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REFLEXIVE

ESSAY

LE CLUB VIDÉo // REFLECTING ON THE THEORIES

The one genre of visual anthropology that piqued my interest from the introduction of the course was observational cinema. At the very beginning of the project, I already knew I wanted to create a platform, a stage, where the most intimate inner workings of a group could be brought to light. I was interested in what people can create when coming together, and the mentality of a collective that doesn’t drown out the individual. And I thought the most adequate framework to do so was to focus on observing a group, a club, or a society. The original nature of observational cinema being Dziga Vertov’s theory of it during the 1920s, while it is nowadays contested, this quality of being able to record fragments of everyday life was what captivated me the most. Furthermore, when writing about Young’s essay in 1975 that pulled the concept of observational cinema up to a genre of cinema itself, Grimshaw and Ravetz (2009, p.540) explain that 

“Instead of being circumscribed by conventional hierarchies built upon directorial authority, there was now an attempt to cede control of the film – to render it a fluid process shaped through the intervention of subjects, the interruption of unexpected or spontaneous events, and the empathetic or imaginative participation of the viewer.”

 

In terms of connecting emotionally with the film, this was relatively easy from the filmmaker and subject of film standpoint. I went back to the island where I was born and where most of my family lives, and I integrated a club, an association that my two grandfathers were members of, and where they create films related to our island. I always knew they were a part of it, as whenever the island has important events, we can see the members of the video club supervising everything, cameras in hand. They would interview tourists, locals, and event organisers, create a full feature length documentary each time with added commentary (for three years my mother lended her voice to the project), and sell these DVDs to people who attended these events.

 

Therefore, the choice of the subject of my film was pretty obvious. When thinking about what I wanted to film, what I wanted to show, all I could think about was this club. I wish to honour it, and to show it in the highest of regards. They do incredible work, are passionate and constantly learning from one another. The interactions they have and the friendships they hold are true, and redefine the meaning of ‘association’. Community, kinship, modernity, tourism and the economy of tourism are all themes that are touched upon in this project, and during the editing process were also ones I actively wished to portray.

 

Just as Morphy and Banks (1997) were concerned with rethinking the self-imposed boundaries of visual anthropology in terms of representation, I thought it would be of most importance to portray a group of documentary filmmakers, skilled in interviews and representation themselves. By pushing the boundaries of what constitutes an ethnographic film subject, the field of visual anthropology makes itself open to a much wider variety of experiences. Taking into account how I incorporated archival images of documentaries created by Le Club Vidéo as well as footage shot with their equipment (newly acquired drone and GoPro camera), I cannot deny the fact this video project became a participatory film in many ways. 

 

While I did indeed have many casual, informal conversations with the members of the club both years before and outside of the context of the project, I thought it best to follow along with Di Gioia’s teachings, as interpreted by Grimshaw and Ravetz (2009, p.543).

 

“If filmmakers were encouraged by Di Gioia to rely on their embodied knowledge and their senses, then this approach led to a further shift – the abandonment of the shooting script. Without it, filmmaking became a process of inquiry that unfolded over time with no guarantee of what the final piece would look like. Of course, such an inquiry was never completely open-ended, since the filmmaker’s techniques were always shaped by certain questions and concerns. Di Gioia’s students, however, learned to pose questions not in pursuit of definitive answers but as a point of departure in a particular kind of investigation of the world” 

 

Beyond my motivation to portray the talent and passion of these men, I had no script nor narrative in mind for the project. I spent the first day of filming with my grandfather only, who showed me around the club and showed me the equipment they have. We sat down and had a long, informal and unplanned interview where I just asked him about the club he was co-president of. This ended an hour later, and we had covered many aspects of the Video Club. The next day, when in the morning I had gone out with both of the presidents to take the drone out, I attended their weekly meeting. This is where I got all the footage of the club together as a collective. I was also able to hold some additional interviews. The only guidelines I gave myself in terms of interview questions were ‘What is the club and why did you join?’. By using these methods, I was able to let the camera shoot and observe them interacting, which allowed a further attachment of a sense of authenticity, away from the formality of two people talking from both ends of a camera. 

 

It was only during the editing process that a narrative emerged. Some themes kept coming back; the mutual teaching, the fraternity, friendships, the both individual and collective nature of the association are all a part of the club’s dynamic, and are therefore why I worked on providing a cohesive narrative to put them at the forefront. While inspired by the theories behind observational cinema, I am fully aware of my incapacity to provide a “complete, unmediated document” that many observational filmmakers may have wished to produce (Macdougall, 1975, p.129), and therefore am unable to deny the hand I played in choosing to showcase these themes. While in many of the interview sessions, the gentlemen of the club make repeated jokes to the average age of the club members, the main goal of this film is to showcase them in all their glory. These aren’t old, solitary men, they are active members of a club boasting high-tech equipment, and are passionate about recording the events of the island they live on.

 

My attachment and commitment to the project are undeniable, and I have tried to distance myself enough to provide a quality ethnographic film, all the while truthfully showing my relationship to the members of Le Club Vidéo.



 

References:

 

Banks, M., Morphy, H., 1997. Introduction: Rethinking Visual Anthropology in Rethinking Visual Anthropology,  London: Yale University Press, pp.1-35.

 

Grimshaw, A., Ravetz, A. 2009. Rethinking Observational Cinema in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 15(3), pp 538-556.

 

MacDougall, D., 1975. Beyond Observational Cinema in P Hoockings Principles of Visual Anthropology, Mounton.