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SAVI 2021

Michele Aaron, Film & Television Studies

SAVI - or Social Action Video Initiative for long - began life in 2013 with a double 'S' and was focused on working with schools in Birmingham. After a hiatus and thanks to Connecting Cultures funding I was able to bring it back to life this special, City of Culture, year. With the ups and downs of the pandemic, this was not a time for easy extra-curricula collaboration with schools, so instead I partnered with Coventry's wonderful secondary mental health service, the Pod. My work as an academic, in terms of research but also the public engagement and impact activities integral to it, centres on the potential of film to affect personal, social or political change. This project - and I have run similar ones for university students in Palestine in 2016 & 2017 - is all about young people harnessing the power of digital, and short-form, film to tell their own social justice-oriented tales.

In July, the Pod put out a call to their community for 18-25 year olds who were interested in social justice, quiet activism and storytelling to get involved in an innovative project to create their own film. Five women signed up for the weekend workshop that took place later that month at the Pod cafe in Far Gosford Street: Georgia, Gerda, Charmaine Vushe, Megan Lloyd and Hannah Williams. The films were to be developed and shot using smartphones over the two-days. The workshop was led by award-winning filmmaker and photographer Paul Stringer and was a chance for the participants to gain practical and critical skills in digital storytelling from both Paul and, on the first day, from me as well. The final films were edited by Paul in collaboration with the women and while they were to have the broad theme of local social justice issues and quiet activism, the participants were able to define these and whatever they meant to them, for themselves.

Four really interesting films were produced on a variety of subjects of local, national and global concern. These were showcased as part of Screening Rights Film Festival 2021 at a special event taking place at Fargo Village on November 26th. They will also be shared at other venues in the next year. If you'd like to watch them, they'll soon be available on the festival's YouTube channel.