How is the migrant experience featured in specific productions? How is the content of FOMACS’ productions viewed by migrants themselves? These are the key issues of representation and authenticity at the heart of FOMACS’ media output.
FOMACS director Áine O’Brien identifies the challenge of resisting negative stereotypes without inadvertently falling into counter stereotypes, which produce a well-meaning but equally problematic discourse of ‘otherness’. She points to polarised representations of immigrants into Ireland:
‘Welfare fraudster/scrounger’; ‘foreigners taking our jobs/wage undercutters’; ‘this “nation state” or “island” is already too crowded’, ‘criminalisation of the illegal’ etc.
And the counter-stereotyping:
‘Victimised’; ‘deserving/ hard-working/pays taxes’; ‘has endured a gruelling, perilous journey en route’; ‘isolated from social network and family’; ‘vulnerable and without agency’, etc.
In-between both sides of the stereotypes there is a rich terrain of complex identities and realities that seldom get represented in the media; it is this complexity that we have to translate and communicate to a range of audiences.
The involvement of migrants in shaping FOMACS productions is an important part of the programme mix in order to ensure that the content and representation is credible, authentic and relevant. In most cases, FOMACS has worked closely with its NGO partners to source migrant participants who contribute a diversity of perspectives to FOMACS productions. They represent the experience of both men and women, and reflect the experience of non-EU visa professionals as well as less-skilled non-EU work permit holders. Migrants to Ireland have also contributed to FOMACS productions as creators (participants in the digital storytelling project), directors, actors and advisors on issues of characterisation and representation.