We Tell: 50 Years of Participatory Community Media

The We Tell: 50 Years of Participatory Community Media series is part of a national, traveling exhibition focused on place-based documentaries that situate their collaborative practice in specific locales, communities, and a need for social change. Comprised of six thematic programs that probe salient topics (body publics, collaborative knowledges, environments of race and place, wages of work, states of violence, and turf), this series features a diversity of voices, time periods, and geographic locations which explore and unearth the 50-year history of participatory community media in the United States.

Last Monday, October 14, BFC/A Director Terri Francis joined film archivist and curator Carmel Curtis on WFHB’s Bring It On! – Indiana’s only weekly radio program committed to exploring the people, issues and events impacting the African-American community – to discuss the themes and collaborators involved in the “labor of love” that is the We Tell series.

“[We Tell] centers on the hidden histories of…community-made, collaboratively-made media; so moving away from a singular filmmaker – a singular ‘auteur’ – and acknowledging the creation of media as a group process.”

Carmel Curtis

See below for more information about the upcoming We Tell programs at IU Cinema: Body Publics (10/21), Collaborative Knowledges (11/16), Environments of Race and Place (11/21), Wages of Work (12/5), and States of Violence (12/15). Guest archivists, filmmakers, and scholars will be present at each film screening to participate in a post-film discussion.

Free tickets for the events can be reserved ahead of time at the IU Auditorium Box Office and online for a $1 surcharge, or in the IU Cinema lobby starting one hour before any screening.

We Tell: Body Publics

MonOct 21 at 7PM | IU Cinema

Not rated | 1973–2000 | 2K DCP

Introduction by Carmel Curtis (IULMIA, XFR Collective)
Post-screening discussion with Carmel Curtis, Terri Francis (BFC/A), and Louis Massiah (Scribe Video Center)


Body Publics exposes the ailments from within with works that focus on how access to various forms of healthcare, or lack thereof, affects people from many walks of life as well as the celebrations and concerns of the LGBTQIA community. From the 70s to the 90s, shorts like HSA Strike ’75 from Kartemquin Films, Diabetes: Notes from Indian Country from Beverly Singer, and Bodyworks from Scribe Video Center, illustrate a continued advocacy for self-regulation of the human body.

Films in this program include:

  • Diabetes: Notes from Indian Country, 2000, Beverly Singer | More info | Trailer
Bodyworks by Nexus Foundation for Today’s Art BodyWorks; Scribe Video Center

We Tell: Collaborative Knowledges

SatNov 16 at 4 pm | IU Cinema

Not rated | 1973 – 2011 | 2K DCP

Introduction by Andy Uhrich (IULMIA)
Post-screening discussion: TBD


We Tell: Collaborative Knowledges focuses on inter-generational dialogues, unearthing lost knowledge and histories, highlighting shared experiences, and traditions and practices of storytelling. This program includes shorts from community media centers—such as Appalshop in Kentucky, Paper Tiger TV in NYC, and Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia—that view participatory media making as a tool for self-expression, education, and social change.

Films in this program include:

  • In the Good Old Fashioned Way, 1973, Herb E. Smith, Appalshop | More info | Excerpt
  • Herb Schiller Reads the New York Times 712 Pages of Waste, 1980, Paper Tiger TV | More info
  • Seeds of Awakening – Muslim Voices, 2011, New Africa Center, ICPIC, Scribe Video Center, & Nation of Islam | More info | Excerpt
Seeds of Awakening (Excerpt) | Muslim Voices 2011; Scribe Video Center

We Tell: Environments of Race and Place

ThursNov 21 at 7 pm | IU Cinema

Not rated | 1967–2007 | 2K DCP

Introduction by Josh Malitsky (Center for Documentary Research and Practice)
Post-screening discussion with Josh Malitsky, Greg Waller (IU Media School), and Patricia Zimmermann (Ithaca College)


We Tell: Environments of Race and Place focuses on issues surrounding immigration, migration, and racial identity unique to a specific environment. These works embrace and enhance the micro rather than the macro, moving away from the national to the local and from the long-form, theatrical feature to the short-form documentary. Discussions of police brutality in Third World Newsreel’s Black Panther: Off the Pig or animations about toxic pollution made by the Indigenous youth media collective, Outta Your Backpack, expand conceptualizations of independent non-fiction work.

