“This Documentary Actually Makes Welland Look Good”: A documentary film project with teenagers in Canada, 26th Feb


Monday 26th February from 4:15pm – 5:30pm

“This Documentary Actually Makes Welland Look Good”: A documentary film project with teenagers in Canada

Professor Jennifer Rowsell

Brock University

Room 2.12 Brooks Building

From an outsider, Welland is a Canadian city on the border of the United States that is seemingly riddled with ‘deficits’ – high poverty, unemployment, few jobs, increased mental health and addiction – but within the high school site where I completed a six-week documentary film-making project, it could not be further from deficit. In this presentation, I will feature a research project with an English teacher, a media artist, a psychotherapist and an ethnographic researcher working with tenth grade high school students on documentary films on topics that emerged from a novel that they studied entitled, Shattered by Eric Walters. The novel tells the story of a fifteen-year-old boy’s friendship with a soldier who suffers from PTSD.

Based on their interpretations of the novel, students worked in small groups to plan and produce their own three-minute documentaries about a range of topics from homelessness to UN Peacekeeping missions to PTSD. Over the course of the project, young people richly illustrated their social lives by consulting with cross-sector professionals and by interrogating their own place-based understandings of Welland with themes in the novel. What was unique about the research was having cross-sector professionals unravel the realities of poverty, homelessness, PTSD, and addiction and how to adapt these realities into moving image narratives. It was a project that reminded, yet again, of the energy and optimism of teenagers who use expressive media to articulate their evolving sense of themselves, their place-based beliefs, and their deeper commitments.