financial crisis of 2007–2008 that was triggered by the build-up of the housing market and the economic bubble, which garnered a nomination for Best Picture.
“I get enraged when people start telling other people how to live their lives.”
Difficult social problems are fiendishly difficult to communicate. For, these are issues about which experts disagree and citizen-voters, too. The causes are unclear, the solutions are unclear, and then there is the ideological deadweight that tends to drag meaningful debate and discussion all the way down to seedy depths. Above all, public debate on complex social problems also leads to framing battles: you frame the discussion to privilege the ‘solution’ you want. So, for instance: what do we do about homelessness in our cities? If you don’t want public funds spent on it, you frame it as an individual responsibility issue. You argue that the homeless need to pull themselves up by the straps of their dirty sneakers. If you want public funds spent on the problem, you frame the issue as a structural challenge. You ask for a focus on unemployment, targeted welfare schemes, improved care for the mentally ill and so on.
‘Chi-Raq’, Spike Lee’s new movie, tackles a horrendously difficult problem: the horrific and persistent gang violence in inner cities in the United States of America (and, by implication, several such places across the globe). His setting is the South Side of Chicago. The title of the movie is a play on Chicago and Iraq. The movie opens with these stunning statistics: while American deaths in the Iraq War between 2003 and 2011 came to 4,424, between 2001 and 2015 there were 7,356 homicides in Chicago. Think about that for a second: 7,356 homicides.
On December 3, 2015, hundreds of young people gathered at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) to join leaders and share their voices on climate change. The day was marked as the ‘Young and Future Generations Day,’ a chance for young people to have a seat at the table and share how they would define our future. Young people today are growing up with effects of climate challenge and this immediate threat makes them more leaders of today rather than tomorrow.
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
Many global citizens recognize Hollywood films— they are easily identified by their high production values and mostly predictable storylines. Many also recognize Bollywood films, with their glamor, romanticism, and show tunes. However, many are not aware that Nollywood, the film hub of Nigeria, is the second-ranked film mecca in the world.
Nigeria’s film industry is prolific, producing as many as 50 films a week or more than 1,200 films a year. Nollywood surpasses Hollywood in sheer volume and is gaining ground on Bollywood in India, which overtook the USA as the largest film producer in the 1970s and now has about double the output of Hollywood.
Nollywood films are typically low-budget, and revenues are small. One of the highest grossing Nollywood films so far is thought to be "Ije: The journey", which generated $500,000 when it was released in 2010. According to ThisIsNollywood.com, the average production “takes just 10 days and costs approximately $15,000.”
Bollywood generated revenues of $1.6 billion in 2012, and has been growing by around 10% a year. By 2016, revenue is expected to reach $4.5 billion, according to the DI International Business Development (DIBD), a consulting unit of the Confederation of Danish Industry. Bollywood also boasts intermediate production costs of around $1.5 million per movie.
Hollywood’s average budget per movie is $47.7 million per movie, with each taking about one year in production time. However, ticket prices are much higher in the US than in Nigeria and India and Hollywood generates much higher revenue – as much as $11 billion annually.
Blair Glencorse of the Accountability Lab discusses the importance of community-driven development and how filmmaking can engage people in accountability goals.Many organizations and development professionals have found that reaching initial benchmarks is sometimes easier than sustaining them. However, with clear goals, development progress can be sustained in the long-run.
According to Blair Glencorse of the Accountability Lab, setting goals that are context-specific is critical. The Accountability Lab, he says, meets “people where they are, not where we want them to be,” and takes into consideration the varying levels of literacy, numeracy, and other practical skills of their clients when designing a program.
At the same time, a program is only as strong as its supporters so encouraging community members to speak up is equally important.
Taking a holistic approach, the Accountability Lab works with young people in Liberia, training them to create documentaries on issues related to accountability. The up-and-coming filmmakers then present the documentaries to their communities at film festivals to spread awareness and get people involved in tackling the tough issues.
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on August 06, 2014
In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence.Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.
The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.
Watch the film to find out what Agha says about his life and what he thinks about terrorism. Then reconsider what you think are Pakistan’s greatest problems.
Each month, People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.
In August 2014, the most popular blog post was "Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak"
In this post, Senior Economist Margaret Miller and Economic Adviser Olga Jonas, in collaobration with the UNICEF Communication for Development Team (C4D), discuss the ways in which entertainment media can be used to raise awareness among publics facing a crisis and to support interventions by encouraging the adoption of safe behaviors.
Using entertainment media in this way to inform, educate and support behavior change is also known as entertainment education (EE). "Entertainment education is effective," states Miller and Jonas "because narratives or stories are emotionally powerful – they help us to organize information and to create the “mental models” that we use to make sense of the world and can help to explain why we behave in particular ways."
Read the blog post to learn more!
Several polls have shown that we citizens, in relation to the generic “environmentalist” agenda, stop short of enacting real changes in our habits and in our daily lives, changes that would help undo some of the ecological devastation we claim to be concerned about. For example, the alarm of global warming or climate change has been sounded repeatedly, but most people, collectively and individually, still generally turn a deaf ear— partially because they assume that the potential risks of rising sea levels and melting glaciers to be chronic, diffuse in time and space, natural, and not dreadful in their impact. Continued exposure to more alarming facts does not lead to enhanced alertness but rather to fading interest or “eco-fatigue,” which means we pay ‘lip service’ to many environmental concepts, or we just become increasingly apathetic. In short, we are essentially armchair environmentalists.
The burgeoning civic discourse on environmental issues must confront this apathy. Our perspectives are, at large, influenced by public hearings and mass-mediated government accounts: we learn about environmental problems by reading reports of scientific studies in national and local newspapers, by watching nature documentaries, listening to public radio, and by attending public events. However, environmental concern is a broad concept that refers to a wide range of phenomena – from awareness of environmental problems to support for environmental protection – that reflect attitudes, related cognitions, and behavioral intentions toward the environment. In this sense, public opinion and media coverage play a significant role in eliciting questions, causing changes, resolving problems, making improvements, and reacting to decisions about the environment taken by local and national authorities.
So here is our question: what kind of environmental risk communicators do we really need?
At the basis of communication and public policy are assumptions about human beings- their rationality or irrationality, their foibles, wants and preferences. A lot depends on whether these assumptions are correct. In this feature, we bring you fascinating examples of human behavior from across the globe.
A recent article in The New York Times, “Divining Why One Film Spurs Activism, While Others Falter” highlights the work of Participant Media, an entertainment company that produces film, television, publishing and digital content that inspires social change. According to Participant Media’s website, the company “launches campaigns that bring together government entities, foundations, schools, and others to raise awareness and drive people to take action on issues from each film or television show.”
But all of this begs the question: are these films successful in doing what they set out to do? Do people learn from the films and change their ways? What pushes us beyond social media activism to stand up and do something about our outrage?