Recently, I went to a showing of a documentary on immigration. Now, immigration is a topic that I’ve worked with a lot, in particular with the documentary “Fuerza,” but also as an issue that come up while I was living in Honduras and the D.R., and visiting Guatemala. So I was interested in the approach that this documentary took.
This documentary, which was developed as a curriculum for churches, took a much different approach than what we took in Fuerza. Most of the voices heard in the video were from “experts” – professors, mainly – who looked at the issue from the standpoint of theology. It worked to engage the head, whereas Fuerza worked more on telling personal stories, which engages more of the heart.
After the showing, there was a panel of people who had been involved in the making of the video. Two were professors at a theological seminary with very different approaches to educating the public. One was very soft spoken, and when talking about immigration made sure it was very palatable. He made sure to that his words would not push people away from becoming interested in immigration issues.
The other professor was much more inflammatory. He spoke what he considered the truth, things that are not easy to hear. That US foreign policy has often served to destabilize countries, often deposing democratically elected leaders and putting in dictators. That this policy is more concerned about US business interests than the people. That people immigrate to the US because they are following the trail of money that was stolen from them. That US policy encourages people to cross a dangerous desert, so that they die and discourage future migrants.
That isn’t pleasant to hear, and can serve to further alienate people from the human rights issues around immigration.
However, as someone there pointed out, there need to be a variety of approaches to spreading the message. Some people will react positively to the soft spoken professor. Some will react positively to the more inflammatory one. Some will connect with a deep theological debate. Others will connect through stories of immigrants. Others will connect through a numbers heavy, fact driven video like this one.
So while I continue to favor story-driven video, I also realize the need for a wide range of approaches to get across a message. But be careful about this- you still need to define an audience for each project. Stick to one approach per project- otherwise the message will get muddled.