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Using Film to Transform Conflict on College Campuses



Today, many college students struggle to have meaningful conversations about important issues. According to a 2021 Heterodox Academy survey, 63% of college students reported feeling uncomfortable sharing their beliefs on campus due to the fear of criticism from their peers. Despite this, 88% of students expressed that colleges should encourage respectful interactions among individuals with differing beliefs.


This discrepancy—between the desire for open dialogue and the fear of judgment—highlights a critical issue on college campuses: the need for safe spaces to facilitate genuine discussions. At Project My Voice, we believe that film is a powerful tool to bridge this gap. By using film to spark critical conversations, we aim to create environments where students feel safe to express their thoughts and engage with others. Here’s how our approach aligns with the strategies outlined in the Aspen Institute’s report, Transforming Conflict on College Campuses (2023).


Understanding the Campus Conflict Landscape


The Aspen Institute’s report identifies several common sources of conflict on college campuses:


  • Ideological Differences: Conflicts over political, social, or cultural beliefs.


  • Identity-Based Tensions: Issues related to race, gender, and sexuality.


  • Institutional Disputes: Disagreements over university policies and administrative decisions.


These conflicts often mirror broader social issues and can escalate if not managed effectively. The report emphasizes the need for proactive engagement and structured dialogue to address these conflicts constructively.


Leveraging Film to Address Campus Conflicts


At Project My Voice, we use film to facilitate the strategies recommended by the Aspen Institute. Films can be powerful catalysts for discussion, offering relatable narratives that help students see different perspectives and reflect on their own beliefs. Here’s how we integrate film into conflict resolution efforts on campuses:


Creating Engagement through Film:


Films can present complex issues and diverse viewpoints in a compelling way, making them effective for engaging students in critical discussions. By depicting real-life conflicts and experiences, films provide a context for students to understand different perspectives and foster empathy.


Facilitated Discussions Post-Screening:


After each film screening, we host guided discussions to help students process what they’ve watched. These discussions are facilitated by experienced moderators who ensure that conversations are respectful and productive. This aligns with the Aspen Institute’s emphasis on structured dialogue as a key strategy for managing conflict.


Empowering Student Voices through Filmmaking:


We also encourage students to create their own films about campus issues. This hands-on approach empowers them to express their perspectives and contribute to a broader understanding of the conflicts they encounter. It aligns with the report’s recommendations for proactive engagement and support systems by providing students with a platform to share their narratives and initiate dialogue.


Using Film in Training and Education:


Films depicting conflict resolution scenarios can be valuable educational tools. They provide concrete examples of how conflicts can be navigated and resolved, enhancing training efforts recommended by the Aspen Institute. Watching characters on screen navigate conflicts helps students learn practical strategies for their own interactions.


Real-World Impact of Film-Based Dialogue


By presenting relatable stories, facilitating structured discussions, and empowering students to share their voices, films can help create a more inclusive and understanding campus environment. At Project My Voice, we are dedicated to using the power of film to promote critical conversations and foster environments where all students feel valued and heard.

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