DIY Video 2010: Activist Media (Part Two)

This is the first of an ongoing series of curated selections of DIY Video prepared in relation to the screening of DIY Video 2010 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and organized by Mimi Ito, Steve Anderson, and the good folks at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy. The following selection was curated and described by Sasha Constanza-Chock.
What follows is the full selection of videos that I sent to the DIY Video 2010 organizers, structured by the 10 social movement categories that I mentioned above. Short clips of many of them were remixed into the screening program, where they were placed in interesting juxtaposition with other kinds of DIY video by style, technique, and narrative and visual strategy. Here, you can watch the complete set of Activist Media videos, as well as some that didn't make it into the theatrical screening. Enjoy, and I hope that they inspire you to action!

DIY Video Activism Program

Meta: Video Activism

The opening selection is a compilation of key clips from the first two years of the human rights video Hub at Witness is a widely respected video advocacy organization, based in New York City, that uses video as a tool to defend human rights. They've trained hundreds of video activists, and produced a number of good resource kits around the complex issues raised by video advocacy - representation, privacy, repression, agency, etc. They've also grappled with the tradeoffs between relying on YouTube and video hosted on corporate platforms vs. creating their own space online. I thought it appropriate to start with a retrospective they put together of recent human rights videos that have had an impact.

2 Years of the Hub - A Look Back (1:03), By Witness

2008 Election

The 2008 election was full of DIY video all over the spectrum, but I chose to highlight two works that emphasize the role of DIY video outside the formal political process, and that were connected to activity in the streets and at the polls.

Terrorizing Dissent (Trailer) (2:07), By the Glass Bead Collective

I was invited by a video journalism organization called iWitness Video (not to be confused with Witness, above) to help document protests against both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions during the 2008 campaign cycle. At the RNC in the twin cities, iWitness video was repeatedly raided by federal agents who, among other ludicrous claims, at one point insisted that they didn't need warrants because the DIY media outfit was holding 'hostages.' The raids proved to be totally baseless, but were effective in part at disrupting our video trainings and production schedule. There's at least a 40 year history of mass protest at the national conventions, and every year there seem to be more riot police, with more 'less lethal' weaponry, beating up more nonviolent protestors who oppose both parties of War and Empire. At the same time, every year there's also more and more DIY documentation of police abuse. This is great for legal teams, who in recent years have had a lot of success winning class action lawsuits in city after city over rampant first amendment violations (peacefully assemble!). Activists I was working with managed to pull together nearly a terabyte of video footage for the legal team in the Twin Cities. Over time, people have also found innovative new ways to remix protest footage in ways that can capture attention.

I contributed footage, editing, and coordination work to the feature length documentary Terrorizing Dissent. This trailer for the film (edited by the Glass Bead Collective) uses the giant American flag projected behind McCain's head as a bluescreen to show the police brutality taking place on the streets just outside the convention center.

Video the Vote 2008: Why Would Anyone Want to Stop You from Voting? (3:41), By Video the Vote

After the theft of the 2000 election, and widespread irregularities again in 2004, In 2006, Ian Inaba of Guerrilla News Network, John Ennis of Shoot First, Inc., and James Rucker of launched a nationwide network of citizen videographers to try and document voting problems on election day. They ended up getting buy-in from major foundations, public media, and corporate partners, and thousands of people across the country volunteered to participate and help ensure that young people, low income people, and people of color wouldn't be systematically denied the right to vote again. It was all coordinated via web, email, and conference calls. It was inspiring to participate in and will hopefully keep growing during future elections.


It was obvious that this program would have to include the anonymous video of Neda Aghan-Soltan's death during the mass uprising against the theft of the Iranian election. This DIY video was seen worldwide, won the Polk award in a new 'videography' category, and did more than any other single media text to complicate Western publics' monolithic antipathy to Iran by compelling audiences to differentiate between Iranian leadership and the Iranian people. But I didn't want to just include the clip - I wanted to show it situated within a text that draws from a remix aesthetic familiar from daily cultural practices (slideshows mixed with music and short video clips), but applied to mass mobilization.

Neda Soltan [warning: graphic content] (2:22), By AliJahanii:

Iraq & Afghanistan

The massive, worldwide antiwar movement that generated the largest coordinated protest in human history on February 15th, 2003 (a date decided on via the World Social Forum process - see was unable to avert the US invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of dead soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths later, increasing numbers of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are getting organized to end the wars - and they're using DIY video as part of their tactical arsenal. These short videos (by IVAW) highlight creative protest tactics and direct moral appeals by veterans against the war. The third clip is from Brave New Films, an activist documentary shop that is a little too big to be called DIY but not big enough to really be 'industry' either. I included it anyway since they often incorporate DIY footage into their projects.

