What kind of film would YOU make about migration?

Family-friendly workshop, UNESCO RILA Spring School 2022: The Arts of Integrating

We are surrounded by different popular depictions of migration, from the films we watch to discussions on social networks and the photographs we see in broadcast media. All of them shape our understanding of what it is like to be displaced and have to travel elsewhere to make a new home.

This workshop will focus on the role that films play in mediating our understanding of migration, and it will give participants the chance to experiment with different ways of narrating migration themselves, by working together to write a screen play for a film featuring a story of migration. The aim is to explore the complex feedback loop between narrative and reality, whereby the stories we share do not just reflect the world we live in but shape how we think, feel and behave.

In looking critically at the film narratives that impact us (both individually and collectively), participants will be able to explore the values that these narratives promote and the kinds of behaviours they encourage us to adopt. The range of films we will discuss is wide, including films such as King Kong (1939), The Terminal (2004), Paddington (2014), Limbo (2020). Films matter because they address a variety of social and cultural issues of our times and have a subtle yet wide-ranging impact on how we see the world around ourselves. They tap into cultural symbols and metaphors which we take for granted, and which are deeply ingrained in our thinking about current social issues. Film watching is also a social activity, with an important role in disseminating messages and influencing beliefs. 

In experimenting with storytelling themselves, participants will have an opportunity to reflect on their own agency and responsibilities as storytellers and on the world-building nature of stories as they become producers (not just consumers) of a narrative of migration. Through a series of small-group exercises, they will analyse familiar habits of storytelling around migration, examine the ideas/ideals/ideologies they promote, and then work together to discuss what habits they want to keep and break as they write part of a screen play for an imaginary film about migration. The process of building characters, giving them dialogue, plotting a narrative arc, and imagining their target audience will develop understanding of the ways that stories work on us – and the power they have to build social relations and promote community.  

The workshop will draw on the Young Academy of Scotland’s Charter for Responsible Debate, as a way of prompting reflection on how we talk about migration in public contexts and (above all) how we can do so in ways that help people identify common ground and shared purpose. Delivered by Dr Alice König (St Andrews) and Dr Mirna Solic (Glasgow), it will feed into the research they are currently doing on how we visualise the rupture of forced migration and how to talk about migration.

Glasgow, Thursday 12th May, 2022.