Summarizing the process of my project

Since completing my project, I feel like I have faced some difficulties along the way although I do think I have managed to convey some key themes which I have theorised in my original intentions for my film. Generally, I would say that filming this alone has been one of the biggest difficulties, as initially I wanted the film to be quite visually stimulating. However working alone has meant that I was limited in capturing a variations of shots- within the interviews and the transitional/location shots. Despite this problem, I have realised that my documentary is more of an informative film rather than visually aesthetic. I am aware that the interview scenes may consume maybe too much of the film, however I do feel that they are necessary and quite vital in terms of the audiences contextual understanding of the documentaries storyline. Another concern of mine is the consistency of the sound volume and quality. Because I intended to gather the majority of the information from the interview footage, when I wanted to overlay sound with some transitional clips, it was quite difficult to extract valuable parts of information without other members of the family making a comment or some kind of sound in response to it. Therefore the manipulation of sound was quite tricky, in terms of eliminating background sound to make a some sentences flow and sound clear.

For sound I used Adobe Audition, which I had never used before to achieve clarity within the sound and reduce background noise. Audition- a software which is specifically designed for sound manipulation allowed me to effectively reduce background room noise, in a much more noticeable way that the Premier sound effects. Although as a result of this sound reduction, which was crucial to the quality of my sound due to a constant ringing in the background (maybe a kitchen appliance), sometime the interviewee’s vocals went slightly tinny or echoey. I do think that it does sound better than the previous original Tascam clips, which sounded quite muffled and slightly distorted.

In terms of presenting my project, I initially wanted to put it on Vimeo and create a website with some background information so the views gain a more in depth understanding about the narrative. However due to the content regarding the political status of Iran, my family specifically asked to me to keep the video private and to not broadcast it online as they feel that it may prevent their ability to travel to Iran, in the future. The information they provided was not aggressively critical, yet it could be interpreted as anti-regime on behalf of Iranian officials, therefore I do not want to jeopardise their safety by posting it online. Due to the export settings for a DVD format, the video has lost some quality, therefore I will also be sending it as a Onedrive file (which is much is higher quality)to the the module leader Nigel Newbutt so that the examiners can download the file. Not only is the quality better with the HDM settings, but also the DVD tends to lag sometimes- which isn’t a post production error but a technical error involving the speed reading of the dvd on the computer.

The name Rooted in Memories: What Was Once My Home, derives from the themes of belonging through recalling memories of what Iran used to be, and the confusion of what someone can call home, if they are basing it on a past society which no longer exists. Home- for diasporic people is usually a place of security and comfort, in which they their mother culture can be protected. Thus the definition of home can be understood as quite a emotionally conflicting term for them, regarding how they intend to perceive their national.

Overall, I feel that I have created a documentary which fits within the framework of accented documentary/film, exploring emotions which link to diasporaic people, such as displacement, belonging, ‘situatedness’ and cultural milieu. The structure I have created throughout post production has narrowed down an hour and a half’s worth of information/conversation in order to demonstrates theses themes in the most direct and informative way within the 9 minutes of film. Although I have slightly strayed away from framing it exactly like Across Still Waters, which is purely a naturalistic observatory documentary, I found it extremely difficult to work alone and achieve this. The lost footage played a large role in this adaptation of documentary narrative, as I could not replace the interview footage shot in Dubai, after leaving. Thus found footage was an integral part in disguising this loss. Mainly, I am pleased with the extent in which it informs the audience about Iranian history and culture, which I was told during the feedback sessions.

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Feedback session

Since exhibiting my project at the Arnolfini, I received some constructive criticism which I have acknowledged in order to progress my work. I devised some question for the observes, drawing on some key features of my documentary to find out if I am fulfilling my intentions. Such as:

-Is it clear the reason why they left Iran?

-Is it difficult to keep up with the subtitles?

-Do you understand the family relations?

-Is it visually pleasing? Do the interviews go on for too long?

-What themes do you pick up from the storyline?

