Two Humber Journalism students travelled to Uganda in January to follow researchers and educators fighting to reduce the incidence of childhood abuse in the country through the exchange of resources and knowledge.
Lucy Lau and Harmony Multani returned to Canada and produced a short documentary about the impact of violence against children and the group’s efforts to fight the issue. Their 12-minute film was submitted as their capstone study project to their Journalism post-graduate certificate program.
“Then Harmony [Multani] suggested we send it in to a number of film festivals to raise awareness and share our work more broadly,” said Lau.
It worked, and their film Pearl Under Pressure: The Impact of Violence Against Children in Uganda was admitted to the Los Angeles Lift Off Film Festival in the New Voices Shorts 1 category in October.
The film follows researchers and practitioners for one week on the ground as part of a health and social education initiative, Denmark Uganda Vietnam Exchange (DUVE), co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.
DUVE is led by University College Absalon in Denmark and examines violence against children in Denmark, Uganda and Vietnam so educators and researchers can develop tools and resources to solve the pervasiveness of the issue. Jaspreet Bal, Program Co-ordinator of Humber’s Bachelor of Child and Youth Care, is a member of the DUVE project advisory team, joining colleagues from Denmark, Uganda and Vietnam.
The film project was launched after University College Absalon requested support from the Faculty of Media & Creative Arts (FMCA) to help document the work of the DUVE project team. In addition to Lau and Multani’s documentary, FCMA students built the DUVE website.
Lau was drawn to Humber’s post-graduate journalism program because she wanted to gain the skills to translate her print reporting into the realm of broadcast journalism.
"I feel like I got the opportunity to develop hands-on skills in a short amount of time,” she said.
When she heard about the DUVE project, she was keen to be involved.
“I believe in doing work that makes a social impact and that’s driven my work in journalism and in my career so far.”
Lau’s partner Multani brought a similar point of view to the project. Her focus was to capture footage and photos of rural Ugandan women and children in the hospitals visited during the project.
The journalists were accompanied by their instructor, Heather Kelly. She had previously taught them courses in contextual and entrepreneurial storytelling - crucial skills for a well-rounded journalist, both at home and abroad.
Kelly has had a long career in international journalism and first-hand knowledge of the empathy and cultural humility it takes to ethically report on issues in other countries.
She even worked for an international NGO focusing on storytelling as human aid.
“I was applying all the kinds of things I teach in contextual storytelling and ethics – all the things you do to prepare yourself to report in a place you’ve never been. You have to make sure you’re not just capturing the voices available, but seeking the ones that should be heard, guided by research ahead with those on the ground,” she said.
Both Lau and Multani came to the post-graduate certificate program with undergraduate degrees and experience.
“There tends to be an awful lot of knowledge in the room already,” said Kelly.
The program’s cohorts are often small, but successful. Kelly’s former students are employed in all facets of journalism and media, including communications, marketing and various news mediums.
As part of the program, Lau completed an internship that led to a job in communications at Michael Garron Hospital where her passions for social justice and human rights are met with the same enthusiasm as they were at Humber.
Lau and Multani’s film can be viewed on the Los Angeles Lift Off Film Festival’s website with the purchase of a ticket that allows virtual attendees to access all films in the category – and the ability to vote for their two favourites.
You can also watch their promotional videos at the DUVE website.
The festival runs until Oct 11.