THE IMPORTANCE OF TELLING A POSITIVE STORY
For most of my career, I’ve been lucky to be able to experience and share many people’s stories around the world. Many of these remarkable stories have stayed with me until this day. I’ve had the chance to film women in India who were able to make a living by producing sanitary pads, while at the same time improving their own and other women’s health and wellbeing in their community. I filmed poor farmers in rural Ethiopia who had started to build micro businesses, starting with just one chicken, one sewing machine, or one cow, in order to be able to support their family in a sustainable manner, rather than be dependent on aid. In Palestine, I directed a film about women who were leading the way for other women to be brave and do the jobs they really wanted to do, even though it meant breaking deep-rooted societal norms.
What links all of these stories together is personal empowerment. All of the people in my films were in charge of their own lives, because they believed they could change their life for the better. I am sure all of them had to fight the naysayers during their plight, and it can’t have been easy to get up every morning and say to yourself, I believe what I am doing is right and I’m going to make it happen.
I believe that there is a lot of good in this world, and a lot of positive people who believe they can make a change. It is unfortunate that our mainstream media often wants us to think the opposite. Polarisation, fear and xenophobia are increasing in all of our societies and the media has a huge role to play.
Back in the day, when I started working as a documentary filmmaker, and was pitching stories to commissioning editors of TV channels, I often heard the question: ‘What is the flipside, where is the bad story?’ We know that disaster sells, sex sells and violence sells. Just take a look at newspaper headlines.
So why is it so important to tell a positive story? I believe that positive, empowering stories can have huge educational value. This is also the basis on which Lyfta was founded. After many years of pondering about how the stories we choose to tell can make a real impact, we always came back to the same answer: Education. Stories are a powerful tool for learning.
Kids who have watched Lyfta’s stories have said: ‘When I’m watching and interacting with the story, I can forget about school and actually start to learn.”
Teachers also see the value in using stories for learning. Before we founded Lyfta, around two years ago, my colleagues and I visited one primary school in Ipswich, UK, where a teacher, after a Lyfta session in her classroom, said: ‘We need to make it real to them (pupils), we need to make it meaningful. I know this experience will stay with them, because they were just buzzing about it, and that’s what we need in every lesson’. The kids she was talking about were between 7 and 10 years old. When asked questions about the content that they had just seen, the class answered every single question correctly and extremely eloquently. It was a memorable moment. I peered over my shoulder to see Michelle, the teacher, with tears in her eyes. She was visibly moved by her pupils’ engagement. Michelle tells us that her kids are still talking about it to this day.
These and many other experiences in schools in the UK and Finland over the last two years have affirmed my belief that there can be a better world, and that we, the adults, have a responsibility to support the next generation to grasp their role in building a fairer, more sustainable world.
Our mission is to continue telling positive stories at Lyfta. I am so excited about our next steps. We are building an immersive globe interface, where children can visit different people’s homes around the world in 360° and Virtual Reality, to discover how similar we are and at the same time how differences can be beautiful. Soon, the platform will be populated with stories from around the world. Inspiring, motivating, emotional, uplifting, philosophical, surprising, meaningful stories of human beings, who have done something amazing in our world. This year we have some exciting stories in the pipeline, and in the future we hope to work with many talented filmmakers around the world, to create beautiful Lyfta storyworlds with us.
The writer is a documentary filmmaker, 360° storyteller, Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Lyfta.