Diasporic Film in Communities: A scoping study of the relationship between screen culture, stakeholders and communities

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: School of Social Sciences

Abstract

This project will scope the relationship between Diasporic communities and Diasporic film. Starting from the premise that community means different things to different people, it will explore the struggles and processes that take place in how various ideas of community and connectivity are constructed or acted upon in relation to Diasporic screen culture. Broadly, it will investigate how different communities come to inhabit certain kinds of film as culture.

The proposed research involves collaborative activities in partnership with the British Film Institute, the lead advocate for film, film culture and film education in the UK. Four events (a seminar and three workshops) will be held, designed to facilitate a space where postcolonial Diasporic screen audiences discuss how diasporic film shapes their ideas and values about community, and vice versa. A further dimension of the project will look at how the concept of 'community' is approached by cultural organisations that design public projects and programmes around Diasporic film. The project therefore examines the relationship between cultural products, organisations and communities as a dynamic interaction between those who organise and exhibit cultural products, and those who not only interpret the film but process the film experience in a variety of ways.

Diasporic screen culture is used here as both a conceptual frame and case study through which to explore wider themes of community. Community has become an increasingly disputed term and thus fertile ground for an examination of its formation around screen cultures. Specifically, the Diasporic Film in Communities project seeks to help gain a better understanding of community in a contested multicultural moment. The current fascination of researching screen cultures is that, whilst complex modes of migration, globalisation and media consumption develop; the centrality of screen culture persists even in the midst of such change.

Whilst Diasporic film has meaning beyond the contexts of Diasporic audiences and Diasporic audiences engage with a range of screen culture (not just Diasporic film), there are two primary motivations for bringing Diasporic communities and film together in the proposed research. The first is because of the possible experiences that this mode of cinema (ranging from avant-garde practice to more commercially-oriented, from local to global) produces for communities of the postcolonial Diaspora; for example in the context of identification, memory, popular pleasures, audience interpretations or dominant 'structures of feeling'. Does Diasporic cinema offer a space where communities can define or redefine themselves (as an alternative perhaps to more mainstream representations)? Does film language (including music and cinematography), structure, stylistic conventions or point-of-view evoke particular or indeed multiple responses or affects for these communities? A second motivation is that cultural organisations that support and exhibit Diasporic film often target or construct public programmes around particular Diasporic communities and establish consultative community partnerships as part of their broader institutional audience development or diversity strategies. The rationale, structures and processes involved - such as how community is conceptualised, how relationships are developed and sustained and the way in which these organisations and communities interact with each other - have, to date, been under- explored.

The research will be structured in three parts: 1) A critical review of academic literature, 2) An overview of cultural policy documentation and strategies supported by observation of a BFI public diasporic film programme and 3) Consultation with diasporic cultural groups (African-Caribbean, South Asian and Chinese) in collaboration with BFI Education. The dissemination will facilitate an exchange between academics, communities and cultural organisations.

Planned Impact

The Diasporic Film in Communities project aims to create pathways to impact in various ways. Chiefly, it aims to have an impact on communities by inviting individual and group reflections on the screen experience and community life. It also aims to have an impact on public cultural policy by inviting cultural organisations to think critically about how they conceptualise 'community' in their programmes and strategies.

The project proposes a partnership with a non-academic partner, the British Film Institute, in order to extend the reach of the research and directly involve a cultural organisation in a piece of academically-led research. The BFI will use existing connections and hope to build new links within the academic and non-academic community through the research and most obviously in the proposed seminar and workshops. To ensure that the project will reach potential beneficiaries and that they have the opportunity to engage with the research, a marketed programme of events will be circulated to people working within film education and cultural film programming, ie. Libraries, Arts institutions, freelance film teachers. This will include print copy as well as targeted e-flyers which will be circulated widely.

