Friday, October 19, 2018

The 'memory = film' project is evolving

memory = film 
a filmmakers diary
a film poem about time passing

Memory = film: a filmmakers diary is my current digital film project created from my super 8 film archive (1976-2003) and currently in development. The film is an experiment; what it is about is still forming as it will take shape in editing. Perhaps it is like the mercury I once held in the palm of my hand at the 1950s dentist – moving, glistening, shining – with form, yet formless.

The impulse for this film comes from the Japanese death poets. In Japan elders and (Buddhist monks) write poems to express their feelings about the transience of life and the inevitable passing of all things (jisei: “farewell poem to life”); householders write poems as a gift to their children – a legacy of beauty and insight gathered over years. I like this idea– the contemplation of ageing and approaching death, yet brimming with the lightness and beauty of life. 

I borrow moonlight
for this journey of a
million miles
(Saikaku 1730)

 A friend gave me Yoel Hoffman's book Japanese Death Poems years ago and I always carry it around -  thinking, musing, writing - gradually realising (around 2013) that I could make a film in the spirit of this poetic tradition.  Then, only a few weeks ago I discovered that the wonderful video artist Bill Viola has done just this!  So then, everything is perhaps borrowed! The other filmmaker I return to in the vein of death poetry filmmaking (and the use of the home movie archive) is Derek Jarman and his great innovative film Blue that he made when he was in hospital dying (1994)Yet, ultimately as Thacker in his essay Black Illumination: Zen and the poetry of death writes, quoting death poet Toko:
Death poems
are mere delusion
death is death
(Toko 1795)

What I know about the content of the film –  it is composed of my super 8, filmed between 1976-2003. As well a layer of the film reflects films I have made and the politics of each era; so there may be sequences from my earlier documentaries: Maidens (1978), For Love or Money (1983), To the Other Shore (1996) and Island Home Country (2008). Other films and TV programs that reference my film-work may be part of it - including Quite a Long Development  (1979) on making Maidens; an interview about For Love or Money on The Mike Walsh Show (1983); The Journey, ABC (1985) a short film about filmmaking and motherhood; an ABC broadcast about To The Other Shore and psychoanalysis (1996); Maestros of the Archive: The Art of Archival Documentary, OzDox (2014), Women's Gaze and the Feminist Film Archive, AGNSW (2015). 

The production context for the film is the School of Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at UTS, where I am an Honorary Research Associate. Toula Anastas, FASS MediaLab, is Production Supervisor. The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA Canberra), acquired and digitized the super8 collection during 2016-2017.
I am now about to start editing a rough assembly in a free form way, developing a sense of the film’s main theme, shape and form. I will then crowd source to raise the post production budget - and   work with an editor and sound designer-composer. The film will have a multi-platform release of film festivals, broadcast television, galleries and online.

Why the title: “memory = film”? Film, unlike creative forms like painting, sculpture or writing, is ephemeral. Like theatre and music it, too, is passing by. The movement of film through the gate of the camera, through the projector, (both film and digital), parallels the movement of life – its transience, its flow; watching film we experience time passing, and like the mercury of old we cannot really hold it still. Also some of the super8 is degraded with time; the colour might have faded, mould has eaten away at the celluloid; the body of the film is ageing, as is mine. I will not hide it. These fragments of life on my 137 rolls and 9 composite reels of super8 trigger my memory as it fades with age. 

All this happened. Yes, I was in the women’s liberation movement, yes I had a share in women’s land, yes I marched against the war in Vietnam, yes I filmed super8 on the set of Journey Among Women, on Anzac Day, Australia Day and the Aboriginal Awakening ceremonies; yes I loved women and men; yes I have a husband, children and grand children; and I had a therapist; and yes I made these films. Here is the evidence, it was real, I filmed it. Memory = film. And, so, I share this “farewell film poem to life” (jisei), tenderly with you.

Clear sky
The way I came by once
I now go back by
(Gitoku 1754)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Militarism, Projection and Anzac Day - a few reflections.

Dear Reader, I wrote this blog for Anzac Day in  2014. I re-post it as it is as relevant today as then. To work towards peace is for me the path. I honour our Grandpa who fought in France; he was no lover of war- and his letters home to our beloved Nana are testament of that. So, rather than a photo of him in war uniform I post this photo of him diving from the bridge at the Gorge, Launceston (he is 3rd from our left).

Freud wrote his essay 'Remembering, 'Repeating and Working Through' (1914) on the eve of World War 1. Although not addressing the specific politics of war and Europe, in the essay he suggests that what is repressed will repeat endlessly and project itself onto other places, people and things, unless one undertakes 'the work of mourning'.

