“Reminder”, a short piece for my Making Movies class

 Reminder is what came of my long take assignment for Film1001: Making Movies.

I wanted to do something more than purely aesthetic, such as a long take of landscape or a crowd of people – something without any planned narrative. At the same time, I found it very difficult to come up with a plot that would fit into 70 seconds. I experimented with some scenarios, but ultimately I settled with something that could be part of describing a much larger character.

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I wanted the piece to say something real in a way that makes sense. The man holding the photos is actually my father, and the photos are his. They include images of his three older brothers, his mom, dad (whom he hardly knew) and the first photos taken of him after he had the accident that left his right hand missing some fingers. He immigrated to Canada from Italy not long after the last photo was taken. He really hadn’t seen the photos for quite a while, so the sentimental attachment was authentic.

My strengths lie in visual aesthetics, so I had a lot of fun lighting and setting up the scene. There are three lights in play; one behind the subject, shining through a window, one minor fill to the left, and of course the highlight on the right. I also beat a dusty pillow right before the take.

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My dad’s hand has shaped his identity. He was once right handed – and after the accident, he now has to use his left. As a child, he not only stood out because he was an Italian immigrant, but he also was the kid with the “weird hand”. This must have been very socially isolating for him.Whenever someone asks him about his hand, he is quick to tell a nonchalant story about the accident. And even though he was just a little kid when it happened, I bet that for a long time telling that story made him feel a little bit dumb. As if being a curious kid was such an intellectual blunder. He has always identified himself with the underdog, and even 40 years later, I don’t think he has ever forgotten that people notice it..

What I wanted more than anything from this assignment was not to make it look the prettiest or be the funniest. I just wanted to say something about myself that people could understand. In this case, it was about my father and his history, which is very much a part of my history.

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I have some criticisms of course. I think that the relationship at the end of the piece, that of the boy in the photograph being the man who now holds the photos, could be stronger. When I showed the video to some friends, they didn’t make the connection. But I think that in the context of a larger film (this being a scene thereof) it is a subtle way to tell a piece of someone’s larger story.

Themes include: the distances between time, self-identity, and personal history. There are of course many more contexts this could be placed in but these are the more apparent ones. The rest are for individual people to make on their own.

I’d like to hear what you think about this, good or bad. What good is an exercise if you don’t learn anything?

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