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Creating the WitnessDocumenting Genocide on Film, Video, and the Internet$
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Leshu Torchin

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816676224

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816676224.001.0001

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The Work of Witness

The Work of Witness

Negotiating the Challenges of Video Advocacy

(p.136) 4 The Work of Witness
Creating the Witness

Leshu Torchin

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the field of cultural production as inhabited by media activists and social justice movements: those who employ film and video in human rights campaigns. In particular, it considers the work of WITNESS, a human rights organization that actively negotiates the perceived failures of visual media and the attendant angst over desensitization and derealization by acknowledging the expectations and procedures of the various actors. WITNESS trains activists in the use of video within an advocacy campaign, moving beyond technical instruction and incorporating training in visual storytelling techniques and in extrafilmic strategies of circulation, exhibition, and promotion—all of which are marshaled with the goal of forming witnessing publics. This chapter looks at one project that reflects the numerous and significant interventions of WITNESS: Books Not Bars, a campaign launched by the U.S.-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 2001 to draw attention to and challenge increasing youth incarceration. The video Books Not Bars became a key aspect of the campaign.

Keywords:   cultural production, social justice, video, human rights, WITNESS, advocacy, visual storytelling, witnessing, Books Not Bars, Ella Baker

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