The general consensus was that it was easy to understand, and people were quite shocked by some of the information given in the interview footage- which I was pleased about as I aimed to evoke that emotion through the methods of surprise. Although some people said that the interviews went on for slightly too long, which I was concerned about. Therefore I will be filtering the interview footage further in order to stay on track with the narrative, in way which is straight to the point. Audio levels seemed to be the most common comment, in terms of needing to balance it as apparently it jumps from quiet to loud consistently throughout the film. I was actually leaving sound and colour correction levels as the final part of my post production process, as I did not want to waste time doing it along the way, if I was going to have to cut things out. I will be adjusting the levels of the sounds and colour at the very final stage of editing. In terms of it being visually pleasing, I received some comments regarding how I decided to split up the interview footage, with clips of relevance to the conversation. Including visual aids to the interview audio to visually stimulate the audiences understanding of the experiences they went through. Furthermore I am extremely pleased with my decision to include found footage in the film, as people responded very well to it and may actually include more as I still feel it lacks variation within some sections of the interviews.

One person picked up on the speed of the subtitles, saying that it was hard to follow both the visuals and read the subtitles due to the pace in which the interviewees are speaking. Unfortunately there is not much I can change about that, but perhaps when I eliminate some footage which isn’t vital to the telling of the story, it will provide more time for people to acknowledge the videos as I will be decreasing the amount of interview time. Lastly, some people were asking questions about the relations of the family. Therefore I think that I will include names and family relations to one another in the initial scene, so that people understand the links.

The audiences age range was quite broad, therefore the feedback I received were from both people of that generation who remember it being reported on the news, along with a younger generation who were unaware of the entire situation. However both responses seemed agree that It was interested insight to an insiders perspective, as although it is a reasonably old event, it is fascinating to view how it still effects people all these years later. I was very pleased with this response as that was my intention, to use my documentary as an outlet which informs and educates the audience about the historical movement has effected the families national identity and how the cultural shift has shaped who they are today.

The use of subtitles

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Due to the lack of the ability to speak English, my grandparents spoke in Farsi throughout the interviews, leading to the majority of the interview conversation audio spoken in Farsi. By everyone speaking Farsi enabled my grandparents- who have the most knowledge about the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979, to participate in conversations in which they could express their opinions and perspective towards the situations they faced as a result. I was always aware of the possibility that the interviews maybe spoken in their first language, which I admired as it conveys a sense of authenticity, adding to to the cultural divide which they experience living in a western society. Furthermore subtitles will be a key feature in my documentary, as Nancy Kalow has highlighted the importance of subtitles in strengthening the bond between the audience and the onscreen subjects, ‘This is true even if a speaker of another language needs subtitles, which are superior to audio dubbing that was typical in the condescending educational documentaries of the past. Many people who watch documentary videos are interested in hearing actual voices and expressions, and they are comfortable reading subtitles’. (Kalow, 2011). Some problems I have encountered since transcribing the interviews from Farsi to English, is that the speed of the interviewee’s conversation is quite fast and therefore the subtitles appear quite quickly meaning that the viewer may be more focused on the subtitles instead of the actual visuals onscreen. However this problem cannot really be fixed, as I cannot slow down the speed of the video, therefore I have decided to really limit the interviews down to the most interesting clips which the audience can extract the maximum amount of information from. By eliminating the footage which tends to potentially go off tangent or perhaps expand or repeat a comment already made, gives the audience more time to actually view and appreciate the framing. The combination of visuals and sound are crucial to the connection that audience builds with the character, furthermore the each element is equally as important as the other in contributing a portraying their personas. Therefore if on is more prevalent that the other, the onscreen character lacks a wholesome representation, leading to the weak connection and interest on the audiences behalf.

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Transcribing the interview’s was quite time consuming, however it massively helped me in the organisation of audio and camera files, whilst helping me to determine what audio was most valuable to my narrative. Having the entire interview typed up- with the file names and times, instead of attempting to memorise certain parts from the Tascam file, allowed me to efficiently link the camera footage with the audio footage and visually review the strongest information provided in the interview. As my aim with the audio was to condense the 80 minutes of interview into around 8 minutes, the visual documentation made it simple to decide what was most beneficial sections were, in order for the audience to understand what the historical, cultural and social situation of the interviewee’s, in the most direct and concise way. However this strategy also had some cons when aligned with footage. Audio manipulation to achieve this furthermore disrupted the continuity of the footage, entailing quite obvious jump cut edits. Although the benefits of shooting off two camera’s enabled me to supplement other footage of the opposite sit of the sofa, presenting reaction shots to cut up the difference in shots. Generally, I feel that using subtitles contributes to the storyline of my documentary or cultural preservation and national identity, in foreign territories, as Egoyan and Balfor argue that ‘the idea of subtitles animates discussions of translation, otherness, representation, national identity and the tasks of cultural interpretation’ (Egoyan and Balfour,, 2004, p.24).

