Roberto Arevalo

by Laurel Greenberg

"You learn by watching."
Roberto Arévalo runs The Mirror Project
Roberto Arévalo runs The Mirror Project

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 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 make documentaries. 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."

Page created on 8/18/2014 7:07:47 PM

Last edited 1/6/2017 9:28:30 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

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Extra Info

The Mirror Project lists these as its goals:

    Short Term
  • We would like to secure more stable sources of funding and expand the budget to include a larger staff and higher quality equipment. Multiple staff persons will increase the quality of the services provided, but will also enrich the philosophical and artistic movement.

    Long Term
  • We would like to see the Mirror videos distributed at a national level and bring the project to more sites across the country.
  • We envision selecting a group of Mirror Producers and touring throughout the US to present their work and to promote dialogue between different sectors of society.
  • We would like to create a book about Roberto's process and the philosophy that has emerged from his work within communities, especially teens in marginalized communities.
  • Then, in addition to the Mirror videos, we would create a book containing the stories of Mirror Project participants for younger generations to read stories about young people who have faced circumstances similar to theirs.
  • Ultimately, with this work we hope to impact policy-making about immigrant rights, education, public health and housing for low-income people.
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