A film exploring the shift from life in the pre-COVID-19 world to one of social distance
This film focuses on the experiences of a few individuals during the Coronavirus lockdown, their fears, and their hopes for the future. It is an existential narrative which is less about explaining the situation, and more so figuring it out through conversation and inquisition, as most people are having to do during this time. The blog on this website is a complementary ethnographic insight into these concepts, using daily journal entries from individuals across various circumstances and timelines of isolation as a means to explore the changes in states of mind, coping mechanisms, and the use of fear and rationality. The 2020 global pandemic has affected every aspect of every individuals’ lives in some capacity or the other, and this film was no exception. Starting from a point where the entire concept of the film (previously focused on identity diaspora) had to be shifted due to the extremity of the situation and personal motivations, to having to adapt ideas while moving across continents on short notice. The haphazard and sudden-shifting nature of the film is, both intentionally and unintentionally, reflective of the mental state I was in while making the film. Getting interviews and having to make all videos while staying within the confines of one room, the filming process also brought forward various debates over truth in cinema that we have previously explored. How authentic can I make this given the current situation? Is it biased of me to focus on my experience and include it in the film? One thing I remember from our initial introduction to the theory of visual anthropology was Ruby’s (1980) arguments regarding the self-consciousness of representation. I think it was a good decision to situate myself within the film. Not only did I have a stronger sense of developing a narrative due to the familiarity of my own experience, but the very nature of the film – the concept of self-isolation begged for the exploration of sociality and communication in these circumstances.
Particularly something that had to be readapted drastically was the nature of the filming and its technical aspects. Throughout the theoretical course, we were introduced to various styles of ethnographic filmmaking. From observational cinema (Grimshaw and Ravetz 2009) to Jean Rouch’s participatory techniques (1975), each style had its own agenda and consequently, its benefits and limitations. The extraordinary circumstances of being socially isolated and with limited equipment, however, forced the reconsideration of boundaries between these cinematic techniques, and instead adopt them collaboratively to make the most of what was available. While it was not filmed using traditional long shots characteristic of observational films, the filming process involved spending days holding the camera inside the house, constantly observing and waiting for a moment worth capturing. The fact that interviews were conducted online, allowing some control to the interviewee over how they appear also reflected the ideology of participatory cinema. Additionally, participants were shown their footage to get any comments and feedback they had. In fact, one participant asked to switch the part of the interview chosen as their last words in the film. The most interesting, however, was trying to utilize several different inputs of video and audio and attempting to make them work together. This proved to be possibly the most difficult aspect of making the film, particularly in terms of aesthetics. But the final product is reflective of these conflicts and the nature of the time and condition the film was shot under; these are characterized by audio glitches, shifting from in-person to on-call interviews, and using mobile-phone and low-quality footage due to equipment limitations. Soundscapes were an additional aspect difficult to tackle, with the limited environments available while staying at home.
Nevertheless, all such limitations worked to find ways to force corners and think of innovative solutions both during the filming and editing processes. In a way, this reflexive commentary feels like a stream-of-consciousness ramble vaguely referencing the film, and more so the psychological and social processes that were behind it. When we first began this course, Mike had said to us that your first film should always be about something you feel personally close to. I struggled for a long time to come up with an idea that would fit that criterion, but I do not think there could be anything else for me to film and communicate through that would be more representative of my current state of mind.