Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Reviewing my first Sikh footage - Pangs for the memories

As another mode of practical meditiation for this project, I am reviewing the over 100 hours of footage I have shot over the last two years related to my work with the Sikh Community. It is a way for me to do several things: transcribe footage; relive the past and revive memories of not just what I've filmed but what I learned or thought at that time; and confront and critique myself as a filmmaker while also coming to appreciate my development in that aspect over the past two years.

I've just finished watching footage from my first ever Sikh shoot -- March 6, 2004. Unity Day at Half Hollow Hills High School, Long Island New York. My job: to film the Sikh exhibition put on by the local Sikhs (including my coworker who brought me into this). Both sobering and fun to watch what I shot and how I shot it. I was so chicken about interviewing passersby -- the way I frame them I can tell I was tentative and nervous about asking them questions about a religion that even I did not understand. And there's one 20 minute stretch where I, presumably on a break, start wandering the halls with the camera running as one long take. I must have recently watched Gus Van Sant's ELEPHANT. But the camera just whizzes down the hallway gazing blankly ahead as dozens of parents and kids pass by. In a weird way it reflects my state of mind at the time: unfocused, distracted, chaotic.

The Sikh presenters are a real contrast -- the way they talk to non-Sikhs in explaining their religion is so forthright and assured. I remember being intrigued by what they said about their religion, but also impressed by how they carried themselves. A real contrast to my state of mind and how it must have projected itself externally for others.

But yes, the hallway footage intrigues me in how unintentionally revealing it may be about the person filming it. I do want to keep looking at this footage as if it were shot by someone else and see what it may say about the person -- it's not merely a sign of technical (in) competence but something more on an expressive level. This is something Werner Herzog understood about the footage that Timothy Treadwell left behind in GRIZZLY MAN, one of many great documentaries that I hope will light my path...

No comments: