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Want to make Ireland more equal? The woman behind 'No Country For Women' is running a documentary Master-Class this weekend

Documentaries are powerful ways to inform citizens in the age of disinformation and fake news.

If there was one key takeaway from this year’s historic repeal of the 8th Amendment, it’s that the media’s collective storytelling of ordinary everyday citizens can enable monumental political change. 

Ireland abortion laws Source: Niall Carson

Our millennial generation, and the generation above and below us, effectively use social media to situate personal stories in a wider political context: the #IBelieveHer and #MeToo movements being prime examples of the power of collective storytelling.

However, the baby boomer generation generally absorbs information and creates narratives about a political situation through the use of medias such as newspapers, television, and radio. These mediums are what we would call ‘traditional media’, although the latter two are only inventions of the last century.

shutterstock_286463882 Source: Shutterstock/Tom Tom

The old adage of ‘you are what you eat’ can be applied to today’s world: You are what media you consume and you vote informed by what you consume.

Reaching older generations about issues directly affecting millennials – issues like the environment, rent prices, sex education, overworked junior doctors, and childcare costs – is vitally important to our democratic process. To get our issues heard by the huge voting block of older generations, millennials have to get our foot in the door of traditional media.

Although important mediums, only relying on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and podcasts to discuss our issues will not lead to change in the polling booth at the next general election.

90408676 Source: Rollingnews.ie

One medium in Ireland where more young voices, particularly women’s voices are needed, is in documentary making. 

Anne Roper who created RTÉ’s in-house TV Documentary Unit, says that broadcasting documentaries do extremely well here in Ireland, capturing up to 25-30% of the available viewership. This is a tremendously large platform that could be utilised by young documentary filmmakers to discuss issues that affect them.

ann

The name Anne Roper may not be familiar to you, but her work this summer certainly will be. 

Nearly exactly one month after the Eighth Amendment was repealed, RTÉ aired Anne’s Irish-made documentary series ‘No Country For Women, to mass critical acclaim.

For those of you who didn’t see it, ‘No Country For Women’ was an equal parts fascinating and disturbing documentary that compiled and told the harrowing and hidden stories of the inhumane ways that Ireland has treated its cis-female citizens.

Anne, the creator and director of ’No Country For Women’ first conceptualised the idea of  the two part series in October 2016.

Constantly on the lookout for what the zeitgeist of a time will be, Anne was aware that 6th February 2018 would mark the 100 year centenary of women over the age of 30 gaining the right to vote (universal suffrage was not given to women under 30 as due to the deaths of men during World War One women as a voting block would have been larger than men).

Centenary of the Representation of the People Act Source: PA

Anne says that when making the documentary she had no idea that 2018 would be the landmark year that choice in pregnancy would be given to Irish citizens. 

This weekend, Anne will be a course instructor in a documentary Master-Class run by Feature Film School . The course will be held in Temple Bar from 10:00-16:00 on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th October and costs €200.

bankhouse Source: Bankhouse productions

This may seem like a lot of money, but it’s €16.66 per hour to be taught by Anne, an award-winning Executive Producer, journalist and documentary maker. Even from a social justice perspective, Anne is also extremely impressive as she was a volunteer for several years during the early day’s of Dublin’s Rape Crisis Centre and Dublin’s Well Woman Centre in the late 1970s and early 1980s.   

Anne’s career in the media started off as a necessity in order to pay her way through university. She turned her hand to freelance journalism, alongside running an art gallery. Her work as a journalist was noticed and Anne got the opportunity to become a researcher in RTÉ. Anne used that launchpad to become involved in every aspect of the creation process of making documentaries: originating, researching, writing, producing, directing and shooting. 

Rugby Union - Tetley's Bitter Cup - Fourth Round - Coventry v Leicester Source: EMPICS Sport

The Master-class this weekend will teach the fundamentals of documentary making ‘from script to screen’, and Anne says she will try to tailor the class to the needs of the students who attend. 

When we discuss the impact of social media, Anne’s view was balanced. She believes that social media has been groundbreaking in ‘democratizing’ the media, and welcomes it as a platform that allows us to hear others voices:

What I love about the #MeToo and Brett Kavanaugh case – despite it being very distressing – [is that] it’s not giving those who have been sexually abused a voice but also giving lots of people the courage to say ‘I don’t have to take this’ or ‘I can stand up for myself’. Even if it’s about wages or work situations.

United States: March to End Rape Culture in Philadelphia Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

However, she warns that we ‘must be careful about the influences on it’ and be aware that each story has more nuances than a 280 character tweet can convey.

Meanwhile, documentaries can be a profoundly powerful medium to enable change in one’s perspective. Anne enthusiastically explains that: 

The best documentaries take you on a journey to think outside one’s comfort zone.

It’s a similar sentiment to Former First Lady Michelle Obama, who said:

For so many people, television and movies may be the only way they understand people who aren’t like them. 

FL: 2018 When We All Vote Rally With Michelle Obama - Miami, Florida Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

We desperately need older generations to understand the concerns of our generation and to do that we desperately need more millennials represented behind the camera. 

We have more than enough of one type of gaze. 

Royal Ascot Cameraman Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Society needs more diverse gazes and more diverse voices addressing and documenting the issues facing Ireland and facing humanity. 

To take part in the Master-Class, visit here or email info@featurefilmschool.ie. Beginners are welcome. 

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