References
Kalow, N. (2011) Visual storytelling the digital video documentary the center for documentary studies at duke university. Available at: https://documentarystudies.duke.edu/uploads/media_items/visual-storytelling-the-digital-video-documentary.original.pdf (Accessed: 8 May 2016).
Egoyan, A. and Balfour, I. (eds.) (2004) Subtitles: On the foreignness of film. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lost interview footage

Somehow, some interview footage was lost on the memory cards, meaning part of the visuals from the interviews went missing. This has made it quite difficult in terms of linking the interview sounds and footage, additionally it has hindered the continuity of the interviews. The two cameras were positioned to capture both half of the L shape sofas, however some frames in the interviewee’s were talking were lost, therefore I only had the ‘reaction’ shots from the opposite side of the sofa. This has inflicted a sever problem for the continuity of the film, however since I have decided to add found footage, this has enabled me to disguise this issue. Coincidently, in some ways this has worked to my advantage as firstly it has helped me split up the interview footage, which I was initially worried about being too long. And secondly, it has helped me decide what footage to include and what footage to cut out. The lack of visuals helped me filter down what was most important to the narrative of the documentary, and the footage which was missing was actually quite irrelevant and off topic to cultural/national identity. I realised this during the transcriptions. I think that I probably would have been adamant about including those scenes if I had not lost them, but in fact it has led me to clarify my intended narrative and has made me realise that I do not need additional footage if it does not add anything the message I want the audience to draw from the film.

The use of Found Footage

In my previous blog post, I mentioned how I drew inspiration from Adam Curtis’ bitter lake, although I recognised that found footage did not fit with my narrative. However since shooting all of my footage in Dubai and London, during post production I have realised that due to only having two camera’s for the interview- which at large is essentially my entire documentary, that I need to divide the footage as it seems to be quite repetitive. The continuous interview footage, does not align with my intentions spoken about in the Rhythm of emotion, there is no element of surprise or stimulation within the visuals. Therefore I think that including found footage would benefit my documentary in two ways. One being that it provides the audience with more visual variation, instead of constant interview footage which has the potential to lead viewers to loose interest in the film. Secondly, it can be used as a tool to visually aid the conversation, portraying a clearer sense of what the family members actually experienced. Through exhibiting the actual situations such as the demonstrations and protests of the 1979 revolution, provides the audience with a stronger sense of the hardship they went through by including two contrasting perspectives towards the revolution (the western news and the insiders). Furthermore in regards to the emotional rhythm of the film, it believe for my project it is necessary to insert found footage to strengthen the audiences understand of the revolutionary era as Belina Small argues ‘Emotions move along with histories of signification and, through this, become associated with and shape relationships with objects such as images and genres, a text and/or the institutions surrounding the text, in systematic ways’ (The Documentary-politics, emotion, culture by Belina Smaill). Thus using footage to visually signify parts of the interviewee’s conversation, can be viewed as a catalyst in evoking certain emotions from the audience. Personally, from watching Bitter Lake, it was quite an intense experience because actually watching footage made me feel like I was live at the scenes. Clips of violence made me physically cringe, I felt a connection with some scenes and reacted in my own space at home, how I would If I was in the position being presented to me on the screen. The power and effect of found footage led me to believe that I was present in some of the footage, intensifying my reactions to what I was being shown. Therefore the ability in which found footage has to draw in the attention of the viewer and construct the illusion of real presence in scenes, heightens the viewing experience whilst simultaneously increasing the bond towards the characters.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvUlotPLYKA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcg7wY41UEY

 

