Culture Guides

Documentaries Through Local Eyes

A paradigm shift.

Once upon a time the countries that had developed ships, steel and a religion that could be proselytized on older cultures, saw it as their duty to send their missionaries, business interests and armies to take over and rule with a kind but firm hand.

Once most of the world shook off colonialism and, riddled with ethnic tensions, civil war and trade embargoes, many newly-liberated countries found themselves at the hands of merciless, psychopathic leaders like Idi Amin who exacerbated the national problems and left many countries in a state of crisis. Hence once again it was the turn of the Western countries to send NGO’s and bright-eyed volunteers to once again save the natives.

To stir up public sympathy for these trouble spots and to satisfy a new public thirst for knowledge about the world we live in, documentary makers were then sent around the world to report back through the eyes of a video camera. Naturally, they tended to see things through their own cultural filter and were encouraged to make films that satisfied the public’s expectations. Africans must be starving, Indians must be exotic, Brazilians must be sexy. With many notable exceptions, documentaries made by foreigners often fell into the trap of reporting on a single story and many were happy to leave it at that.

But now that we are entering the days of a media revolution where low-budget, hi-definition cameras can be hand for a couple hundred bucks, people all around the world are beginning to tell their own stories. That’s the spirit in which we’ve launched the Road Junky Film Festival as it’s high time that documentaries be made through local eyes.

Take a recent entry about the Myths of Manila by Janus Victoria and Aguilez Slangen for instance – what foreigner visitor could ever have seen this side of the Philippines?

We’ve relied too long on the established media institutions to tell the story of our world for us. It’s time to take the media into our own hands.