Reflexive commentary

My aim was to investigate migration, with a particular focus on food. However, Covid-19 has forced me in the house and there was no way I could pursue my plan. I have to stay at home, and home is the only place where I am meant to stay. But… am I at home?

“Doing acrobatics in a narrow corridor” was a metaphor that my drama teacher used to express the fact that a limit could be transformed in a meaningful resource. And thus, walking from one wall to the other, and turning back to move toward another wall, as in one of the spatial exercises I did in class, I realized that there was enough to make a film in the space I was forced to occupy. I decided that all the recordings should have been done within those walls. However, at last, I decided to include some external footage that I took the last day before lockdown, for no good reason. I included them as indicative of a state of transition: from outside the house to inside the house, from the world outside of me to the interior of my mind, but also from inside my hometown, to somewhere else. Besides, I kept asking to myself: am I at home?

But first, how it is to be at home? Andrea, Giulianna and Carlotta have talked about their experiences. But I could not effectively express with words mine. The evocative sequence of images and words tries to learn from sensory ethnography, particularly from the productions of SEL (Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab). Films like Leviathan (by Castaing-Taylor and Paravel) and Manakamana (by Spray and Velez) have stressed the importance of non-verbal communication. Experience is a form of communication preferred over language. Audio-visual aid makes it possible for knowledge to be built on an unconscious level through the body, and thus through the senses. This approach allows to communicate what’s not verbal, such as actions, expressions and feelings, without the need to translate them. There is no need for me to translate, and thus reduce, my feelings and sensations into words, if I can reproduce them for the audience to feel. Through this attention to senses, then, sensory visual ethnography transforms the act of watching a movie into an experience, where knowledge is felt rather than rationally understood. In the sequence, this was attempted through the choice, the position and the pace of the pictures and the piercing sounds from various sources: my friend’s voices mixing, the music, and the prime minister repeating to stay at home. (                                            ).

 

And still a voice from the back of my mind was repeating: where is home? This question is not new in my mind. At a point in my life I felt that “home” was not anymore in the place I grew up, and as a teen, I started dreaming – as Hercules in the Disney adaptation                       – about the place “where I am meant to be”. Then, after all, being in lockdown was a great occasion to look at myself, and take stock of the situation: what was I looking for when I left? Was I running away or wanted to discover more? Did I find what I wanted? Is home where I come from or where I choose to be? And how my home determines my identity?

To investigate these questions, I had long discussions with Giuseppe (my high school friend) and Carlotta. In the film I have reported a small part of long conversations that I led inspired by Jean Rouch’s Chronicles of a Summer. For Jean Rouch, filmmaking is not a process of recording, but of provoking, causing, creating. The relationships are built by the anthropologist in front of the camera: he brings his participants together around a table and provoke a discussion. Instead, I brought my participants together in a Zoom room and together we tried to answer my questions.

What is finally portrayed in Chronicle of a Summer seems a good representation of Paris’ inhabitants in 1960. At least, while watching it, I had the impression of living, for 90 minutes, in that summer. The issues risen in the discussions, the relations that while filming were formed between the characters made that movie a portrayal of truth; not “the Truth” as it stands out there, but a truth created by the “meddling” of the camera. The clips in “Stay Home” are the output of a similar methodology. Behind those few minutes of words there have been hours of discussion: Carlotta, Giuseppe and I were trying, during the discussion, to understand the meaning of home, and through their story I got to understand myself. As the participants in Chronicle of a Summer become able to portray a time and a place, my participants were able to portray myself. The clips in the film correspond to the moments of epiphany: the words of my friends perfectly described what I also thought, without knowing it before. And thus, I made them my alter-ego and through their stories I could (understand and) tell mine.  

External links:

SEL: https://sel.fas.harvard.edu/

Leviathan (Trailer): https://youtu.be/vntC7OPDHs8

Manakamana (Trailer): https://youtu.be/6lu6LLd_rEk

Chronicle of a Summer (Clip): https://youtu.be/Pxk-fg771r8