The video camera as another weapon
By Grupo Alavío

“Through the recording and elaboration of audiovisual materials we are battling directly against the imagery of fascism. The camera is a tool, another arm, like a stick, molotov, miguelito or covering our faces,” Grupo Alavío (direct action and video collective in Argentina).

Making technologies and skills accessible and available to exploited sectors by democratizing audiovisual production and language is a priority of Grupo Alavío’s work. For over 10 years, Alavío has been participating in working class struggles, supporting with audiovisual materials. As activists struggling for social revolution, the debate of whether the reach of the camera is enough is an inevitable discussion. “We are working to construct an identity and thinking that reflects the working class’ and exploited sectors’ specific interests and necessities. The camera is a tool, another weapon.”

The adaptation and appropriation of technologies-originally targeted to improve capitalist production has been one of the most important tools for activists to develop new communication practices in the past decades.

The participants in Grupo Alavío are not media activists. We don't think that life passes through a camera lens or on a video screen. We see the camera as another political tool and we are conscious that at any moment it may be necessary to put down the camera and adopt other roles along side those struggling. Activism can not be pushed into the singular role of filming with a camera or transmitting a TV signal, it is part of a demand for the right to organize: political formation of activists struggling, the right to self-defense against violence on part of the state and the creation of our own media.

In our experience materials have been used as a quick response as counterinform against the mass media, as proof against state repression, as an intervention in internal debates of organizations, preparing activists in direct actions, evaluating actions, and as tools for popular education, etc. Only afterwards were they presented as documentary films.

Fundamental to Alavío’s work is the group’s integration into organizations struggling. This allows the group to establish collective spaces for audiovisual narration and on the other side actively participating with activists in social movements, assuming that activism goes far beyond producing audiovisual material.
One of Alavío’s most recent actions was participation in a week long camp in front of national congress in Buenos Aires from November 19 to November 27. In a state of alert as the courts launched an eviction order, the workers of the occupied ceramics factory, Zanon, mobilized activities which included presentations by the workers, art work, video projections and music concerts. The video screenings were used to create a nexus between the different social movements struggling to defend Zanon. Workers from Chilavert printing factory came to a video screening and presented the documentary Chilavert recupera (Chilavert recuperated) by Grupo Alavío. The workers of Zanon expressed before the screening the impact that the presence of the workers from Chilavert had at the camp. The workers of Chilavert said that they were proud to have their film shown at an event in defense of Zanon.

A few days later Grupo Alavío screened a short documentary about Bauen Hotel, a hotel occupied and managed by workers. Three woman who work at Bauen came to present the video. Cepillo, a worker in charge of security at Zanon thanked the workers at Bauen for their solidarity. During the workers’ stay in Buenos Aires, Hotel Bauen (a hotel self-managed/organized by its workers since 2002) has been hosting them. “We thank the compañeras of Bauen for their solidarity, for opening up their hotel rooms and feeding which has made our stay here during our struggle much more comfortable,” said Cepillo. Both of the documentaries intend to act as a nexus to help movements realize their bonds and unite.

Grupo Alavío has been producing short news pieces for airing on television. The most recent piece is the documentary, Mujer (Woman) as part of the campaign for the release of two political prisoners, Marcela and Carmen. They were arrested during a protest in front of the city hall in Buenos Aires, where demonstrators attacked the building during protest in July against a misdemeanors code to make prostitution illegal in certain zones, lower the minimum age to process minors to 14 and to criminalize street protest. The women arrested form part of the Association of Women Prostituting. They were captured by police while leaving the protest - military style - and have been in jail for over four months. The news piece tells of their lives in prostitution and how the state profits from prostitution. The video was shown to over 100 people at an event at the Zanon camp for the day against violence against women and is used in the campaign for the release of political prisoners.

As a video collective we become available to the demands of organizations and often times our videos take on a life of their own. Alavío uses the camera as a political organ and as a tool to reflect the subjectivity of the working class, which the protagonists in the films appropriate and use to organize. Grupo Alavío holds internal and external video workshops. Alavío is building video libraries in the subway lines with transport workers organizing a wildcat union, land squats on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and in recuperated factories.

Grupo Alavío - video & direct action