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Thoughts from a TED fellow

Farouky and sound-recordist Brendan Butler filming his latest documentary, The Runner, about Salah Ameidan – a champion runner from Western Sahara – Africa’s last colony

Saeed Taji Farouky is a Palestinian / Egyptian / British documentary filmmaker, photographer and writer. His work combines investigative journalism with observational documentary and stresses transparency between subject, filmmaker and audiences. He was twice named Artist-in-Residence at the British Museum and once at Tate Britain and in 2010 he was named a Senior Fellow at TED.


Remember you, too, will be forgotten.

When an oppressive regime wants an image to disappear, it is a subversive act to record it, print it, broadcast it, exhibit it.


It is a subversive act to ask the questions no one else is asking; to point your camera where no other is pointing. But it is now – in this media landscape – also a subversive act to admit the limits of your knowledge. The most honest thing a journalist can say is “I don’t know,” but they are never allowed to say it.


Instead we hear this refrain: “If we’re not there to record it, it didn’t happen” and we’re expected to commend the journalist’s bravery.


The journalist believes she’s telling the story of people “whose lives otherwise mean nothing.” Try telling that to the parents of the dead; to the children of the torture victims. They’re not waiting for the arrival of journalists to confirm their grief. They don’t need a documentary filmmaker to translate their story into a narrative arc.


News channels watch news channels to get their news. They film another television set and broadcast the image to your television set. You are then asked to consider it useful information.


But people are not subjects. Their lives are not stories. We are not messengers, but infiltrators with cameras.


We need our own refrain: Memento Te Oblitus “remember you will be forgotten”


“The ego is your enemy, not your friend” – the guru Osho once said.
Then he bought 93 Rolls Royces.


(Ah well, nobody’s perfect…)


You are not invisible, standing in the corner with a camera. The camera is a provocation. Your presence is an influence, so acknowledge that influence. Use it.


“Wells, Driss. Dig a well, and go down to look for water. The light is not on the surface but deep down. Wherever you may be, even in the desert, you will always find water. You have only to dig, Driss, dig deep.”