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.

Adam Curtis: Bitter Lake

Adam Curtis’ Bitter lake is a unique documentary which explores the history of the relations between Afghanistan and the USA through archived footage. Curtis has carefully edited the footage to take the viewer through a linear poetic/linear documentary. The narrative follows conventional expository techniques for example ‘Historical documentaries in this mode deliver an unproblematic and ‘objective’ account and interpretation of past event’, whilst the execution of the documentary- poetic which ‘moves away from continuity editing and instead organized images of the material world by means of associations and patterns, both in terms of time and space.’ Curtis’ storyline has especially appealed to me as it exposed the relations between the west and the orient, arguably through the opposing perspective to western media. Curtis uses his footage in a way which rejects the conventional western broadcasts of the orient through using archived ‘local’ footage of Afghani citizens who suffered during the war. His intentions of highlighting the USA and Britain as the real ‘enemy’, who essentially established the foundations of the war is also strengthen by including footage of hooligan western soldiers who aimlessly murder innocent people. The main underlying theme could be viewed as exposing the Orientalist perspective, defying the strength of western media and it’s influence in polluting western people’s views towards the east.

This theme is something I aspire to project through my documentary, as I intend to present the perspective of first generation of Iranian’s who left Iran in reaction to the Islamic Revolution. The people I will be interviewing were all anti-Shah during the revolution, mainly for the reasons that they felt the shah was allowing the west to control Iran. It will be interesting to watch/listen to how these people interpreted the revolution and understood it as opposed to how western media reported it during the time. Other than the theoretical aspect of Bitter Lake, I found the way in which is was displayed extremely interesting. Using archived footage to cover over 100 years of history was a visually fascinating and informative as it had the ability to make the audience feel as if they travelled back in time, experiencing all these events-therefore creating a closer connection with the narrative. As I have previously mentioned, surprise is vital in story writing in order to obtain the audiences attention. Curtis perfects this as he specifically locates shocking scenes in unexpected places, as although his narration is linear, the footage jump cuts between the two different perspectives quite often- from western to eastern culture/location. From this technical aspect, I have been inspired to incorporate this into some of my scenes of the interviews with the subjects. I contemplated using found footage of the protests of revolutions of 1979 to begin the documentary with, to set the scene. However this would completely object my initial idea of making it look naturalistic ‘window into a world’ idea, therefore I have rethought how I can include some found footage without it looking overly stylised.

I want the audience to view a glimpse of how extreme the protests were and gain an understanding of what the documentary subjects have experienced and lived through. Furthermore to achieve this, I have constructed a certain scene which consists of the family sitting around the sofa whilst footage of the revolution plays on the television. This conforms to my intention of prompting discussion regarding certain subjects, whilst making it look un-staged as it if the situation has naturally occurred.  I hope this will influence the subjects to discuss their recollections of this moment in time, thus informing the audience of their varying experiences. This scene could be seen as the start of their journey since leaving, which I aim to capture through this documentary.

Devising Questions

My methodology behind the structure of my questions are somewhat contradictory, aiming to specify on certain themes yet making the questions quite general in order to for them to discuss and debate-to seem like a conversation. I have constructed a few question which will not be included in the audio thus appearing to the audience as if they are listening into a conversation regarding the subject matter within the family.

Some questions I have devised to fit the brief are:

-Discuss some of the factors which lead you to make the decision to leave

-How did you interpret the uprising of Khomeini during the demonstrations

-What were the implications of the revolution for example restraints, challenges to previous society

-Which of these affected you the most

-Discuss the journeys and the challenges you faced adapting to a different cultures

All these questions are intended to be discussed in a way which everyone can talk about and add too, seeing as they all made the journey together, the individuals can add to parts of memories of others adding missed or additional information from the time. I will ask these questions and participate from behind the camera, giving the family prompts to either expand on their information or move onto a new question, as this can all be edited out in post production to look like a naturally flowing conversation. Kalow argues that by limiting the pre-composed structure to follow ‘Shortening the amount of scripted narration invariably leads to a more valid, lively, and visually interesting portrait. When actual community members give voice to their experiences and perceptions, we have more of an opportunity to become engaged in their story’ (Kallow, 2011). The question’s I have devised are quite broad and therefore provides the audience with the illusion that the conversation is naturally taking place. Additionally, all the questions guide the interviewee in an order which discusses their journey from start to finish, which is what I am to present on my documentary. The physical and cultural journey they have experienced.