The Diasporic Film in Communities project will work with various cultural groups and communities (through the proposed collaborative activities). Since collaborative activities are explicitly built into the project, a range of Diasporic community groups will be consulted through the course of the project and specifically during the four proposed events. It is intended that the findings act as a methodological and theoretical template for future research on communities and screen culture. The BFI will actively market the Diasporic Film in Communities project and also produce a report which they will edit, design, publish and distribute widely. Development of the project will involve careful consultation with regard to the individual sessions for particular communities and will select content according to the particular needs of the group. In addition key members will be given the opportunity and support to contribute to the panel discussion following screening of the film.

The workshops and seminar will provide fora for communities to make their voices and views heard and their contributions felt. They will directly be asked to consider what community and connectivity mean to them in relation to screen culture. Events will provide opportunity for academic and non-academic users to share knowledge about the scope of film culture and for a general exchange of information. Networking opportunities are always an invaluable outcome of bringing a wide community together under the umbrella of a common interest. This potential will be incorporated into the design of the event and include such materials as a list of attendees with email contact and details of relevant organisations. The project will feed into ideas for further research involving other cultural organisations (beyond the BFI) and communities.

The project will go on to disseminate its research findings widely. The PI and the BFI will collectively document findings and produce a critical knowledge base and practical framework for future screen culture/community contexts targeted at a range of stakeholders. One of the objectives of the scoping study is to support cultural organisations in how they reflect on their own practice around how Diasporic communities and screen culture are developed and in how communities are engaged. The research review and compilation of research materials will serve as reference work for project iteration and continuity as well as summary of evidence gathered during the four public events. The outputs and dissemination that have been outlined in the proposal are designed to facilitate an exchange of knowledge between the academic/research community, wider communities and cultural organisations.
 
Description This project involved collaborative activities in partnership with the British Film Institute, the lead advocate for film, film culture and film education in the UK. Four events (a seminar and three workshops) included selected participatory screenings of Diasporic films. These events were designed to facilitate a space where postcolonial Diasporic screen audiences (specifically African-Caribbean, South Asian and Chinese) could discuss how screen culture (used broadly to accommodate the moving image including video and DVD imports and alternative platforms for non-mainstream cinema) shape their ideas and values about community. A further dimension of the project looked at how the concept of 'community' is approached by cultural organisations that design public projects and programmes around Diasporic film. The project therefore examined the relationship between cultural products, organisations and communities as a dynamic interaction between those who organise and exhibit cultural products, and those who not only interpret the film but process the film experience in a variety of ways.
The project has 3 main findings:
1. Strong feelings of cultural and group identity are formed through film
2. Race and power are high on the agenda for Diasporic publics in how they talk about film culture and programming.
3. 'Cultural brokering' raises critical dilemmas for understanding the film/community nexus.
Exploitation Route The project produced a scoping study that has resulted inclose collaboration with media audiences, programmers and linked the public with a leading national cultural organisation (the British Film Institute).
The findings of the research and summary of evidence gathered during the stakeholder engagement activities highlight that cultural film programming and participation is a broad and complex area for research. It was always the intention that this exploratory work could generate further insight in the field. A number of recommendations for future research have emerged from the scoping study. In particular:
¦ To build on the links established through this scoping study and plan collaborative research that foregrounds the significance of lived differences in how various communities experience film culture and the role of cultural politics in how the activity of reception is framed.
¦ More specifically, to engage in in-depth research on the social experience of cinema and on comparative forms of engagement across communities. Such an approach
might draw on the cross-disciplinary literature on community, sociological audience/reception studies and cultural studies (particularly for what it can add to understandings of inequaltity).
¦ To develop a shared framework for interpretation and criticism of Diasporic screen culture that locates 'community' at the centre.
¦ To further develop research that directly involves policy-makers, with the aim of encouraging cultural policy frameworks to directly address the political significance
and participation of a diverse range of constituents. Broadly, this has implications for how we discuss the organisation of
'diversity' in multicultural contexts.
¦ To develop further research that partners with those 'inside' cultural organisations in the design, delivery, objective-building and evaluation of research. The value of the research partnership with the BFI has many dimensions: securing major access, building links beyond the Higher Education context,
knowledge transfer and accommodating a self-reflexive process for a cultural organisation itself.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funding-Opportunities/Research-funding/Connected-Communities/Scoping-studies-and-reviews/Documents/Diasporic%20Film%20in%20Communities.pdf
 
