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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
‘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 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.
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.