Reviewing and Searching for Documentary Frameworks and Arguments in A Song Of Air

March 26, 2010 — 1 Comment

Photographs in Haunted Rooms: The Found Home Experimental Film and Merilee Bennett’s A Song of Air
by Adrian Danks

“if my pictures and my stories, however commonplace, are not everybody’s, my uses of the one and my methods of arriving at the other could very well be.”
(from Annette Kuhn; Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination, London: Verso, 1995)

I love this opening quote as it points out exactly what I’m interested in and what will underpin any decent documentary story; the architecture and form of film. Uses of an image and methods for arriving at a final cut will determine the audiences experience and sympathy with and for the film, no matter what the subject. The ways in which the shots, the camera movements and the edits all integrate together express the human emotions. These elements of film weave themselves into the narrative to create a single organic entity of story. This being said, the treatment of home footage and found footage is potentially the most challenging job for a filmmaker as it requires a rigorous creative interpretation and a constant search for meaning and truth within images with which the filmmaker probably had no control over. The general wisdom is that the presence of filmmaker must be acknowledged and affirmed in the film. This is most likely to be done through voice-over.

One of the key strategies of the found home experimental film is the combination and juxtaposition of newly recorded and composed voice-over narration with home photographic images that have been recut, refilmed and/or recontextualised. (Danks)

Danks in his opening statements ties these particular strands of documentary and experimental film to changes in technology, in particular in the post-Second World War period. This context is fascinating in terms of considering the current technological landscape and its rapid changes and revolutions. Cinema was born from technological development and its first memory is documentary. It belongs on the crest of the wave of technological innovations. By this I don’t just mean hardcore special effects, a.k.a James Cameron, but the media and methods by which images are collected and distributed.

“..the gaps between experience or memory and its representation.”

Locating and representing the gaps between experience, memory and its representation is the main concern and focus of found footage practice and its exactly this that I need to achieve with regards to The Caribs project I have undertaken. Another goal of this style of story telling I can recognize is the idea that the story should lead us to acknowledge some aspect of ourselves. Once again suggesting the highly personal trend found in this particular film practice.

Danks goes on to discuss the nature of conflict within found footage, experimental documentary cinema. It goes without saying that the screen requires some form of conflict in order that the audience actually hangs around to see what unfolds on it. He points out that in this case it is quite often the conflict between conceptions of the individual and the collective, and the private and the public. With regards to Transient Spaces this is an interesting point as it says something about the ways in which these filmmakers have excavated footage to reveal truths and emotions relating to a sense of community. Community seems to be something at the centre of all meaning making when it comes to the interpretation of home and found footage. He goes on to describe other various elements that constitute the drama of such films and arrives at the idea that, “these home experimental films aim to show a representational and domestic world to which one can never return.” With my own project I can see that i am lacking quite a lot of this narrative conflict, but I feel certain that it shares the same finish line: to show a world that exists in dreams and memories. Perhaps I should be looking into transcendental forms and theories of cinema practice…

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  1. The Contextualising Blog Post « A Blog by James Thompson - June 4, 2010

    […] Reviewing and Searching for Documentary Frameworks and Arguments in A Song Of Air Once again, this post represents straight up research and note taking. This is the point where I first started trying to feel my way through found footage criticism and analysis. […]

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