Shooting in London and conveying national Identity

Previously mentioning about my intention to display the diversity within the locations and cultures between the two countries, to demonstrate the different ways of life, I essentially translated the footage taken in Dubai into the western version. Here are some shots I filmed, fragments of London to assist my aim to show the contrasting cultures:

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Each photograph (from the video) I feel contribute to the representation of my mothers British cultural identity. Living in England since the age of 14, she has spent more of her life in England than Iran. Evidently living in the UK for the most part of her life, can rise questions about her true national identity. Recent theorist such as McCrone and Bechhofer have explored the pattern of ‘choosing identities’, separating national identity from citizenship, thus devaluing the role of the passport in shaping ones national identity. National Identity critiqued by many theorists as a formation as a result of political power as Benedict Anderson states that national identity is a ‘political project of identity creation, employed to create a nation and to achieve a coherent collective identity, and in the mobilisation of people within a certain territory’ (Saleh, 2012, p51). Furthermore Anderson comprehends national identity as a social construct, as a political manifestation which aims to internalise patriotism within citizens within the location. Gellner also agree’s that ‘nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self- consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist’ (Gellner cited in Saleh, 2012, p51). I found this point extremely interesting as in relation to my documentary which focuses on the families departure of Iran due to the political/religious revolution. If politics are the founders of national identity and community, then if one does not agree with the political views or opinions, does this then mean that one cannot identify themselves as part of that nation? Does this personal challenge or opposition to political status then marginalize citizens from their homeland? Within my documentary, I aim to show this conflict within the interviewee’s responses to my questions, as although the disapproving to the Islamised politics in Iran, the family members still identify as Iranian, yet under the memories they retain during the Shah’s era. For Iranians, especially transnational and diasporic Iranian’s, national identity has been viewed as an extremely complex and fragmented issue due to the variety of socio-political shifts the country has faced. Saleh has argued that Iranian ‘identity tentatively attempts to draw bridges between the extreme, divergent and contentious duality of Islamism and nationalism, pre-Islamic and post-Islamic, pro-Western and anti-imperialist approaches. (Saleh, 2012, 56), aiming to unite a diverse range of political viewpoints of within Iranian society. Thus in my families case, preserving part of their national identity from an era which is now non-existant, or even a part which was never to be achieved (wanting change from the Shah, but not expecting Islamic fundamentalism to dominate). Essentially, my documentary investigates how national and cultural identity can be preserved, in outside or foreign societies, and how the complexity of national idenity within in Iran has had problematic reprecussions on Iranian citizen who attempt gain the sense of belonging through cultural and spatial shifts.

References

Saleh, A. (2012) ‘Iran’s National Identity Problematic’, Sfera Politicii, 20 (4), pp. 50–58.

Visual Storytelling, exploring Millieu through documentary

The choice for using film documentary as a platform to present my work, was due to the role that visuals plays in portraying subjects. Kalow has labelled this ‘Visual Storytelling’, which effectively describes the objective of documentary films. By using visuals as a medium to present a story, someones story through visual aids ensnares he audiences interest allowing the audience to establish a relationship with the onscreen subject of the story. Documentary has been conventionally understood as a genre which re realities or a reproduction of realities, Nichols argues that “Documentaries are about real people who do not play or perform roles.” Instead, they “play” or present themselves. They draw on prior experience and habits to be themselves’ in a world which we already occupy. Thus implying that documentary does not uncover situations which have never occurs, but more so exposing and shedding light onto these situations to people who have not been aware or previously informed. Therefore the theoretical framework of documentary facilitates my intentions to inform the audience about a completely way of life, leaving the motherland due to public demand for change and the obstacles encountered as a result of naïvety.

My target audience varies between western audience and diaspora Iranians. I believe that Iranian’s will be able to empathise with the ‘story’ as many living abroad left Iran due to the revolution. For the western audience, it reveals a story which could be quite alien to them, having to relocate and adapt to live in a completely different society. Through highlighting the cultural differences within the film, I aim to evoke the feeling of sympathy from the audience and arise the theme of cultural Millieu. Millieu can be understood as Durdshmit has describes the feeling of ‘situatedness’ as how people interpret and their surroundings in relation to their past experiences. The accumulation of knowledge within an environment or geographic location has been believed to shape oneself and the beliefs they hold. Furthermore social millieu focuses the wider context of millieu wich consist of ‘The social environment, social context, socialtural context, or milieu, refers to the immediate physical and social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops”(Barret and Casper, 2001) within different countries and how they contribute to oneself’s perception of the world.

