The Irish government has committed to ending Direct Provision, Ireland’s reception system for asylum seekers, but has yet to ask children and young people for their opinion and experience of living in Direct Provision.
Piquant collaborated with young people who are either currently living in or have gone through the direct provision system in Ireland to create a series of videos for Youth Work Ireland, an organisation that advocates for the rights of young people and for their voices to be heard .
We met 10 young people, aged 13-24 for an in-person workshop, at the Youth Work Ireland building in Dublin, and were humbled by the weight of their experiences, by their dignity and their honesty. We talked about advocacy, about campaigning for change and the power of a personal testimony in advocating for change. Together with the young people we looked at different video styles and different approaches for storytelling. During the workshop the group reflected on how they could express themselves using the medium of video.
More than 2000 young people are living in Direct Provision, many for more than 5 years.
Using lighting to create silhouettes
The young people were keen to be interviewed about their experiences; we discussed topics and subjects and developed a narrative structure that created space for everyone in the group to tell their stories by interweaving their experiences in a triptych narrative. While everyone wanted to appear on camera, they didn’t want their identities revealed so we explored the use of lighting and silhouettes to preserve their anonymity.
After the workshop we went back to our studio and experimented with a single light source backlighting the subject, keeping their silhouette in shadow.
At the next session with the group, online this time, we presented our visual concept and showed the lighting test displaying the silhouetted approach. While they were excited by this approach, the overall feeling was that it was too dark and gloomy. The young people suggested brightening the scene but still keeping the anonymity. Back in the studio we experimented with different coloured gels to light the backdrop and this approach worked for everyone, with each young person selecting the gel colour of their choice, bringing individuality to a consistent lighting and camera set up.
In Piquant, we always like to push things a little further, so we played with light allowing for details in clothing and hair to show while concealing the individual’s identity. We wanted to showcase these brave individuals are humans that we can all relate to.
Ireland’s reception system for asylum seekers is known as Direct Provision. People are accommodated across the country in communal institutional centres or former hotel style settings.
Creating a relaxed environment for interviews
On the day of the shoot with welcomed the young people into our studio by giving them a guided tour of the workspaces. We felt we needed to open our space up to allow the group to feel comfortable to share their stories of direct provision.
Using our boardroom and Lava Javas (a local youth centre in Limerick city – thanks guys!) as waiting areas, the brave interviewees were able to chat with their peers and youth workers to relax before sharing their stories.
Before the beginning of each interview, the production team displayed the different coloured backdrops that were available for the duration of the interview. Red, blue, green, yellow and white were the choices and once the interviewee picked their colour, we locked in the colour gels to allow the interview to begin. Blue was the most popular choice of backdrop colour.
The State ‘directly provides’ essential services, including medical care, accommodation and board, along with a small weekly allowance.
The young people spoke freely about their experiences in Direct Provision and it truly struck a chord with the Piquant team as the stories shared were in front of us in such a brave and inspiring manner.
During each interview, the camera operation included a wide shot that captured the whole photography studio and a second camera focusing on close ups of hands, head, and feet. The young people spoke freely about their experiences in Direct Provision and it truly struck a chord with the Piquant team as the stories shared were in front of us in such a brave and inspiring manner.
When exiting Direct Provision people must navigate a complex array of systems and bureaucracy as they attempt to move out of institutions that have systematically disempowered them for many years.
The videos are at the edit stage now. When the first cut is ready for viewing we will meet the young people again to get their input into the edit process and to how the stories are revealed and interwoven together. It is important that these videos are the stories that the young people themselves want to tell, that they can be presented in a format that they are comfortable with and that they feel confident in releasing them publicly. We will use the workshop structure to explore the edit process, to demonstrate how a story can be built, and to empower the group to construct the videos to represent their experiences of life in Direct Provision.
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