As the conversation continues Im sure that they will talk about other situations they faced and they may in fact go off track, however the more footage I film the better. Having more content will allow me to specify the most informative shots/scenes to include in my film-furthermore determining and following my intended narrative.

Search For My Tongue

Poet Sujata Bhatt, writes a poem which explores the difficulties she has faced in maintaining her ‘mother tongue’ Gujurati her first language, since living in the west. Key themes within her poem focus of loss of identity, through inheriting the surrounding cultures of her environment, becoming ‘Americanised’. She speaks about the two languages ‘mother’ and ‘foreign’ as if they are battling to consume her mind, but in her dreams she regains the sense of her ‘mother’ identity, which is able to flourish and put her at ease:

‘You ask me what I mean
by saying I have lost my tongue.
I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth,
and lost the first one, the mother tongue,
and could not really know the other,
the foreign tongue.
You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place you had to
speak a foreign tongue,
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream,
it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside.
Everytime I think I’ve forgotten,
I think I’ve lost the mother tongue,
it blossoms out of my mouth.’

This poem relates to some of the themes I aim to convey in my documentary- cultural preservation, loss and the attempts to retain cultural identity through visual and audio clips. Language is a key contributor to the shaping of ones cultural identity, therefore language in my documentary will be a prominent element which will be explored in how the family adapted to different societies by overcoming the language barriers and how it has shaped their modern identity.

Orientalism in the Media

Orientalism, a theory devised by Edward Said in the 1900’s focuses on the Eurocentric views towards the Orient- mainly the middle east, in a uncomplimentary way. Said argues states “Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident.’” (Said, 1978 cited in Sim, 2012, p246). Furthermore Orientalism has been founded off the basis of western discoveries as a result of expeditions to the Orient. Thus social, cultural and political conventions and norms in the Orient were compared and scrutinised due to the lack of global cultural awareness. Said believes the Occident-Orient divide has been manifested in the projection of western imagination of the Orient ‘On the one hand there are Westerners, and on the other there are Arab Orientals; the former are (in no particular order) rational, peaceful, liberal, logical, capable of holding real values, without natural suspicion; the latter are none of these things’ (Said, 1978 Sim, 2012, p.241). Moreover these objective views towards a varying culture, led to the dismissive opinions regarding the Orient on behalf of the framework of western society and values. Said has understood this oppressive viewpoint of the Orient as a discourse which has been translated in post-modern media and how It has in fact reinforced and normalised Orientalist notions. Most commonly seen in the news, Orientalist discourse is still prevalent within modern day media, due to the framing of the middle east in a light which Friedmann argues builds barriers between nations and cultures, thus ‘it determines how people perceive, interpret, and live their lives’ (Sim, 2012, 246). Traditionally, living in a western society, I am aware of how some media outlets such as newspapers and televised news broadcast reports regarding the orient in a way which outweighs the positive stories with the negatives. I feel like it is rare when I am exposed to a story which reports on positive stories within the Orient, making it very easy for western citizens to comprehend that region of the world as uncivilised.

Generally, Said theory draws on the misunderstanding or misinterpretation between the two societies, which is something I aim to incorporate within my film. By breaking down and distancing the misconceptions which lead many to identify Orientalist views with race. By providing the audience with a unique and detailed insight into a middle eastern families life, opposes the conventional discourse of Orientalism within television/ or media. As Freidmann argued that Orientalist thought promoted the divide between nations my documentary will act a visual paradox to this, and instead aim to de-rail these boundaries in order for the audience to acknowledge the subjects not as the ‘others’ but as people.

References

Said, E (1978) cited in Sim, G. (2012) ‘Said’s Marxism: Orientalism relationship to film studies and race’, Discourse, 34(2-3), p. 240-259

Filming Techniques of Accented Cinema

‘Home’ is an integral part to the placement or situatedness of diasporic or exilic people, as ‘deterritorialized’ space which enables people to inhabit their homeland cultural practices, connoting a place of security and comfort. Thus it is important it include places of belonging in Accent films, signifies parts of peoples identities, for the audience to understand. To visual convey this, as part of my storyboard I have decided to include the front doors of each house that I will be filming in, showing the surrounding scenery in order for the audience to view the environmental surroundings which all demonstrate what country I am filming in. For example in Dubai, it is visible that the front door is located in a warm climate due to the exotic plants and the ambient sound of the crickets, whereas in architecture and the number plates of the car indicate in the London house that it is being filmed in England.