My documentary explores a journey to integrate into a completely society which varies hugely in culture, adapting to the conventions of British culture as a complete outsider. Whilst also highlighting the conflict between attempting to hold on to national identity whilst simultaneously distancing themselves physically from their nation due repercussions of the revolution.

References

‘The definition of Social Environment’ by Elizabeth Barnett, Michele Casper, March 2001, Vol. 91, No. 3

‘Visual Storytelling The Digital Video Documentary’ Nancy Kalow, 2011

 

Iranian New Year (Nowrooz) Shoot

Iranian New Year is a celebration of the first day of spring, on March the 31st. I have been attending this ever since I can remember, as it is a big event in the calendar for diaspora Iranians which gathers all Iranian’s together to celebrate. Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 22.19.39 Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 22.20.07 Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 22.20.26 Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 22.20.48 Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 22.21.25 Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 22.21.36

Nowrooz is a essentially a massive party which celebrates traditional Iranian values, which is presented on the Hafzine- a table with a variety of objects which signify different meaning in relation to the new year. I have captured some of these objects of cultural significance to inform the audience about the differing cultures. However I think the most important theoretical reasoning behind the decision to film the new year, was to portray the cultural preservation of Iranian culture, displayed in an areana which denotes a place of ‘belonging’. It shows the large Iranian diaspora in London, whilst exemplifying the interest and importance of retaining cultural values in an area in a society which does has a completely separate new year date. This shows that people are still very much in touch with their cultural roots, highlighting their ability to fully exercise their cultural belief/understanding. I think that it is important to show the positive aspects of living in the UK an immigrant, and the general tone of my narrative seems quite bleak, touching of loneliness, displacement and resentment. However despite the potential loss of national/cultural identity on the journey from their homeland, it is still feasible to live and integrate into a society and maintain your identity.

Framing Idea’s

Inspired by the framing and narrative style of Across still water, I have story boarded some desired shot I intend to capture throughout my filming. Across still water primarily consists of the alternation between naturalistic interview shots and transitional shots which signify places and objects of importance to the interviewee. For example footage of the lake in which he fishes in and the estate he lives in, whilst also capturing close up of his pet dog and his white cane. Furthermore I intend to work off a similar framework, as these shots visually aids the audience with a clearer insight and understanding of the subjects lives.

Shooting in Dubai

Deserts have traditionally been associated with Middle Eastern landscape, although this may seem slightly stereotypical, In my documentary I think that it is quite important to include some scenes of deserts, as I feel it does connote the difference in cultures. With these shots, I aim for the audience to view the desert as a complete contrast from London life, highlighting the differences in society and culture. Futhermore demonstrating the cultural journey and adjustments the family have had to endure and adapt to since leaving Iran.

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These transitional shots will be used specifically for the section in my documentary when I interview my family in Dubai, as I do not want to confuse the audience of where my family are based. To clarify where each family member lives, I have decided to also capture shots of their front doors and their road, as factors such as the weather, cars, plants all exhibit the difference in location. As the film must be maximum 8 minutes, I aim to extract as much information from the interviews therefore during these transitional shots, I think that it will be beneficial to overlay some interview responses in order for the interview to flow into the actual footage of the interview.

Here are some shots of objects and decor in my families house in Dubai, which all contribute to the idea of cultural preservation:

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Generally I have found it quite difficult to capture routinely practices of my family, as during my time there many were preoccupied with work demands. Therefore it was very rare that they were all together in the same room at one time. This led to an alteration in the style of my interviews, as initially I had intended to spark conversation during times which showed the family participating household actives such as eating dinner, cooking, watching television. However this proved to be too difficult as everyone had their own priorities, meaning the interviews had to be filmed during the evening. Furthermore the interviews now look slightly more constructed- consisting of the family sitting on the sofa discussing their responses to the questions I had asked them.

