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      Voice, autonomy and utopian desire in participatory film-making with young refugees

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          This article is a reflection on what reflexive documentary scholars call the ‘moral dimension’ ( Nash, 2012: 318) of a participatory film-making project with refugee young people who wanted to make a film to support other new young arrivals in the process of making home in Scotland. In the first part, we highlight some of the challenges of collaborating with refugee young people, in light of the often dehumanizing representations of refugees in mainstream media and the danger of the triple conflation of authenticity–voice–pain in academic narratives about refugees. In the second part, we show how honouring young people’s desire to convey the hopeful aspects of making home emerged as a key pedagogical strategy to affirm their expert position and encourage their participation in the project. Revisiting key moments of learning and interaction, we demonstrate how young people’s process of ‘finding a voice’ in moment-by-moment film-making practice was not a linear, developmental process towards ‘pure’ individual empowerment and singular artistic expression. Their participation in shaping their visual (self-)representation in the final film was embedded in the dialogical process and pragmatic requirements of a collaborative film production, in which voice, autonomy and teacher authority were negotiated on a moment-by-moment basis. We conclude that it is vital for a reflexive practice and research not to gloss over the moral dilemmas in the name of progressive ideals, for example, when representations are co-created by project film-makers/educators, but to embrace these deliberations as part of the ‘fascinating collaborative matrix’ ( Chambers, 2019: 29) of participatory film-making.

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          Most cited references 67

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          Refugees and Exile: From "Refugee Studies" to the National Order of Things

           Liisa Malkki (1995)
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            Complicity and Collusion in the Mediation of Everyday Life

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              Rethinking media responsibility in the refugee ‘crisis’: a visual typology of European news


                Author and article information

                Film Education Journal
                UCL Press (UK )
                23 June 2020
                : 3
                : 1
                : 58-77
                University of Strathclyde, UK
                Showmanmedia, Scotland, UK
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Email: katja.frimberger@
                © Copyright 2020 Frimberger and Bishopp

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 12, References: 41, Pages: 21


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                Volume 3, Issue 1

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