Marino describes the significance of ‘Liminal spaces’ as a space which is intended to supplement for another one, but does necessarily replace it. Furthermore she argues that ‘Immigrants are often stuck in this space “in-between” the home – alive in the memory – and the host society -where they work and live’ (Marino, 2014, p132). This not only demonstrates the difficulty in relocating in physical space but also the psychological effects affiliated in this liminal state of mine in which the space which cannot be fulfilled. Comparing these environment contributes to narrative as the varying cultures within the two countries demonstate how diasporic people have dealt with leaving their birthplace. For example Dubai is much closer to Iran, physically and culturally. Therefore it could be understood that living in Dubai could enhance the ability to regain their original sense of cultural milieu and live in a way which more closely resembles the structure of their homeland.

Thus this liminal space can be portrayed by presenting shots which represent the conflicting integration of two varying cultures, through the contrast of clips of separate cultural value. Some Idea’s I have had to convey this is film:

-Desert

-London skyline

-Ornaments within the each house with represent cultural significance

-London highstreet

-Front doors/ exterior of the houses

I feel that these idea’s will portray the mix of cultures, by primarily filming inside the homes and occasionally the surrounding environments (so the audience has a clear understanding of place and location) it follows the narrative of displacement, as Marnio states the ‘idea of rebuilding a “home away from home” gives back a sense of ontological security (Giddens 1991) that is essential for immigrant’s lives (Marino, 2014, p132). Ontological security can be understood  as the individuals experiences which derive from a sense of belonging. Moreover I feel that these shots will depict the ontological security, especially with the shots cultural significance for example art, ornaments and traditional Iranian items which Accented cinema commonly include.

References

Marino, S. (2014) ‘The role of the refugee and the impact of fragmented identities in Diasporic filmmakers. A review of Dogville by Lars von Trier’,CINEJ Cinema Journal, 3(1).

Screenwriting and emotional Rhythm

Documentary may seem as an un-structured genre of film, appearing to directly present the truth of a reality to an audience. Although this to an extent is true, as exploring unmediated topics/situations relies on the information provided by the subjects of the documentary, much organisation is conducted pre-filming in order to create a film which has the ability to grip the audiences attention. The spontaneity of documentaries are usually reflected through the footage of film, as it is the closest form of film which presents reality. However all films have a narrative, a planned narrative which takes the viewer through a journey, an emotional journey which aims to draw the viewer into another world, to the point that they are so immersed in this world that they begin to engage with either the plot and characters. David believes ‘the experience of watching a ‘bad’ film is often a matter of being painfully aware of the passing of time; of observing the passing parade of colour and movement without getting involved. In effect, the emotional rhythm has dried up.’ David:2014,p50).

Davids essay ‘Screenwriting and Emotional Rhythm’ explores the theories and methods behind attaining audiences attention through the form of screenwriting. One main scientific fact which really caught my attention was the importance of surprise. Jonah Lehrer suggests that recent discoveries in neuroscience reveal that the human brain is ‘designed to amplify the shock of mistaken predictions’ (2009: 43). (Lehrer cited David:2014) Therefore if a narrative is too simplistic or predictable, neurologists have found that the observers loose interest as it doesn’t challenge their expectations. This statement seems obvious to viewers, as predictable story lines tend to evoke quite dull reactions, however when decoded as to why audiences feel like this, it clarifies the strong relationship between the emotion and narrative. Audiences need to be kept on their feet and feel the urge to know more in order to sustain their attention. Typically, these predictable narratives can be found in linear narrative- the beginning, middle and the end of a plot all set out in a the timely order. I have decided that as my documentary narrative will not be constructed in a linear sequence. My intentions are to film footage of conversations between families, whilst also record interviews of each member of the family and perhaps overlay them over other scenes of transition shots. The reason I want to organise my documentary like this, other than for the purpose of visual aesthetics, is to maintain the audiences interest by keeping them curious along to the sequel of events that are revealed. I believe that If I just structured the narrative in a linear mode of ‘A family from Iran left because of a revolution, now they are here and this is what they think of it, the end’- informatively it may be interesting although it would not encourage the audience to empathise or build a connection with the characters- which is vital for a successful film.

As the director/producer of this documentary, my duty is to determine the emotional rhythm within the narrative. The main emotions I aim to evoke empathy, shock and concern. Thus whilst constructing my narrative and story- boarding it is essential to constantly acknowledge my intended audience reaction/emotion as it is a main factor which drives the success of the film.