Blog Post

Critical Media Literacy & Crowd-funding in Guatemala

Unlocking Silent Histories is a critical media literacy and documentary filmmaking non-profit organization based in Lake Atitlan, Guatemela.  Through collaborative filmmaking, indigenous students of all ages identify and address aspects of their cultures that they think are most worth discussing both locally and internationally.  I was thrilled to discover this organization online last summer and, after watching a few student-made videos about agriculture, alcoholism, and various definitions of "success," I really wanted to witness these filmmakers in action.

Within a month of contacting Donna DeGennaro, the non-profit's founder, I thus landed in Guatemala for the first time and soon after hopped boats, chicken buses, microbuses, and pick-up taxis to meet the numerous "unlockers of silent histories."  They're wonderful, of course.  Carlos kindly showed me how they use
cameras and tripods.  Franklin and Jefferson stopped editing their videos just briefly enough to show me how Premiere works.  Carmen discussed
Guatemalan education and immigration with me, passionately explaining such political issues with wise statements such as "We forget that we all depend upon each other."

We forget that we all depend upon each other.  She made this last point with the example that no society would function without its immigrant workers, its farmers, its ostensibly "less educated" indigenous populations.  For as so often happens when one actually interacts with these populations, I felt humbled by my own
ignorance of their multifarious knowledges.  They know how to help each other, how to stand up for themselves and their families, how to critique yet support their own communities, and how to put up with an oddball participant-observer such as myself.

In truth, I know I wasn't a very helpful "volunteer."  I taught them a bit about the "selfie" as a recent phenomenon, I compiled a list of filmmaking resources that they could consult, and I talked a whole lot with Donna about how to make this organization even more of the students' own.  Their own because they deserve it: they deserve to be able to teach each other -- and us -- their histories, as well as their futures.

Right now, Unlocking Silent Histories is running an Indiegogo campaign specifically for youth leader stipends, new equipment, and a few cultural excursions of their own.  Please share the news and/or donate here:
Every dollar helps!


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