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Film as Experimental Research and Communication

Principal Investigator: Jesse Ribot


The Film as an Experimental Research and Communication initiative explores film as a medium for conducting research and for communicating research results to policy makers, development practitioners, and affected populations. Initiative projects use dramatic accounts of research results, often laced with irony and humor, as a way to move research from the scholarly realm into the realm of policy change and action. In the process this project brings research subjects into dialogue with the research, enabling them to provide feedback and to ask their own questions.


The initiative has so far produced two films based on research in Senegal: The first film, Weex Dunx and the Quota, was completed in 2007. View Weex Dunx here. The second film, Semmiñ Ñaari Boor, was completed in January 2010. View Semmiñ Ñaari Boor here.


The International Center for Local Democracy funded research to study the democracy effects of the film Semmiñ Ñaari Boor in rural Senegal. That study has been published as the ICLD research report No. 2, “Humor, Irony and Subordination: Democratic Decentralization through a Camera’s Lens.


The ICLD project was delayed by the fortuitous banning of the film in Senegal by the Minister of Environment. The banning gave the film a higher profile in Senegal and enhanced its diffusion. The ban was lifted this past year and the film was shown and studied. In addition, the film was broadcast on Senegal’s National Television program along with a debate between me and the Forest Service Director and the head of the National Union of Forestry Cooperatives.

In August 2013, Senegal’s Minister of Environment requested copies of the two first films in this series for showing on all national television networks. The film is still being used to foment policy debate in Senegal.


In 2015-17, a documentary on the RFGI program was filmed by Fatou Kandé Senghor, but never completed, nevertheless the footage has been very useful for talks and classroom presentations. 


In 2018 I developed the script for a 3-minute animation called “Climate Refugees?” to express the core messages of the ICLD-funded “Local Democracy and Vulnerability Reduction in Africa: Political Representation under a Changing Sky” research. View Climate Refugees?

Working Papers
Related Documents



Ribot, Jesse. 2014. “Farce of the Commons: Humor, Irony, and Subordination through a Camera’s Lens.” Research Report no. 2, International Center for Local Democracy (ICLD), Visby, Sweden.

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