Short Film I Love You Mum Reflection
My first short documentary film, I Love You Mum, was made in October of 2010 as a purpose of practice. Through this merely three-minute piece, a few aspects of thoughts were explored, in terms of technology, intimacy, communication and relationship. The film depicts a process of my personal expression of love to my mother.
Motivation and Concept
The ideas of making I Love You Mum all started from my research interest, Hyperpersonal Interaction, which is a theory suggesting the various effect of communication between on-line and face to face bases. According to that, the way people connect with each other and express themselves face to face differs from how they do that online. Therefore, to explore the difference between them and self-identity in communication becomes my initial motivation. Furthermore, I have been always intrigued by the representation of reality documentary film could provide. It seems that the most practical way to examine my curiosity of this theme is to film it down, or say, to document it.
Not until several discussions with Dr. Nick Higgins I could not realise what my actual motif is. It turned out to be that what I really try to convey is the intimacy within relationship, either through technological tools or directly expressed in person. I started to look back to my own situation. It appears that I do have difficulties in terms of expressing affection to my family, because of distance, time difference and lack of courage. On the other hand, technology, which provides a relatively indirect benefit of the safety feeling, enables me to speak my mind to my family. Also, by utilising technology to express could achieve almost the same effect with talking face to face. Therefore the structure of I Love You Mum emerges: from eager to communicate, but due to aforementioned factors then unable to communicate, and at last with the aid of technology I manage to speak out my feeling.
The structure wraps a concept in the film, which is the concept to show the process of my overcoming inner weakness of unable to say “I love you” to my own mother. I found that it is also the weakness of many others’. In other words, the concept of film could perhaps offer audiences to have collective understanding, and even the similar emotion as I have.
Apart from that, I Love You Mum is also an experiment and an excise to try out my own filming style by directly documenting first hand experiences. That is to say the purpose of making this documentary film is not only to reflect my desire of self expression, but also to review the essence of intimate relationships I have, and to approach them both emotionally and experimentally.
Initially, I tended to capture the interaction among my acquaintance circle, which provides me a rather accessible filming subject. However, several unsuccessful attempts made me reconsider the meaning of my original need of documenting. It mainly stemmed from both film competition theme requirement (How technology changes my life) and my own exploration of intimacy in communication. As a result, I become the subject of my own film.
More than that, I also agree on that it is beneficial to start the first film by employing myself in facing both the subjective and the objective positions, in terms of being in front of and behind the camera. That helps me experience the thoughts a filmmaker needs to think over, as well as comprehend more about how it is like to be filmed. Such practices are likely to equip me to have further understanding of documentary film making.
Style and Narrative
Not until actually filming, not many concrete ideas in terms of style appeared in my mind. I did not choose to represent the film as a stylish piece but rather focusing on narrative. However, it is not that I tend to ignore aesthetic part, but I would rather say that the most crucial issue for me in the very first film is to tell a story appropriately. Even though it is documentary film, which is relatively objective compared with feature one. I still would like to convey a few things through the film.
Except for narration, the camera angles or visual representation might also speak out my thoughts. The opening scene of I Love You Mum is a construction sign lying on ground, and a blue lorry passing by to block sight of the sign and then backing out of the camera, at last the construction sign shows again. Personally I like this scene a lot, consequently I insisted on making it to final cut. It is nearly a metaphor of the whole film. The sign represents therefore an obstacle of mine but meanwhile it has been disregarded for a long time. After something or some time passed by, even though it still exists but I could see it more clearly. How to face the obstacle hence suggests the key point of the film.
More than that, I have been influenced by ‘non-places and spaces' theory by Marc Augé. It indicates a familiar paradox: a known place that is still a strange place. Like airport, highway, or a construction sign lying aside street, we don’t even need to be there we still could recognise what that place is. Therefore, the place could be anywhere and everywhere in the world, but it is actually nowhere. This viewpoint has long been the base of my photographic style, and it turns out to be most of the background scenes in I Love You Mum.
I attempt to capture the most ordinary daily life that seems no real difference whether in the UK or in Taiwan. Furthermore, to display these ‘non-places’ is a means to extract the individual ‘myself’ from cultural or whatever else difference to unify with the understanding and circumstances of audiences’. That is to say I sort of simplify the background scenes in order to create a clean and simple visual style to drag audiences’ attention on emotional aspect.
The way I choose to place myself on bottom of the staircase in the film also follows this principle. But moreover, staircase is not only a non-place but also carries an implication in terms of leading people to somewhere, no matter up or down. It might perhaps be a psychological reflection as well. When I describe how I live alone, subconsciously, I have made up my mind to head to a direction, which will lead me to face and go through my own weakness. Here, the weakness is I never dare to say “I love you” to my mother.
According to the narrative, the atmosphere of the film seems to be slightly melancholy. However it is not what I wish to pursuit. Instead, my visual or style reference were much more coming from novel than film. In most of Haruki Murakami’s novels, one lives alone and enjoys himself. It looks like lonely, but the loneliness stems from some abstract thing missing rather than the fact of living alone. Therefore, the arrangement of party and alone scenes taking turns could perhaps reveal my emotional contrast: I live alone but not feeling lonely; I hang out with people but still feeling alone. This contrast could happen to everyone else’s life as well.
For audience, maybe that is why they feel touched when they eventually see my mother’s response. Because the contrast that has been accumulated as a sympathetic understanding from the beginning to the end of the film. My attempt to overcoming inner weakness paid off as a relief for myself and audience. That is to say by watching it audience follows me from being as a role of observer to a relatively subjective one, say, an experience partaker.
At some point this indicates that I Love You Mum is a documentary film not only talking about how technology changes my life, but more about contrast and paradox in daily life. I live in a familiar place but it is still a strange place to me. I love my mother but I never let her know. I socialise with people but I still feel alone. Technology is a bridge to connect these contrasts and a trigger to complete the process of overcoming my inner weakness. Therefore, the film itself could be seen as a cinematic practice, as well as an emotional relief to me. It might not be as unique as what John Grierson claims documentary is like, ‘the creative use of actuality’. But through the process of making it, I used the different approach of expression to face my weakness, and the same affecting reality which is also an actual personal experience comes to me. I Love You Mum is not merely a documentary. Eventually, it comforts me, in a creative way.