Roberto Arévalo runs The Mirror Project in which teenagers learn how to write and produce their own documentary videos. Arévalo founded the project in 1992 in Somerville, Massachusetts. The project participants use video, writing and photography as vehicles for discovering, developing and expressing their own voices. Through the
Project, urban youth have created hundreds of documentaries about their everyday experiences. These videos are considered spontaneous reflections or "mirrors" of how the teenagers perceive their world. They reflect the
diversity of the participants and the range of their imaginations.
"He's less of a teacher and more of a friend," says Anderson St. Louis, one of Arévalo's students. "He makes us go up to people we don't know and interview them. He made us comfortable - let the camera be our friend. He's not like, 'do this...do that.' He's not uptight. He has a lot of patience."
Through The Mirror Project, Arévalo has also created over 150 videos focusing on immigrant experiences, education, youth, public health and art. "Reflections," a series of photographs, documents the people, environments and process of each video.
Arévalo says this about the project:
"You learn by watching. Many times people preach, 'You should do this, you should do that, you should think like that,' and that's very ineffective. It doesn't do anything. I try to look at things from their point of view instead of looking at things from my point of view. I adjust to their beats, and once I adjust to their beats, I become a player in their orchestra and I listen to a beautiful melody all the time."
"We would like to share a feature film we are producing about the Mystic Housing Developments. A work in progress, this movie shows ten years of history of the Mystic Housing Developments
from the perspective of young people living there. Based on the hundred and
fifty videos youth participants have created in the last decade, the movie
also includes footage showing the process of the young people learning to
The picture of the Mystic Housing Developments that emerges is
complex, showing youth from different ethnic backgrounds and ages growing up
and reflecting on their surroundings over the course of a decade. The
movie reveals the thoughtfulness and talent of the young people in creating
intimate portraits of their community at the same time that it
reveals the often harsh conditions that surround them.
The film also captures the process of how the Mirror Project's methodology of teaching young people to represent their own lives demystifies
media making. Showing the young people's growth through a process of
self-discovery, the film represents an innovative development in the social documentary field, where subjects become active in shaping their own images."