The Silent Connectors from Hazel Ashton on Vimeo.
The Silent Connectors is a short film based on a one-act play written by Hazel Ashton. It formed the basis of a participatory methodology for local development piloted in Hazel’s transdisciplinary social science doctorate (pdf). Martin Howells edited and adapted the script for film and and he also directed and acted in it, playing the part of Wilhelm Koff. In addition, he volunteered his time in creating this promotional DVD.
The filmed act problematizes development in a local area hit by global recession. Using film and interactive web, the methodology was developed to support people in their specific localities to create follow-on acts in which they uncover, together, what is going on and open up new possibilities for social and personal development.
Newly married students Clare and Dale come to a place called Sometown for a short honeymoon. Clare is doing papers in social development and Dale in economics and management. Clare went to Sometown regularly as a child and has wonderful memories. She is shocked by the changes. Sometown has deteriorated and is in disarray as a result of global recession. In the film there is an incident which is likely to have a big impact on Sometown and its citizens – things could go either way, depending on how people respond, or fail to respond…
For the PhD research, over 100 participants, aged 12 -85 years and from diverse backgrounds (culture, education, socio-economic etc), watched the film (in groups) and participated in a facilitated process (individually, and then as a group).
Questions and responses (without identification of participants) were put on line, where people could make further comments. Martin Howells then configured this material into a second act which could be filmed.
The aim was to provide a safe and transparent process where people from all kinds of backgrounds could feel able to respond authentically, both to the film and in helping to open up what might happen in the next act (see introduction to research for further information)
When discussing the film, people soon realized although they were all seeing the same film, they were seeing it differently.
The filmed act is deliberately incomplete and when people watch it without any follow-up process they can feel quite angry and frustrated. However, when, as in the facilitated process, they are involved in thinking about what is happening and how they might construct the next act, a new energy takes hold.
The film was over 20 minutes long and dealt with quite complex issues. Participants in the research were observed to enjoy helping to uncover what was going on, what they were seeing, what could happen next, why, what desirable futures might look like, what steps would be needed to create these futures…
It would be compatible with the methodology for any person or group to also write their own acts and comment on them. `
As the film trailer begins to illustrate, it is possible to draw a lot of diverse, even discrepant elements together into a coherent, narrative. Thus local social alienation and conflict might be creatively configured together in a narrative with shared possibilities for social development – social development that provides a base also for economic development in a globalizing environment … and so on.
Your comments and questions welcome