Monday, 22 June 2015

I'm on the Isle of Wight. I've been here for four days and am learning from the inside about the way the film will unfold. It's a gradual process.

Most of my time has been spent going out on visits with community palliative care team. Thus far this has proved the most constructive way to introduce the project to hospice care patients. The team notify the patient of my likely visit either by phone - at which point hospice outpatients and/or their families can express approval or not - or at the door during home visits. In the case of the latter I don't come to the door until the individual has given approval to the visiting nurses. Approval has been given in all but one visit. I've built up a very good working rapport with the nurses.

I've attended some daycare sessions and events at the hospice and gently introduced the film project to users of day services and activities, most of whom come in from home once or twice a week for a half day or day, collected and dropped off by volunteer drivers.

I've also spent a lot of time hanging around in the nurse staff room. I've focused on becoming a known and familiar face to nurses on the ward, with a view to being introduced to inpatients and respite users down the line, perhaps initially for conversation (much as I would do as a volunteer) and then potentially leading to filming once discussion has taken place, trust has been established and consent given.

I'm also hoping that over time daycare service providers, the community team staff and ward team staff will mention the film to people they are working with who they may feel would be inclined to participate and would benefit from participation, effectively suggesting future meetings and conversations between hospice users and myself.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

regarding the pain of others

“No “we” should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people’s pain.” 

Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

ethics, film and death

I tend to spend a long period of time immersed in the subject area of the film I'm making, developing as deep an understanding as I can of the context I'm about to enter into with a camera and crew. Along the way I've looked at Aries, Kellehear, Fenwick, Gorer, Kubler Ross and many more.  
One way that I'm coming at the ethical complexities and conceptual possibilities of the film is via some ideas gleaned from Emmanuel Levinas, Martin Heidegger, Gilles Deleuze and Vivian Sobchack, particularly Levinas on alterity and creative production.

I work in a very improvised and ethically complicated way. For me filmmaking is an open process, a way of being with others, and also a way of doing philosophy. 

I have two questions: How can film make utterances in terms of the unspokenness of death? How might filmmaker and subject visually confront dying and death, so that the outcome is perceived as morally justifiable in its gaze at what is normatively regarded as forbidden?

What I am setting out to do is conduct extensive observational filming myself and then schedule a five day shoot in August extending the actuality I have captured into constructed and choreographed sequences.

a film about the very end of life

I'm making a film about the end of life. This is an attempt to engender a space where the phenomenon of dying and death can be given images. What I'm planning is complex for a number of reasons: ethically, logistically, aesthetically.

Why? Because filming death and dying is still taboo in terms of what western society can and cannot sanction. As a consequence there are very few moving images of what dying actually is. The default response to making a film artwork involving terminal illness is perhaps concerned with appropriateness, sensitivity, respectful distance. With this response a possibility is denied, and the experiences and subjectivities of those nearing death are occluded. I'm interested in the kinds of moving images yet to be made in the context of death and dying.

The project brings together film practice and palliative care, working with individuals experiencing and witnessing death and dying. I'm working closely with two UK hospices, Earl Mountbatten on the Isle of Wight, and the Martlets in Hove, Sussex. This is a commission by Fabrica, a gallery in Brighton, Arts Council England and Big Lottery, with the support of the University of East London and Queen Mary University London. 

I hope to share some thoughts and issues as they arise, over the next couple of months.