Description The Diasporic Film in Communities project set out to critically examine the role of Diasporic film culture in Diasporic communities. A case study approach was used to explore how three postcolonial publics (African-Caribbean, Chinese and South Asian) mobilise around film, interface with cultural organisations and reflect on their significance as film communities. A range of collaborative activities were held in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI), including participatory screenings, networking events and a final research seminar.Finally, an open research seminar was held at the National Film Theatre in London to explore the research themes and present preliminary research findings. The seminar was an important part of the stakeholder engagement activity, bringing together community 'collaborative partners', BFI personnel, academics, film programmers and cultural policy-makers. It was chaired by Colin Prescod (Chair of the Institute of Race Relations) and included presentations from David Somerset (Education Curator, Adult Programmes, BFI) Richard Paterson (Head of Scholarship and Research, BFI) and Anna Kime (Manager of Cultural Film Exhibition & Education Projects, Film London). Significantly, the project integrated a 'critical reflection phase' for the collaborative project partner. One output is a BFI-compiled report, A reflection on the Diasporic Film in Communities project, outlining the organisation's policy and programming approach in this area, both historical and current, and producing a substantive appendix of further related documents (Somerset, 2012).
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

 
Description Member of Curatorial Advisory Panel, British FIlm Institute
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guidance committee
URL http://www.bfi.org.uk/supporting-uk-film/funding-organisations/unlocking-film-heritage-digitisation-...
 
Description Connected Communities Disconnection Call
Amount £30,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/M006069/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 04/2015
 
Description Collaboration with the British Film Institute, London 
Organisation British Film Institute (BFI)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution Dr Sarita Malik established a partnership with the British Film Institute who were a named partner on this research. The BFI is the lead cultural organisation for film and film culture in the UK. BFI Southbank where many of the collaborative activities and the dissemination event took place, is just one part of a wider national BFI and includes National Archive collection of film and television as well as Print and Special Collections (scripts, letters, posters etc), the Mediatheque, Education (schools, families, young people), the BFI Ruben Library and the exhibition centre of the BFI Southbank as well as wider departments recently merged from the Film Council such as the Production Fund.
Collaborator Contribution Raised awareness about academic-led debates in this area e.g. around diversity and film culture, developed partnerships between academics and a cultural organisation.
Impact Collaborated on dissemination event. Developed collaboration on the follow up project. Dr Sarita Malik was invited to be a member of the Curatorial Advisory Board Member, Unlocking Film Heritage, British Film Institute (2012-17) where she attends and contributes to 3 meetings a year about diversifying the film archive that is made accessible to the public.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Article in MECCSA Magazinem Three-d 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Three-D is the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association's news publication.
This article raised awareness and interest in the AHRC project

Encouraged interest in the project amongst the target readers - spanning from practitioners to academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.meccsa.org.uk/news/three-d-issue-19-research-collaboration-with-the-bfi-explores-how-film...
 
Description One day symposum in partnership with the British Film Institute, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact This open research seminar was held at the National Film Theatre in London (BFI Southbank) to explore the research themes and present preliminary research findings. The seminar was an important part of the stakeholder engagement activity, bringing together community 'collaborative partners', BFI personnel, academics, film programmers and cultural policy-makers. It was chaired by Colin Prescod (Chair of the Institute of Race Relations) and included presentations from David Somerset (Education Curator, Adult Programmes, BFI) Richard Paterson (Head of Scholarship and Research, BFI) and Anna Kime (Manager of Cultural Film Exhibition & Education Projects, Film London).

Shared information, promoted dialogue, allowed community stakeholders to present their work and discuss key issues around their work. Developed discussion between cultural practitioners, industry, academic beneficiaries and the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/events/2012/diasporic-film-communities-research-seminar