Inspiration behind Lyfta: unheard voices in the world

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Explaining Lyfta
Paulina Tervo, Co-CEO of Lyfta, shares insights into the background of the human stories that can be found within Lyfta’s immersive 360-degree documentary storyworlds.
People from different Lyfta storyworlds
People from different Lyfta storyworlds
My passion for filmmaking began at the age of ten in the late 1980s. During my summer holidays I played around with my dad's Super8 camera, wrote film scripts and made my family members act in my films. The desire to make films and tell stories grew into a profession in my late twenties, when I graduated from an MA in documentary filmmaking and started to tell stories about people around the world. I have always been fascinated by stories of people, and the amazing things that go on in the world that are not always reported on in mainstream media. I think documentaries help us understand different perspectives and realities, ultimately inspiring us to see something in our own lives that could change as a result.

The danger of a single story

If we only follow television and mainstream media we are presented with a narrower worldview. There is the danger of a single story. While in fact, there are so many unheard voices in the world. When I first travelled to Palestine to make a documentary, I was worried because I had only heard negative and scary things about the place. Going there and meeting people made me realise there is this whole world that we know nothing about through our media. It was liberating, as I realised I don't have to think about the world the way the news media is presenting it to us. I can make up my own mind having seen and experienced it for real. In the same year, I also travelled to Ethiopia to make a film in the village of Awra Amba. The same thing happened there - the iconic images of famine and drought that had been etched into my brain after years of media coverage of the issue were completely reversed and I found myself falling in love with the beautiful, and graceful people of Ethiopia. I wanted to show some of the innovative ideas and stories that come out of there.

Defying stereotypes

Awra Amba Visitors' Centre Storyworld Trailer
After these experiences, I wanted to tell positive stories of ordinary human beings. All of the people in these stories share something in common: a fight for equality and a better future. Despite living under difficult circumstances such as political unrest, economic uncertainty or social stigmatisation, all of the people had something in common: resilience, empathy and courage.Courage and resilience come to mind when thinking about the village of Awra Amba in Ethiopia. In this short film below, both men and women share their thoughts on what gender equality means to them in practice.
The men seek out roles that are traditionally considered a woman's work in Ethiopia - such as cooking, spinning cotton and carrying water. While the women, like Merkab, who is a weaver (traditionally a male role), says that 'I think women need to speak up about what they are capable of. We shouldn't let ourselves down'.
These are people who we might never meet in real life, or whose stories we may never come across through mainstream media. The power of these stories lies not only in the subject matter, but they defy the danger of a single story by not reinforcing stereotypes. They are powerful because they can widen our perspectives and our worldview.
By Paulina Tervo, Co-CEO of Lyfta
Global Learning
Human Stories