Pray the Devil Back to Hell; impact tracking

Liberian women demonstrate at the American Embassy in Monrovia at the height of the the civil war in July 2003_72dpi_credit_Pewee_Flomoku

I recently watched Pray the Devil Back to Hell, an inspiring documentary about a women’s movement in Liberia, West Africa that campaigned for peace amidst a terrifying civil war. Their movement managed to have a significant impact on peace talks taking place, the outcomes of the peace talks and the election of Liberia’s (and Africa’s) first female leader.

A film which detailed the atrocities, bloodshed, the horror of child soldiers, rapes and fear across the country would have been too heartbreaking to watch. However, hearing these horrifiic truths alongside the uplifting power of a social movement and seeing in action the power of hope, love and peace over fear and violence was uplifting stuff. It made me think about the role of feminism in Central Australia and across other areas of my practice.

More than simply being a film about a social issue Pray the Devil Back to Hell designed a campaign to maximise its impact after release and this is the area I am most interested in learning more about on this Churchill Fellowship trip.

It is one thing to make a film that will inspire, but who do you want to see it? Why? What do you want them to do once they have seen it? What is the impact that you want to create? Awareness? More members of your campaign? Political pressure? Policy change?

A film can do a lot more than just tell a story. These filmmakers say “We firmly believe that (our strategy) has turned what would have been an ephemeral bit of media into a genuine engine for political and cultural change.” They had a three pronged approach to the impact they wanted to make – 1) target a US audience to inspire them in their own activism, 2) target those with international influence including media so they would take role of women more seriously in future and 3) to reach out men and women in other conflict zones to inspire them through this story of courage and hope. A summary of the impact and distribution plan is on the film’s website including details of the 9 month Global Peace Tour of the film which saw them hold over 350 community screenings all over the world.

A number of films I have worked have had ad hoc distribution and created some exciting ripples, but not a considered, rigorous plan for getting the film out to targeted audiences for targeted impact. Learning about savvy thinking around where a film goes and what is done with it once it is completed is very exciting.

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