During World War 2 in 1938 Freud and family members escaped the Nazis by re-settling in London; four of his sisters died in Nazi Germany's concentration camps (see The Nazi Who Saved Sigmund Freud).

German psychoanalysts Alexander and Margarethe Mitschterlich subsequently applied Freud's insights to Germany in their book The Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behaviour (1967). Here they discuss why the Holocaust, the war crimes, and national guilt was not dealt with adequately in post-war German society: 'The Mitscherlichs confronted Germany with a bitter testimonial that many found difficult to bear: Germans, they wrote, are indifferent and lethargic; they lack empathy for the victims of the Nazi genocide and are caught up in "nationalist self-centeredness.' 

 'Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes'
 (Brecht, Life of Galileo, 1943)
As the war drums beat all around and on this Anzac Day 2017, I sense the need for caution; we need analytic thinking around war and violence (in all its forms) at this time; our mainstream media and government offer little deep analytic thinking. Lest we forget all who suffer in war – the victims and the perpetrators on all sides. Let us not go down the path of an uncritical patriotism. Let us not forget that the military take-over of Aboriginal lands by the British, from 1788 on - and the war waged by Aboriginal warriors - is not acknowledged officially by Australia or the Australian War Memorial.

To our dear Pa
I honour and remember our Pa (Mum's dad) who was a Digger in World War 1. He wrote many letters home with details of the war and how it affected him and others - fellow soldiers, nurses, civilians. Perhaps his story has contributed to me becoming a pacifist.

Our Pa, (Tom William Butcher) and his postcard sent to our Nan
in Tasmania (Wynne Ila Lette), from France 10th Dec.,1917 
I have never marched formally on Anzac Day (one day I will before I die to honour Pa). But I do feel strange about it. I don't relate to nationalism, patriotism or war; and the fact that the military take-over of Aboriginal lands by the British from 1788 on-and the war waged by Aboriginal warriors - is not acknowledged on this day. Why? Some of these difficult issues have been addressed by journalist Michael Green in an essay 'Lest We Remember: the Australian War Memorial and the Frontier Wars'. 'It follows an ongoing argument concerning Aboriginal Warriors who lost their lives in the wars against colonial forces'.

'no we don’t want to be stuck alongside you mob,
we had to fight you'. 
Jim Everett, pura-lia meenamatta
'Near the end of his latest book, Forgotten War Henry Reynolds makes a demand: the Australian War Memorial must commemorate the frontier wars. The book examines Australia’s violent colonial history, and reaches into some of our most challenging public debates – about land rights, sovereignty, and reconciliation...I also spoke to playwright Jim Everett, a Plangerrmairreenner man, of the Ben Lomond people in northern Tasmania. ‘If they asked me, I’d say “no we don’t want to be stuck alongside you mob – we had to fight you”. If we want to remember our heroes, then we should be doing it ourselves,’ he says. ‘We should be dedicating a part of country to our fallen heroes – perhaps we could mark it with a rock. I don’t like the idea of statues.’
Jim Everett (arrested) while protecting the kutalayna site, April 2011

"In memory of all women of all countries, 
raped in all wars" 

The only time I ever went to an Anzac Day March was when women marched under a banner: "In memory of all women of all countries, raped in all wars" c1981. I filmed it on super 8: the women's faces with gravitas and dignity marching straight into the waiting police paddy wagons, as the Anzac Day organisors wouldn't give permission for us to march with that banner. The great unspoken of war.

 Canberra 1981 (?) (re the red circled person in the pic- I have no idea who it is!). 
For further discussion see Catriona Elder's essay, ' "I Spit on Your Stone": National Identity, Women Against Rape and the Cult of Anzac' ;  it is also in Maja Mikula's book (ed), Women, Activism and Social Change, Routledge, London, 2005, pp. 71-81.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Intertextuality 'To The Other Shore' & 'Island Home Country'

 In To the Other Shore (1996), an intimate meditation about motherhood, psychotherapy, family and society, I used my Super8 home movies to express the fragility of a mother's mind with a new baby, juxtaposed with excerpts from feature films and documentaries, including Eva Braun's Home Movies, Woman of the Dunes, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and The Letters of Sylvia Plath. 

Anne Tenney as The Mother in To The Other Shore; pic Sandy Edwards
In Island Home Country (2008) I use my super8 footage intertextually to tell a post-colonising story of white settler instability in Tasmania in the face of Aboriginal sovereignty and their deep history on the island. Super8 footage of significant sites such as  Cape Barren Island, The Freud Museum (London), Anzac Day and the Port Arthur Historic Convict Site are interwoven with stories from community members and family. 

Port Arthur Historic Convict Site, Tasmania, Super8 screen shot