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I used two different angles to capture all the families participation in the conversation. During post production, I have realised that simply alternating between the two angles throughout the interview can look quite bland and repetitive. As a result, I have decided to split up these shots by aligning some of the speech with certain transitional shots in which they apply to. Continual interview footage may lead the viewers to become uninterested as there is not much variation or diversity, despite the interesting information within the framing- linking to emotional rhythm of the film. As I have previously mentioned, this film will not be edited in a linear way, in order to achieve the emotion of surprise within the audience. However since the post-production process, I am not aware that this element of surprise or shock does not solely lie within the narrative, but it must also translate within the visuals to hold the interest of the audience. Although the transitional footage is nothing extremely surprising, in fact if anything quite mundane, it enables the viewer to explore ulterior views and elements which contribute the view-points of the family. As an artist, my uncle has painted many painting which explore post-revolutionary Iran which, I think will add to the conversational topic and provide the audience with how the family have comprehended the revolution. His painting are in each family members house. These paintings signify the potential lives they could have been living, had stayed in Iran, furthermore demonstrating the split of cultures- embracing it as a part of their culture that they no longer live under. This all contributes between the cultural preservation within each family member, comparing how they maintain their Iranian-selves, and how it can be exercised within an outside society.

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Accented cinema

Accented Cinema has been theorised by Iranian scholar of exile and diasporatic media studies, Hamid Naficy. Naficy separates the term ‘Accented’ from global cinema, as he brands it as a unique form of cinema which specifically focuses exile and diaspora people, pursuing the themes of culture in regards to spatial locations ‘As such, the best of accented films not only signify and signify upon the conditions of exile and diaspora-and deterritorialization in general, but also upon cinema itself’ (Naficy, in Egoyan and Balfour, 2004,p134 ). Accented cinema generally aims to break down cultural boundaries, by exhibiting various cultures around the world, and cinema accommodates this ‘deterritorialization’ by enabling global access and awareness. Naficy highlights the simultaneous objectives of accented cinema between the theoretical and technical motives ‘are consecutively linked because both are driven by distance, separation, absence, and loss, as well as the desire to bridge these multiple gaps’ (Naficy, cited in Egoyan and Balfour, 2004,p134 ). Theoretically, typical themes within Accented cinema represent the displacement of people and the discourse of national identity, through the historical exploration of the social or cultural reasons for the departure from their homeland. Accented cinema conventionally emanates from exilic or diasporic film-makers living in a western society, usually as an ethnographic project to present a story of journey. The journey from homeland to the final destination is often one which embarks on loss of national identity, displacement and confusion as Suner states that Accented film revolves ‘around home-seeking, homelessness and/or homecoming journeys, accented films are deeply concerned with the issues of territorality, rootedness and geography’ (Suner, 2006, 368). Naficy’s theorization’s of Accented cinema directly reflects my intentions for my documentary, as although as the filmmaker I am not in exile, however being a part of an Iranian diaspora I have lived in a family environment where the duality of cultures has played a large role in my upbringing, shaping my understanding towards varying cultures. Therefore for me, this could be viewed as a semi-ethnographic project as being exposed to two different cultures but being rooted in the UK, has triggered my interest in the emotions linked to Diaspora communities, trying to stay in touch with the culture from the motherland, in a society which it is not the dominant culture- something I have never had to experience.

Epistolary, the use of written word has been strongly associated with Accented cinema, as an additional way for the audience to access the viewpoints of the onscreen subjects, as Naficy believes it ‘enhances the works verisimilitude and psychological depth’ (Naficy cited in Egoyan and Balfour, 2004, p135). Subtitles in this sense welcome the audience into a completely different world or way of life by allowing the speech of the subject to be heard and acknowledged, instead of being dubbed and masked. This provides the audience with a stronger sense of reality enabling them to engage with the subject, furthermore contributing to the construction of the filmmakers desired emotions evoked from the audience. By including subtitles, I feel that I opened the door for english speakers to understand the journey the family in the documentary have experienced- diminishing the language barrier to widen the cultural boundaries.

References

Naficy, H,  Epistolarity and Textuality in Accented Film in Egoyan, A. and Balfour, I. (eds.) (2004) Subtitles: On the foreignness of film. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Suner, A. (2006) ‘Outside in: “Accented cinema” at large’, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 7(3), pp. 363–382.