Dr Jane Dyson's documentary on the challenges facing young people in the Indian Himalayas has reached school children, students and policymakers worldwide.
- Dr Dyson's film Lifelines and the accompanying teaching pack now feature as a Welsh National Curriculum Resource and are used in several universities in the US, Canada, UK and Australia.
- The film has been viewed over 14,000 times in 126 countries and has been an official selection at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (2015), Kathmandu International Film Festival (2014) and the Kendal Mountain Festival (2014) amongst others.
- A US business entrepreneur inspired by Lifelines has committed funding for a new educational NGO in the village of Bemni.
- Lifelines has transformed the life of its subject, Makar Singh, who now aims to train with other north Indian youth to produce their own documentaries on young people's social and political action.
"When geography can so often be about big data, global trends and anonymous places, 'Lifelines' literally shows you the lives that are being shaped by our changing world. It's a gem in the classroom." (Carl Lee, Geography Teacher, The Sheffield College, Sheffield)
About the research
For over 12 years, Dr Jane Dyson of the University of Oxford has been conducting research on young people, education and unemployment in north India, where one in three high school graduates under the age of 29 is unemployed. A key aim of the ESRC-funded project is to show the creative ways in which youth are managing these economic uncertainties through, for example, helping their communities.
Dr Dyson wanted to find new ways to engage people with her academic work. "Communicating our findings through the usual academic channels has only limited impact," she explains. "A short 15 minute film, focusing on the life of a single young man, brings the issues to a broader audience."
Her film, Lifelines, tells the story of Makar Singh, 32, from the village of Bemni in the north Indian Himalayas. Like many of his friends, he tries to balance traditional work alongside his efforts to get ahead in the modern world. "The film is a portrait of Makar Singh, and through his story, a portrait of his village," Dr Dyson points out. "The village is changing rapidly, and many of the big issues that educated unemployed youth are encountering across South Asia are reflected in these changes. In moving between the personal and wider global shifts, the film tells a compelling story of social change in the early 21st century."
As well as providing a valuable teaching resource and being selected for several international film festivals, the Lifelines film has also inspired government officials in the Uttarakhand region to change their thinking on education and unemployment and tackle youth issues.
"The film is informing society about a section of the world's population that is poorly understood," Dyson explains. "It has found an audience that we could never have dreamed of reaching with just the written word."