Film: a weapon of mass education in global citizenship

Antoine Delers
14 May 2019
Film is an excellent method of educating the general public in global citizenship. With this in mind, Belgium co-finances audiovisual projects and helps to open minds.

The Belgian Development Cooperation considers audiovisual to be a powerful tool. This is why, as part of its mission to provide education in global citizenship, it grants financial support to audiovisual productions that deal with the issues of human and sustainable development linked to southern countries. Élise Pirsoul, our employee in the Development Education Service of FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, granted us an interview on this subject.

Why does Belgium finance projects like these?

The Belgian Development Cooperation is trying to educate Belgians in global citizenship. To achieve this, we need to increase the feeling of interdependency between north and south, as well as make Belgians responsible, aware and conscious of global challenges. Audiovisual productions are considered to be a powerful tool in raising the awareness of the general public. By raising viewers' awareness, these films lead to reflection and commitment regarding these challenges, resulting in the development of global citizenship amongst the public. According to Élise Pirsoul, "Film is a weapon of mass education. With a film, we can explore the issues involved in a complex situation in just one or two hours. This is the best way of reaching a lot of people at the same time, not including the fact that films can be reproduced infinitely."

Film is a weapon of mass education. With a film, we can explore the issues involved in a complex situation in just one or two hours. This is the best way of reaching a lot of people at the same time, not including the fact that films can be reproduced infinitely.

Élise Pirsoul

What type of project?

In its vision of education, Belgium provides financial support for works of fiction or animation, documentaries, series and televised events, as well as the promotion of films with a view to their extensive distribution or broadcast.

This is not a vector for aiding culture, but rather aid for the production of tools that can educate the public in global citizenship. The works are selected depending on whether they tackle issues of conscientisation regarding north-south relations or global development challenges, such as gender equality, humanitarian aid, human rights, poverty or social inequality. The projects must also have a far-reaching effect in Belgium, with guaranteed large-scale distribution. Productions with educational support are also strongly encouraged.

How does the selection process work?

The aid of Belgium takes the form of co-financing, granted to production companies based on an extensive selection process. One appeal is launched per year. A selection committee analyses the submitted projects and grants financial aid to the best dossiers, as far as the budget allows. Over the last few years, Belgium has granted between 700,000 and 1,200,000 euros a year to audiovisual projects.

The selection committee is composed of experts from the fields of development cooperation, audiovisual, pedagogy and education in global citizenship; it includes representatives of:

  • the Wallonia-Brussels Federation;
  • the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF); and
  • Annoncer la couleur/Kleur Bekennen (Showing our Colours), the global citizenship education programme introduced by Enabel, the Belgian Development Agency.

The Committee was also recently joined by an expert in stereotypes from the African Diasporas, who is responsible for assessing how Africa, people from diverse backgrounds and different genders, are represented in the projects submitted to the jury. The aim is to achieve a certain degree of decolonisation of audiovisual financing. "We have to pay attention to the images we want to convey. Images shape minds. They are sometimes suffused with an unconscious paternalism in which Africa is victimised and Whites are represented as saviours," explained Élise Pirsoul.

Consult the vademecum for more information on the application procedure.

We have to pay attention to the images we want to convey. Images shape minds. They are sometimes suffused with an unconscious paternalism in which Africa is victimised and Whites are represented as saviours

Élise Pirsoul
Poster of the movie Insyriated featuring three Syrian women
© Insyriated

A few examples of co-financed projects

  • In 2012, Horses of God was awarded financial support of 37,100 euros. This Moroccan production deals with the radicalisation of two young brothers and their friends, leading to the preparation of suicide bombings in Casablanca. The film received several awards, including at the Cannes Festival.
  • In 2013, The Man Who Mends Women: The Wrath of Hippocrates received 30,000 euros of financial aid. This film tells of the constant struggle of Doctor Mukwege to aid female victims of sexual violence during the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This man won prestigious awards for his struggle, including the King Baudouin African Development Prize in 2011, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2014 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.
  • In 2016, the film Insyriated was awarded 35,000 euros in subsidies. It portrayed the life of a Syrian family during the war from an original point of view, namely the consequences of the war on civilians. The film won the 2018 Magritte Award in several categories, including Best Film.
  • In 2018, the VRT series Kinderen van de kolonie (The Children of the Colony) received 100,000 euros in financial aid. It presents a series of testimonies and different viewpoints on life during colonisation. Watch the 6 episodes of Kinderen van de kolonie.
  • The Royal Museum for Central Africa re-opened in Tervuren in 2018. It had closed for major restructuring work (renovation and redesign of the exhibition's vision). When it re-opened, it screened a series of films financed by the Belgian Development Cooperation, such as the debating evening organised by the RTBF in the museum, which allowed the expression of points of view that the general public is not always used to hearing in Belgium.

Also read Why film and development go hand in hand


Projection nocturne en plein air d'un film au festival du FESPACO



The FESPACO is the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou. It is one of the largest African film festivals and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It takes place in the capital of Burkina Faso every two years. The festival is an excellent example of the importance of culture in a country's development.


Burkina Faso is a small African state facing extreme poverty and a difficult security situation as a result of Jihadism. But still It manages to organise an event of this magnitude, which represents a significant economic contribution for Burkina Faso.  A parallel economy develops around the festival, which attracts not only a large number of spectators but also traders and businessmen. And the cinema industry employs a huge number of people. We can describe it as a cultural industry that creates employment and generates money, or even a private sector that is experiencing rapid growth.


This event also allows the promotion of "African images", as there are few places where this can be done. "To have endogenous development, to create your own development, you need to control your image," explained Élise Pirsoul. "The problem with Africa is that its power of being, its image power, has been taken away. This image is often shaped negatively by the north, where Africa is represented as the continent of war and poverty. The images of a country have a major influence on the self-confidence of the continent, its people and its development potential. The promotion of images of African countries by themselves, through cinema, is an excellent way of increasing this trust, as is the promotion of positive development."


The FESPACO has also led to a boom in film schools in Burkina Faso. The Institut Supérieur de l’Image et du Son (ISIS) has partnerships with other African film schools as well as with Belgian institutes (IAD and INSAS). It is mainly thanks to the FESPACO and this school that more and more Burkinabes are becoming involved in cinema.


"Culture, cinema and seeing the ideas and images of others all help to develop a critical mind and combat obscurantism," concluded Élise Pirsoul. In Burkina Faso, the FESPACO represents an act of resistance to Jihad through thinking. For a country to develop, its body must be nourished, but so must its mind. And it is partly through culture that Burkinabes have opened their minds.


Consult the website for more information on the festival.

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