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Open Access Documentary subjects speak out: Relational empathy and ethics in intercultural documentary film education

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The teaching of documentary film faces particular ethical and practical challenges in intercultural environments when working with marginalized groups. The author of the paper was one of the acting teachers for an intercultural group of film students making documentaries on sex workers in rural South African communities in 2015. The paper explores the pedagogical and ethical dimension of the encounters between students and the documentary subjects. It argues for the benefits of creating shared meaning – a third culture – through the fostering of relational empathy between student film-makers and their subjects. The focus of the analysis lies in the emotional reactions of the documentary subjects, observed in community screenings in 2016. Conclusions suggest that the concept of relational empathy can help us understand and develop the teaching of documentary in novel ways. It represents a pedagogical choice that is ethical, as it allows for consent that is truly informed.
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Keywords: DOCUMENTARY FILM; EDUCATION; ETHICS; INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION; RELATIONAL EMPATHY; REPRESENTATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2018

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  • The Film Education Journal is the world's only publication committed to exploring how teachers and other educators work with film, and to involving other participants - policymakers, academics, researchers, cultural agencies and film-makers themselves - in that conversation. It is a bi-annual, open-access, peer-reviewed journal sponsored by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Film Institute, the Centre for the Moving Image and Creative Scotland.
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