About Dad: Reflections

Some of my earlier photography

Some of my earlier photography

Like with most creative processes, I’ve now reached the point when looking back at the journey which brought me to where I am now; near impossible and arbitrary to describe. The main reason being, is that the making of this film over the past four months has been so intrinsic to my life and the inner- monologue that any discrete details of the film, seem nothing less than obvious to me. I’m not sure and guess I never will know if this would still be the case if the film wasn’t about my own Dad. I guess at least, this clarifies that I succeeded in one of my intentions; to make a personal debut-film, above all else

Nevertheless, for the sake of clarity for the few followers of my blog, and my markers, I will reflect one more time on the story of About Dad.

I originally had the idea to make a film about my own dad, in a seminar, a visual anthropology seminar no less. It was the week we were discussing indigenous media; an intrinsically anthropological area of concern.  One of the questions we were asked to ponder; How Socially Transformative is Indigenous Media? struck a chord in me.  After the works of Smith being brought to my attention, who discusses the ability of newer media potentially deconstructing colonial viewpoints, I wondered if this method could in fact extend to bring geo-political awareness, and internal social relief to small communities. Later, when researching and writing an essay of the same question, I found that such initiatives have come to be since the early nineties; Canadian indigenous—something else— film aid international. I was thrilled by the prospect of a uniquely anthropology- borne media; indigenous media, creating the possibility for minorities and underrepresented voices in general. The methods of which creating opportunities for ‘indigenous peoples’ to distribute their stories on the same level as the powerful. Additionally my research confirmed that, when done properly, making these films had indeed successfully created advocacy and community healing for these previously poorly understood communities.

This aspect of visual anthropology resonated with me because of my everyday involvement in human rights activism. Within my activism work until that point, issues regarding migrants and refugee’s rights had been the area that I had envisioned working on throughout my career. Stumbling upon a method by which issues surrounding minority migrants are better represented, and community building creative processes are used; well suffice to say I had a eureka moment and felt privileged to be studying visual anthropology. Looking back to this point, even before the involvement of an immediate family member, this film was always going to be personal. Inter-subjectivity at its best.

So back in the cloudy November-day seminar, with all these possibilities scanning across my mind; I scribbled down ‘My Indigenous Film About Dad’ onto a crinkled piece of A3 next to me. My mind had already gone as far as Dabaad refugee camp and back again, realising that the project that I was capable of making; right then and now, was not going to directly involve masses of unrepresented refugees. As well as being ambitious, this notion was retrospectively quite conceited, considering I had never made a film before, thinking I was capable in assisting a minority migrant tell their story; even if they were currently residing in Canterbury. The idea of seeking out an individual purely for the basis of making a short film about them, for personal gain unrelated to theirs; seemed contrived, and the opposite of what I now set out to achieve in the makings of my first ever short- film. I considered testing out this method on an issue closer to home, literally.

I can readily say that my relationship with my dad had taken the turn for the worst once coming to university. This disconnect became ever more relevant after returning from a year abroad programme last summer, when I felt the changes I had gone through were unwelcomed upon my coming home. To make things even more hostile; my parents separated during the time I was on my year abroad. So, upon returning in July 2014, I was faced with a rocky relationship with my dad, as dad now; no longer could I spread my youthful bitterness equally across the two parents. So in that seminar, when thinking over the possibilities of film being a healing process- my mind turned to my relationship with my dad; an area in my own life that I could potentially mend.

I wrote down the working title ‘My Indigenous Film About Dad’ fore mostly because I was in an indigenous media seminar, additionally because I thought taking an indigenous style to the film would promote the idea that the film was giving advocacy to my dad’s story. The title changed to About Dad as the project changed, and as prompted by my course teacher as the title might mislead the viewers. I was very cautious about the idea at first, originally thinking my dad would by no means want to participate.  I told myself to persevere because on some level I knew that making this film, or at least trying to, was actually the most logical thing I could do. And as a final certifying thought, even if no one else finds it interesting, at least I could tell myself I’d made the effort to resolve some ongoing issues I had with my dad, in risk perhaps of getting a bad grade in my academic life

However, as the film no longer aligned itself within the realm of indigenous media, I caught myself wondering how my film was still a contribution to visual anthropology. I then realised that what I actually achieved was more similar to the efforts of medical anthropology, rather than being some sort of indigenous advocate for my dad. Unfortunately; many ways that the film could have been educational regarding health issues didn’t make it to the final cut. Despite my dad reflecting on his brother’s illness; he had also mentioned that fact that as a white British family at that time; they were completely unaware of the dangers of skin cancer.

“I remember he [Crispin] would walk in the sun back and forth to work, and never wore a hat.”

-Dad

Dad also reminisced during filming about his Mum’s severe diabetes; often finding her collapsed on the floor as a reaction to her insulin shots. Alas however, neither of these fore casting words made the final film; and so it would be misleading to argue this film has the capabilities to educate the public regarding health issues.

On another level, I was thinking that this connection to medical anthropology could have been as advocacy for mental health; my Dad’s depression. I feels strange stating that in prose. The film, however, is not about mental health. It did succeed however in alleviating some social and welfare issues in my life; not by being a viewer as medical anthropology actually suggests- but being the co-producer of the film. In all honesty, I’m very surprised and relieved by the final narrative. This sneaking joyful narrative that manifested in edit, has made the whole process rewarding, no matter how it will be eventually graded.

Not knowing how it will be graded, I’ve had to settle for the initial responses of my peers, which have already been more than generous. In fact, I’ve just received a text from my friend after posting the link to my blog on Facebook;

“Hannah your film made me cry. It was so sweet, I’m so glad you made it. I really think you’ve done wonders for you dad, I don’t think you’ll ever realise how much good you’ve done. You can see from the film he doesn’t feel appreciated and I think you’ve made him feel appreciated again.”

Well, if the process alone hasn’t been sufficiently rewarding, these words certainly are.

References

http://filmmakerinresidence.nfb.ca/

filmaidinternational.org

http://www.nativecrossroads.org/filmmakers-and-guests/

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