Moving Beyond "Health Education": Participatory Filmmaking for Cross-Cultural Health Communication

Birut Zemits, Lawurrpa Maypilama, Kayli Wild, Alison Gray Mitchell, Alice Rumbold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the process of developing short films with women in Australian Aboriginal (Yolŋu) communities in northeast Arnhem Land, questions arose about how the content and the process of production were defined and adjusted to suit both parties. This research examines how filmmakers take roles as health educators and how Yolŋu women as the “actors” define and direct the film. It explores ways that the filmmakers tried to ensure that Yolŋu identity was maintained in a biomedical agenda through the use of storytelling in language. An important dialogue develops regarding ownership and negotiation of health information and knowledge, addressing this intersection in a way that truly characterizes the spirit of community-based participatory research. Although the filmmaking processes were initially analyzed in the context of feminist and educational empowerment theories, we conclude that Latour’s (2005) theory of actor networks leads to a more coherent way to explore participatory filmmaking as a health education tool. The analysis in this work provides a framework to integrate health communication, Indigenous women’s issues, and filmmaking practices. In contrasting participatory filmmaking with health promotion and ethnographic film, the importance of negotiating the agenda is revealed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1213-1222
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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