Lights, camera, action! Students’ documentaries on water governance

by Tatiana Guerrero and Jeltsje Kemerink

The New Year at UNESCO-IHE always starts exciting; in the first week of January the Water Governance Documentary Festival takes place! Six groups of master students enrolled in the water governance module produce in less than a month time a 10-minute documentary on an assigned topic, ranging from water privatization, everyday water politics and water and gender to the objectivity of hydrology and rethinking water infrastructure. These topics allow the students to explore different aspects of water governance processes in practice.

The nowadays easy to use multimedia technology and widespread access to internet makes it feasible for the students to capture views from different angles and broadcast cases from various parts in the world. Besides making use of the richness of academics available inside the UNESCO-IHE premises, the students have recorded scientists from Peru, Zimbabwe and the Philippines to discuss different theoretical understandings of water governance processes. They have interviewed their relatives and neighbours back home to get insight in everyday water contestation and the various practices used to make the water flow. And they have taped their co-students to learn more about each other’s perspectives and realities working as mid-career professionals in the water sector.

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Students at work on their documentary assignment

Producing documentaries has become more common in social science, both as research method and as research output. Including documentary assignments in post-graduate education is a relative new phenomenon. Our experiments with this didactical approach are very positive as the documentary assignment helps our students to build up a concise opinion based on a sound and coherent analysis. Because of the expressive and visual nature of documentaries, students are less likely to use woolly language and fallacies in their argumentation are easily revealed.

dsc_0430Students discussing the story line of their documentary

In addition, the students learn to collect and process data from various primary and secondary sources, including screening reports, data bases, multimedia files and literature as well as conducting interviews. This is often also the case in other types of assignments, for example an essay assignment, yet for documentaries interviews are being recorded which gives teachers the opportunity to directly provide feedback on how the interview was conducted. Moreover, producing a documentary requires a team effort and thus students get the opportunity to develop collaboration skills. To ensure that students also practice with academic writing and to sufficiently ground the documentaries in scientific discourses, they had to submit a literature study on the same topic in preparation of their documentary.

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Celebrating the winners of the Best Water Governance Documentary 2017

A downside is that people interviewed in documentaries cannot be so easily, or perhaps we should say not so elegantly, anonymized as in a written report. This means that sometimes documentaries contain sensitivities that inhibit external broadcasting. This also happened to the documentary on illegal water connections in Harare, Zimbabwe, that won this year’s Best Water Governance Documentary Award. Nevertheless, we are glad that the second best documentary, which examines the implications of water privatization in the Philippines, and another documentary on “Water flows in the Anthropocene” are now available online!

Wishing you an inspiring 2017!


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3 Responses

  1. Hussam says:

    Thank you very much for the article. We are keen to screen these docs and develop interesting debates on their content. please is there a way to download or order them?

    We being http://www.difaf.org please feel free to visit our website

    Regards,
    Hussam

    • Jeltsje Kemerink says:

      Dear Hussam,

      We are pleased that you have an interest in screening the documentaries produced by our students to stimulate the debate on these challenging topics within your organization. We would appreciate if you could keep us informed via this blog on the outcomes of your discussions…..!

      Best regards, Jeltsje

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