Beneath the Surface

In 2015, we started working with the 11th Hour Project to ask a question we didn’t have an answer to: Is it possible to create a global, community-based mining resistance strategy using video storytelling? From pipelines to metal mining to fracking, Beneath the Surface projects combine a grassroots storytelling approach with legally sound tactics. The program was created in close collaboration with communities who have used these approaches to successfully fight extractive projects. 

NMAP’s focus on narrative change is at the core of this work—each story directly counters the lies and misinformation tactics extractives corporations use with communities, and highlights strategies that communities and NGOs have used to successfully resist harmful projects. Together, these stories create a narrative about extractives that looks very different than the one transnational corporations have crafted. Our Beneath the Surface projects and toolkit have reached more than 10,000 community members in more than 50 remote villages of DRC, Guinea, and Haiti. These communities have begun working with paralegals to access the legal resources they needed. They started demanding meetings with local government or company representatives. In one case, they chased mining corporation representatives off of a radio call-in show with hard-hitting questions. 

Projects within the program successfully put communities in a strong position to protect their rights and fight for justice in the face of multinational mining corporations, while creating a resonant community-based counter-narrative about extractives. 

Rural-Centric Distribution

Whether it’s oil and gas corporations in West Virginia or metal mining corporations in Guinea, the extractive industry targets rural or remote communities for their operations. These communities are often have little to no access to legal and political resources.

To reach these communities with our stories, we created a Backpack Cinema Kit that allows our partners to literally hike into remote villages and set up screening events, regardless of access to electricity or internet.

For some viewers, the backpack cinema kit enabled them to see a film on a big screen for the first time. For others, it was the first time they’d seen a film in their own language. But all of the communities that engaged with Beneath the Surface projects gave us some unexpected feedback: Simply seeing communities around the world facing what they were facing made them feel less alone in their fight, which filled them with hope.

Free, Shareable Tools and Strategies

We want as many organizations, activists, and communities as possible to use our video toolkit and counter-strategy playbook, so we’ve built a dedicated webpage to house all of the Beneath the Surface videos and resources.

In person screenings are a key part of the strategy, so we also created a community screening guide to supercharge your community empowerment efforts.

The guide offers tips, recommendations, and information to help you prepare for a screening of Beneath the Surface videos in your community. It was designed to be adaptable to any setting and circumstance—communities can use what’s useful and ignore what’s not.

We’ve even included instructions for creating your very own backpack cinema kit so you can get to hiking!