For Cynthia Moses, the turning point came during the filming of a documentary about an Ebola outbreak in Central Africa.
Moses was working as a wildlife filmmaker in the area when the outbreak happened about ten years ago. One day she observed a film crew recording a presenter, dressed in a hazmat suit, speaking of the deadly disease raging in the jungle. Off-camera, locals who were working with the film crew waited in shorts and flip-flops. Some of them had lost loved ones to Ebola. They would never see the film and, even if they did, they wouldn’t understand it.
That’s when Moses realized that she wanted to make a different kind of film for a different audience. She started the International Conservation and Education Fund (INCEF) a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve public health and wildlife conservation through film.
Moses spoke at a recent Change seminar – a series of weekly talks about using technology to help under-served communities around the world – here at the University of Washington.
Moses’ work really shows the power of film to reach all kinds of audiences, transcending age, income and education.
“Nothing speaks to people as much as pictures and nothing speaks to people as much as film,” she said. “It’s a very different way to touch an audience: It makes education entertaining and there is no literacy requirement.”
Moses learned this when she was reviewing footage and saw how intently people were watching animals on screen. They had many questions and wanted to see more.
Most of the fund’s projects are based in Republic of the Congo and the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. The organization works with local crews to tell stories in local languages. The narrators and subjects are villagers telling their stories so that others can learn from them.
Moses’ team shows the films in remote villages, sometimes traveling for several days on motorbikes through the jungle. The workers must carry all the equipment with them on their small vehicles. Luckily, the task has gotten easier with technologies getting smaller.
“The audience we are focusing on becomes part of the process of making a film,” Moses said. “Local is the answer. It’s our mantra.”