Iraq War Veterans Raid Gas Station (1:09), By IVAW

Iraq Veterans Against the War: End the War Now (0:30), By IVAW

Veterans to Obama: Do Not Escalate in Afghanistan (1:53), By Brave New Films - Rethink Afghanistan

LGBTQ movement

The LGBTQ movement has made great strides over the last decade, but California's Proposition 8 dealt a cruel blow to proponents of full equality. Protests and creative actions against "PropH8" exploded into the streets, and it was all documented by protest participants, DIY videomakers, small online journalism startups, and LGBTQ movement organizations. For more background check out "Tactical Media and Prop H8".

National Equality March Madness (1:34), By NatlEQMarch:


The successful struggle to defeat the Sensenbrenner Bill in 2006 brought immigrant communities to the streets in the largest wave of mass marches in U.S. history. Hopes of legalization for over 11 million undocumented immigrants, fanned by Obama's election, which had heavy backing from Latino voters, have by now been largely derailed. The Obama administration has pursued detention and deportation even more aggressively than the Bush administration, with 370,000 deportations in 2008 and 390,000 in 2009. This DIY video from Detention Watch Network documents a nationwide grassroots effort to lobby Congress for a more just and humane immigration policy. If you're interested in the use of social media by the immigrant rights movement check out "The Immigrant Rights Movement on the Net". If you're _really_ interested, check out my diss, "Se Ve, Se Siente: Transmedia Mobilization in the Los Angeles Immigrant Rights Movement".

Making Our Voices Heard in DC (3:12), By Will Coley for Detention Watch Network:

Police Brutality

When BART officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant on the Fruitvale train platform on January 1st, 2009, it was recorded by multiple videographers who documented the event on camera phones and a handheld video camera. Soon, the footage was circulating on YouTube, seen millions of times and reposted across the web, then picked up by broadcast TV news. DIY video is one of the most powerful tools in the ongoing struggle against police brutality, and in response police departments across the country are attempting to enforce laws against filming police. To follow this battle more closely check out and for a gallery of creative memorials to Oscar Grant.

Oscar Grant Shooting (1:59), By ? (multiple reposts)

Economy & Gentrification

Many of the best DIY activist videos have always been music videos. Music videos are woefully underrepresented in this program, I'm not sure how it turned out that way. But this one, produced by an amazing crew of Detroit artists, makes up for it all. It begins with beats and rhymes that highlight issues of neoliberal globalization, deindustrialization, battles against gentrification, community led development, movement building, and more, all without feeling preachy and while keeping your head nodding to lyrics by the D's very own Invincible. Then it morphs into a minidocumentary about Detroit organizers who are taking back their city for the next generation, featuring civil rights legend Grace Lee Boggs . It won the Housing Rights award from Media that Matters.

Locusts (6:29) Directed By Iqaa The Olivetone, Produced By Invincible for Emergence Media, Joe Namy, and Rola Nashef


It was incredibly difficult to find DIY video produced by Haitians about what was going in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake. A youth film school called Cine Institute started putting out regular short video stories in the days and weeks after the quake. This compilation provides a taste of their work. It's not exactly social movement media but I felt it was important to include some DIY video from Haiti.

After the Earthquake: A Compilation of Cine Institute Coverage (3:45), By Cine Institute:

After the Earthquake: A Compilation of Ciné Institute Coverage from Ciné Institute on Vimeo.

Climate justice

To close the program, I chose two DIY video selections from the climate justice movement, both related to the Copenhagen COP15 climate summit that, unfortunately, failed to deliver a fair and binding agreement. The first is by the 350 movement , and weaves together stills and short clips from people all around the world who participated in a global day of action to demand a carbon target of 350 parts per million. The final clip is an interesting short by the Copenhagen Bike Bloc that provides a visual history of civil disobedience and serves as a a call to tactical innovation. I wanted to end with this because it's a direct commentary on the way that social movements constantly create new tactics - including new forms of tactical media - in order to push forward towards a more just and sustainable world.

The Day the World Came Together: October 29th, 2009 (2:10)

By The 350 Movement

Put the Fun Between Your Legs: Become the Bike Bloc (1:38), By the Copenhagen Bike Bloc

Sasha Costanza-Chock is a researcher and mediamaker who works on the critical political economy of communication and on the transnational movement for media justice and communication rights. He holds a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California, where he is currently a postdoctoral research associate. He's also a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation, a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and a member of the community board of