The Other Side of the Other
Can participatory filmmaking cultivate empathy among children from different backgrounds?
Participatory filmmaking enables groups that would never encounter each other in “real life” to engage with one another. Such interactions foster open-mindedness and lay the foundation for character strengths. Theater and role playing challenge children to inhabit the body of others who have different experiences from them. This act of imagination is the first step on the road to solidarity with and forgiveness for those who are outside, or even in conflict with the child’s social community.
This project aims to use the practice and art of filmmaking to cultivate empathy and compassion among children from eight vastly different socio-cultural contexts in Brazil that often clash with one another, including:
- indigenous Guarani people and white farmers
- a quilombo (runaway slave colony) and the beach town below it
- rural families of German descent and the urban children of a prosperous nearby town
- the traditional inhabitants of the Island of Santa Catarina and the new migrants to their land.
Children from one community will imagine and make a film showing how they envision life in another. The children will then come together for two days of unstructured play where they can engage with one another. Films will also be shared with parents, children, and teachers from the various communities involved.
Interviews with participants from a previous experiment suggest that filmmaking can help children develop and express character strengths like empathy, solidarity, curiosity, creativity, willpower, and dedication. This project aims to prove this hypothesis. Using a mixed methods evaluation, the team will investigate the extent to which children express and demonstrate increased empathy as a result of participation in the project. A total of 80 children will participate, and evaluation will include pre- and post-measures of empathy drawn from established scales, as well as anthropological methods and narrative analysis.