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.
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
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?
“I think the documentary, as a form, actually speaks to what’s missing. Our politicians don’t say anything any more: they just refute and assert. I think the documentary is something that people are hungry for, that it embodies careful thought, nuance.”
-- Beeban Kidron. A British Film Director.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
International development according to Hollywood
“International development is just about at the bottom of the list of things that the average American thinks about each day.
Foreign bureaus are closing for major US news sources. One of the big television networks turned down more money for global health reporting after a series, entirely funded by grants, led to a dip in viewers. In other words ratings were so bad that the network turned down millions of dollars. It is that tough.
Aside from advocacy efforts like Kony 2012 and Oxfam advertisements, how are people learning about the world around them if they are not reading the news? The answer could be Hollywood.” READ MORE
I’ve never been to Colombia nor do I have the slightest idea of what it’s like to be involved with drug lords smuggling people across borders, but I remember what it was like to watch Maria Full of Grace, a movie about a pregnant Colombian teenager that agrees to become a drug mule in a desperate attempt to support her family. Following Maria’s journey from the streets of Bogota, where she worked in sweat shop like conditions at a flower plantation, to the illicit world of the drug trade that transports her to the city of New York, was an incredibly intense and emotional experience for me. Yes, I am a crier and this movie was both terrifying and tearful. But outside of the emotional appeal, did it provide me with an education on Colombian society? Was it a true depiction of criminals exploiting the vulnerabilities of the poor? Did it shape my view of international drug enforcement policies in the U.S.? These are the type of questions that authors of a new World Bank study entitled, The Projection of Development, try to answer in their compelling research on the interface between cinema and development.
By examining an interesting range of historical and contemporary films that touch on a wide variety of development issues—such as poverty, urban violence, conflict and war, and human rights—this paper explores the power and limitations of cinematograhic representation as an authoritative source of development knowledge. It focuses primarily on dramatic films rather than documentaries. Interestingly, it draws on a selection of popular films that have been successful in the global north, including City of God, The Constant Gardner, Missing, and The Year of Living Dangerously. As noted in the report, the authors are acutely aware of this northern bias, but they hope to encourage further research that will explore films from India, South Africa, Nigeria, and South Korea, among other places.
In my last blog, I wrote about a medium that plays a critical role in post-conflict reconciliation: art. I argued that the cultural industries—film, music, crafts, architecture, and theater, among other art forms—provide important benefits to post-conflict societies; therefore, policies that encourage the development and growth of these industries should be a critical part of a country’s comprehensive post-conflict reconstruction plan. In a further reflection on these points, this blog examines the story of Rwanda, a post-conflict society that is using film, theater, music, and other creative industries in its journey toward reconciliation and rebuilding.
- Social Development
- Social Impact of Art
- Rwanda Basket weaving Public Engagement in Arts
- Post-conflict Societies
- Post-conflict Reconstruction
- Post-Conflict Reconciliation
- post-conflict Countries
- fragile states
- Cultural Policies and Development
- Creative Industries
- Creative Economies and Development
- Art and Peace
- Art and Healing
Lights, camera, action! It’s a clichéd phrase that we more often associate with the movie business and not the World Bank. In the past the Bank has financed schools, hospitals, power stations but now we are looking for new areas to finance. So why the movie business? Nigeria’s movie industry, euphemistically known as “Nollywood” is the world’s most prolific, churning out more than 40 full-length feature films every week. It employs about 500,000 people directly and perhaps double that indirectly. And yet there is tremendous scope for growth.
Most of the movies are low budget affairs. Want to make a movie in Naija – it only takes $25,000 and a couple of days with local producers using gorilla film-making techniques. They make low budget movies filmed on site in cheap locations (hotel rooms and offices), with improvised sound and light. The result, sometimes grainy, sometimes inaudible, ham acting at its best – but for Nollywood fans it is totally watchable, gripping action that they can relate to. African stories for an African audience.