Films in this program include:

  • Who I Became, 2003, Michael Siv and Aram Siu Wai Collier, Vietnamese Youth Development Center | More Info
  • Legends of Weresheep, 2007, Outta Your Backpack | More info
  • Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery: TRUST Alaska, 2011, Christi Cooper-Kuhn, Katie Lose Gilbertson, Kelly Matheson, WITNESS | More info
  • DIGITAL SMOKE SIGNALS Aerial Footage From The Night Of November 20,2016 At Standing Rock, 2016, Myron Dewey, Digital Smoke Signals | More info

We Tell: Wages of Work

Thurs, December 5 at 7 pm | IU Cinema

Not rated | 1970-2019 | 2K DCP

Introduction by Zeynep Yasar (Indiana University)
Post-screening discussion: TBD


There are endless ways in which people approach issues surrounding job opportunities, occupations, wages, unemployment, and underemployment. Wages of Work puts a spotlight on the various lives under the restraints or freedoms of these topics. Through this framework, this program includes shorts like Visual Communication’s Wataridori: Birds of Passage, which explores the legacy of first-generation Japanese Americans, and I’m NOT on the Menu made by Labor Beat, which documents fast food workers protesting their employers’ failure to take action on sexual harassment.

Films in this program include:

  • The United Mine Workers of America: A House Divided, 1971, Appalshop | More info
  • Plena is Work, Plena is Song, 1989, Pedro Rivera and Susan Zeig, Cinema Guild | More info
  • VozMob (Mobile Voices/Voces Móviles), 2010,Institute for Popular Education of Southern California [IDEPSCA] | More info
  • I’m NOT on the Menu, 2018, Gary M. Brooks and Andrew Friends, Labor Beat | More info
Excerpt: WATARIDORI: BIRDS OF PASSAGE by Robert Nakamura; Visual Communications

We Tell: States of Violence

Sun, December 15 at 1 pm | IU Cinema

Not rated | 1978 – 2018 | 2K DCP

Introduction by Carmel Curtis


Concerns of the American criminal justice system are at times extremely complex, involving many stories of truth, policies, and laws that can center around just one case. We Tell: States of Violence takes a personal approach from those directly affected by incarceration, police, crime, and war. From the 1970s to present day, this program demonstrates how participatory community media has enabled artists and creators to produce their own moving images in the name of creating a discourse for better socio-cultural understandings and tangible progressions towards change.

Films in this program include:

  • Ain’t Nobody’s Business, 1978, Lenora Champafgne, Karen Kern, Karl Spicer, Adam Steg, Marianne Wafer, YWCA Battered Women’s Program, New Orleans Video Access Center | More info
  • Inside Women Inside, 1978, Christine Choy and Cynthia Maurizio/Newsreel | More info | Trailer
  • Just Say No: The Gulf Crisis TV Project #55, 1990, Deep Dish TV | More info
  • Books Through Bars, 1997, Books Through Bars & Scribe Video Center | More info
  • M4BL: Ceremony, 2016, Movement for Black Lives | More info
  • A Cop Watcher’s Story: El Grito de Sunset Park Attempts to Deter Police Brutality, 2017, BRIC & Copwatch Brooklyn | More info
Inside Women Inside Trailer – Trailer – TWN; ThirdWorldNewsreel

The We Tell series is curated by Louis Massiah of Scribe Video Center, Patricia Zimmerman of Ithaca College, and Carmel Curtis, Brendan Allen, Flamina Fortunato, Caroline Gil, Michael Grant, Marie Lascu, and Treva Walsh of XFR Collective, with support from IU Cinema, National Endowment for the Arts, IU Libraries Moving Image Archive, the Black Film Center/Archive, Center for Documentary Research and Practice, and The Media School. This partnership is supported through IU Cinema’s Creative Collaborations program.

BFC/A Events This Past Semester

Black Film Center/Archive, 1320 E. 10th Street Wells 044, Bloomington, IN, 47405 || bfca@indiana.edu

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