Marine Ragueneau interned with POV’s Community Engagement & Education department and the America Reframed series from Fall 2014 through Winter 2015. Marine has a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Washington, has interned with the UN’s Global Action to Prevent War & Armed Conflict, and has lived and worked in Europe and Kenya. Here she shares her perspective on documentaries, impact and viewer responsibility after the credits roll.
I came to POV a few months ago with the intention of exploring the intersection of documentaries and human rights. Throughout my time here, I’ve deepened my understanding of the dynamics between storytellers and their audiences, and as anyone who has ever learned anything knows, I am left with more questions than I started with — some of which I will address here.
Understanding people — the intricacies of the mind and the reasons behind people’s actions — has always fascinated me. Some of the most powerful aspects of documentary storytelling is the ability to connect the realities of those who would not otherwise not know each other, and the influence documentaries are capable of producing within the social justice field. Though the scope of documentary film should not be categorized as only having purpose if advocating for social change, it is undeniable that when injustices are humanized, audiences are challenged to reflect on their positionality within the film’s context.
What, then, is the viewer’s responsibility once the credits start to roll? Do those who have the privilege to know really have the duty to act?
As access to technology facilitates our creation of global communities through digital means, our ability to empathize with one another is unprecedented. We are able to momentarily invite another person’s reality into our own, and in doing so, we are affected by people we may never meet, but whose narratives become intricately weaved into our own. How does this impact the ways we build community and identify with social issues? What mechanisms for social change are effective in building and maintaining genuine solidarity across borders?
While not everyone may feel the need to act after having watched a documentary, I wonder what drives people to take action. Whether committing to signing a petition, spreading awareness through personal networks, or buying a misguided one-way ticket to join someone else’s revolution, our need to have an impact on one another is evident and the effects are tangible. International human rights organizations, for instance, incorporate documentary-style mechanisms in order to raise awareness around critical issues and to foster change. This brings me back to the question: What is the average person’s role in all of this?
Though I do not have answers to most of these questions, I do know that engaging with social justice issues can be done anywhere, as every part of the world has its own instance of human rights abuses. In most cases, there is no need to fly abroad to directly engage with injustice — think global, act local. I’ve seen this applied firsthand here at POV through the Community Engagement and Education Department. We partner with local grassroots organizations to offer them free resources, but understand that organizations know their communities best, and they decide which resources make sense for advancing their missions.
The same is true on an individual level. In order to build true solidarity on an international scale, it is imperative that we listen first. Listening and following the lead of the communities you wish to serve is essential. Viewers who feel accountable to their emotional responses should take the time to analyze how to best channel their efforts in ways that use their skills, those they wish to assist, and the causes they wish to be a part of. In doing so, our increasingly global community of activists will continue to form genuine connections based on shared respect for each other’s realities. Our sharpened understanding of humanity coupled with our desire to change the world around us will prompt social change that is organically responsive and ultimately, more transformative.
POV accepts applicants for internships year round in many departments: Community Engagement & Education, Development, Digital and Programming & Production, as well as with our AmericaReframed series. To find out more and to apply for a POV Internship, visit pov.org/internships.
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