Workshop participants creating a participatory video in Nepal
Workshop participants creating a participatory video in Nepal
Recently PhD candidate Grady Walker returned from his research field work in Nepal and we took some time to talk with him about his experience. Grady is an American documentary filmmaker whose work focuses on using filmmaking as an educational praxis, and draws on the literature of critical pedagogy. He was conducting field work from March through December 2014, working on a case study and narrative analysis. 
Grady worked with groups composed primarily of young adults from two communities. One was in Kapan, a growing peri-urban neighborhood of Kathmandu, and the other was in Godamchaur, a village in Lalitpur in the district south of Kathmandu.  
He describes his research aims as “essentially to test the viability of movie making as a form of praxis within a paradigm of critical pedagogy. Investigating generative themes using the art of movie making involves creativity, participation, and dialogue, which is what makes movie making ideal for praxis. The wider aims of my study include exploring the interplay of knowledge, creativity, and social change.”
His work was a process of intense learning for himself as well as participants. Grady reflects, “I learned that conscientisation really happens if you trust the processes outlined in the critical pedagogy literature; it's not just a theoretical concept. I learned that the praxis can work. Personally, I also learned that I find qualitative action-based research to be rewarding and enjoyable.”
“The success of the movie making paradigm surprised me. No one dropped out of the program and the enthusiasm of the participants was steady the entire time. The participants really took control and ownership of the praxis...I was surprised at the level of critical analysis achieved rapidly by participants. This was further verification of the principles outlined in the literature.”
There were some surprising benefits of the filmmaking process as well. Following the conclusion of the praxis participants from Godamchaur asked to borrow the camera so that they could shoot another film. Three young women, ages 18, 18 and 19, produced an incredible short film that interrogated caste discrimination in their village.  They recruited over 40 villagers to act in the film and, on their own initiative, organised a screening in their village that was attended by over 60 people. It was a tremendous achievement. The film's name is Panditko Choroko Bihe and it can be seen, along with most of the other movies, at the project Vimeo channel:
Grady explains that, “My ideas and theoretical framework did not shift or change during my fieldwork, however many of the practical aspects of my case study did. Paulo Freire said that a program should always be dynamic; it cannot be regarded abstractly, but has to be created for the real world and changed, based on reality.  In this way I had to remain flexible and adaptable to context.”
After the PhD he says, “I would like to undertake more research in this field, if possible. I am considering looking at post doc opportunities. Alternatively, I harbor high hopes of becoming a Himalayan mountain guide.” 

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