Have you ever watched a documentary and felt like you really got to know the characters? And then wondered what happened to them after? If the documentary had an impact on their lives or not?
Well, a Jakarta-based initiative is setting out to make sure that documentaries don’t just leave you with a nice- or a troubled- feeling. Good Pitch wants to convert those feelings into social change.
Nicole Curby caught up with the team behind Filipino documentary Audio Perpetua to find out more.
Carol Catacutan tells me that in her native tongue, her name means frightened or scared.
“I always say that you’d better be scared of me, because I’m quite a tough person,” she laughs.
Dressed in a pastel purple cardigan, and with a warm smile overtaking her face, when I met her in Jakarta recently, Carol didn’t seem very scary.
But I did get the feeling that if she put her mind to something, she’d be formidable.
Carol’s at the centre of a documentary- currently in production- about people with vision impairments.
She also tells me she has a one-of-a kind claim. She’s the only blind person in The Philippines who has ever written scripts for television.
“It’s a very visual medium right, so it’s like a blind [person] telling a story to a someone with sight.” She continued, “I also wrote two romance novels which are published. But when I got involved with our organisation it was like a calling, a mission, so I gave all of that up.”
These days Carol dedicates her time to ATRIEV, a Manila-based organisation that trains people with vision impairments to use computers and technology.
Their aim is to equip visually impaired people with skills that will get them professional work, and give them the means to live independently.
“When we started training blind people in computers a lot of opportunities were opened which were not there before,” she said.
“Like you cannot imagine blind people as programmers. Now we have junior programmers, we have software developers, these are all our graduates. We have call centre agents, we have transcriptionists, we have virtual assistants. So these opportunities wouldn’t have been available to them without what they learned at ATRIEV.”
The Philippines is one of the world’s call centre capitals, with 1.2 million people working in the industry. That means there are plenty of desk jobs in service and tech.
But having the skills to get a job is just the first hurdle to overcome.
Companies are often reluctant to employ people with vision impairments. And even when they do, they’re not always treated equally.
“Some people are not that patient with visually impaired people, some are very patronising. They don’t want to feel like that, you don’t have to patronise me, I can do my job basically. So there’s those difficulties,” says film maker Ivy Baldoza.
Along with producer Melanie Entuna, Ivy is currently making a documentary, Audio Perpetua, which follows the trainees at ATRIEV.
“It’s always a question asked to us, why will we hire people with disabilities when we could hire people that are very able,” says Entuna.
“And so this documentary is important because we wanted to show and create this awareness that you can hire people with disabilities.”
After three years of filming and production, the documentary is in its final stages.
But Entuna says she won’t be content just to release the film and hope for the best.
Entuna and Baldoza have partnered with Jakarta-based initiative Good Pitch, a not for profit initiative that facilitates funding and links to help incite change through film.
“We want to provide sensitivity workshops for the sighted people so that they know how to deal with people who are visually impaired,” Entuna explained.
“We want to educate employers on how to hire visually impaired people and how to deal them when they’re in the professional environment, we want to create awareness through screenings, more screenings in schools. We are looking for tech and gadget support.”
And they’re making sure the film won’t be off limits to those who feature in it.
“Apart from making the documentary we are making an audio description of the film to make this an extraordinary experience for them,” Producer Entuna says.
“Audio description meaning we will have a voice talent describe with feeling all the scenes happening and then you cut in the sound bites from the subjects.”
As for Carol, she says it’s an honour to be in the film - even if being shadowed by a film crew on and off for 2 years was a little strange at times. It might have got in the way of her movement, but it certainly didn’t get in the way of her formidable style!
“We always told them, you better get out of the way of the blind, otherwise we will run over your camera. So just be careful,” she laughed remembering the filming process.