National Touring Exhibition

We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media was screened at 20 venues across the United States. It is still touring, and is also now available for educational licensing.
We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media Bookings and Educational Licensings

For more information on how to book any or all of the six programs in We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media or how to secure an educational license, go to:

More information on We Tell

For a listing of all the films and videos included in the We Tell:  Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media, access our extensive website here:

About We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media

Coprogrammers:  Louis Massiah, Scribe Video Center and Patricia R. Zimmermann, Ithaca College
Archive Research by the XFR Collective ​

We Tell: 50 Years of Participatory Community Media, a national traveling exhibition, chronicles the hidden histories of place-based documentaries that situate their collaborative practices in specific locales, communities, and needs for social and political change.

Participatory community media represents a unique form of short documentary practice produced with communities and the subjects engaged in decision-making and representation. These works embrace and enhance the micro rather than the macro as a production strategy. They shift discourse and debate from the national to the local. Instead of the long form theatrical feature, participatory community media utilizes the short form documentary circulating within and across communities and politics.

Rather than one auteur with a single vision, subjects and communities share authorship. Rather than parachuting into a place during a crisis, these works emerge out of spaces confronting urgent unresolved issues that have a direct impact on communities. Rather than documentary as a commodity to be consumed passively in a festival, gallery, or broadcast venue, these works envision documentary practice as a way to generate dialogues and galvanize community connections across production, distribution, and exhibition.

We Tell features forty separate media projects and thirty-five different nonprofit community-based media organizations. The exhibition not only excavates and celebrates this important, vital fifty-year history of participatory community media in the United States, but also restores these legacies as a vital, vibrant sector of the ecologies of documentary.

The works showcased in this exhibition invent new ways to exhibit media in communities for communities. All the works in this exhibition are short, all under sixty minutes in running time. Their length differs from feature-length documentaries, signifying that the post-screening conversations they mobilize are as important as the pieces themselves. These works circulate within and across communities, outside of traditional exhibition venues of theaters and broadcast, in political groups, community centers, and other small venues.

Participatory community media involves collaboration, negotiation, and a shared vision. In this scalable and sustainable documentary practice, communities render their own analysis of the world. They reconfigure media as a tool for democracy, change, and a way to confront power. Participatory community media constitutes a cinema of utility, a cinema used directly by communities to reclaim histories, power, and stories. Many community media centers and collectives across the United States have functioned not just as places to provide access to media tools and training, but also as empowering nodes propelling people to tell their own stories from the places where they live.

The works featured in We Tell are organized into six thematic programs. Each explores salient topics erupting across fifty years of this practice of a documentary of utility and urgency: Body Publics; Collaborative Knowledges; Environments of Race and Place; Wages of Work; States of Violence; Turf. Each of the thematic programs is organized chronologically to show development of ideas, media technologies, and politics.

We Tell features a diversity of voices, community groups and collectives, historical time periods, social and political issues, and geographic locations across the United States. This exhibition also shows how the development of accessible and affordable media technologies facilitated these small, micro-budget community-based films, moving from 16mm, to Portapak, to video, to cable access television, to satellite, to digital video, to mobile phones, to social media, to drones.

Reviews of We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media

"Rice Cinema in Houston, Texas had the honor to be the second venue for this extraordinary national touring exhibition, We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media. Carefully curated by Louis Massiah and Patricia Zimmermann, We Tell is an extraordinary assembly of activist grassroots documentaries made by oppositional groups in the United States for more than 50 years! It offers an essential history of the individual voices that embody and constitute 'We the People.' Particularly at this particular moment when it seems we are reliving the same struggles for justice and equality for all, We Tell is essential viewing. Congratulations to all those archivists, activists, researchers, and makers who give us such extraordinary images documenting what is not included in our “official story."

- Margarita De La Vega Hurtado, Film Scholar and Programmer, former Executive Director of The Roberty Flaherty Film Seminar, Houston, Texas

"What struck me about We Tell was the "we." The entire six- program exhibition moves us away from the whole fantasy of the single, lone genius as it decenters single-race narratives. "Body Publics," for example , includes Native American as well as Black American reflections on issues of health, safety, and care. This programming strategy lets us think about our interrelated situations, the struggles we share, and those we inhabit differently. We Tell is made for conversation."

-Terri Francis, Director of the Black Film Center/Archive and Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, Indiana University