Saturday, January 28, 2012

Intimate film/ video making - what it means!

Intimate interviewing and filming -a former apartheid government head of a hit squad reveals all in this intimate interview

The British newspaper remarked: "This is one of the most explosive articles you'll ever read".
I have interviewed many VIPs, newsworthy people and intimate subjects in my time, and used any number of cameras, as the picture below illustrates.

That is Dirk Coetzee and within a matter of minutes meeting him, he was telling me how his team murdered an activist and burnt his body and how they were all having a barbeque nearby.

When I asked if he was carrying a gun, he took it out and showed me his custom-made Glock explaining how he went to the bathroom with it, because he was fearful of reprisals.

I gulped inside, but continued to press engaged by what he was saying, but never losing focus that this was contrived conversation ( an interview). He wasn't my friend, but we'd connected in some inexplicable way.

From using the Digibeta 700, the VX1000, Super 8mm, Pd150s and even Super VHS,  I would say I have almost always managed the level of intimacy I wanted, so there's a conundrum.

How is it that a doc film maker or videojournalist is able to film a subject, yet irrespective of the size of the camera comes away with something intimate?

I know good videojournailsts who use beta cameras and film "intimate"; similarly, the glut of consumer cameras allow for many to film intimacy.

So there's something else going on. It's not the camera per se, but the individual, though this rationalisation is not reducible to an either/ or.

Yet an individual aware of her filmic space, and presence can use a smaller sized camera to a new effect of abstraction.

However at large, the art of intimacy is captured in the Ashanti phrase, which states:

Me ne wo yE honam baako. 

It literally means we live in the same skin, but its interpretation in Twi is how you become one and the same with someone. There is a deeper understanding between you and the subject which in the absence of the camera, as artifact, goes beyond intimacy, and is not sexual.

Twi, spoken by the Ashantis of Ghana, has a very rich linguistic vernacular. The medical condition Kwashiokor - the malnutrition of children with distended bellies is a Ghanaian word.

Think of " honam baako",  as footsteps in the sand, where two people are walking: the film maker and the subject, but you see only one set of prints

To me that's what's been taking place within the matrix of filming, permission space, intimacy and getting something which gets ever closer to the reality of the subject sans film equipment.

I can't find the lyrical equivalent in English, though I suspect very much it exists. Perhaps though those perceived richer lyrical languages: French, Spanish, and Native American Indians e.g. Navajo
may possess similar tropes.

With regards to how you get it, there's no magic pill, but the chemistry between you and subject can be strengthened by honesty e.g. physical eye contact; trust, sympathetic, etc.