Perseverance is the Way Forward
By Smriti Basnet
As I sat in one of the magnificent rooms in Lancaster House it was not the grand design of this 19th century building that had my attention. All my focus was on Elizabeth Jones, an investigative journalist who had set out on a daring journey to uncover one of central Africa’s most pressing issues in the mid-90s. “Keep trying,” said Jones, addressing a room full of young filmmakers who had come from around the world to attend the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative (PSVI) workshop. I was nominated and supported by the British Council with three other Kathmandu-based filmmakers to attend the workshop through a grant given out by the British Embassy in Nepal.
Sitting in the front row I was taken aback with the kind of courage and determination Jones had shown. Her documentary took us through the extreme conditions in Rwanda during the post-conflict period. Contrary to the ease with which the viewers were introduced and immersed in the story, Jones had actually spent six whole months uncovering Hutu militias training in Zaire’s UN camps. Without any external funding, she kept on doing what she had to, believing that there was an important story to tell the world. Perseverance in this difficult situation was the only thing that kept her going.
Even more interesting to note for us was how Jones had made it a point to narrate situations and the entire conflict with objectivity. The documentary left enough space for viewers to judge the situations for themselves.
“The strongest films are those that don’t demonise, but those that get into how they think and show that,” she said. Jones’ talk was a short, yet significant, part of what we did throughout the workshop. It opened my eyes, especially regarding our responsibilities as filmmakers. It was not only the visuals themselves, but also her sheer determination, her dedication and her passion to tell genuine stories that moved me. So, how do we craft stories? How do we craft them with sensitivity, emotion and yet find room to give viewers the space to make judgements for themselves? What are some of the challenges in our country? How can young filmmakers from around the world collaborate to combat such issues? These were some of the questions we were made to ask ourselves and find answers for; a quest responsible filmmakers must embark on. Both Jones and the entirety of the workshop have altered my worldview. For example, I met filmmakers from around the world and the interactions that I had with them have changed my view of different people around the world, making me more inclusive and board-minded than
I was when I left for the programme from Kathmandu. It’s almost going to be a month since the workshop but I still find myself going back to what Jones told us: “Try and give people their point of view.” In an age where people are always pushing for a certain agenda and trying to tweak truths, this phrase encapsulates everything a filmmaker should aspire for and put out in their work. And I believe herein lies the solution to become true storytellers. Smriti Basnet travelled to London, England, for Film Capacity Building Workshops for Young Filmmakers organised by PSVI on 21, 22 and 23 November, 2018.