Not entirely sure if I have to this video again, but just in case. So Kadallah and I went to the end of line 13 to Shibo avenue. In hindsight I really do wish we had some of Anne’s slides sooner because being “prepared” was actually pretty challenging. From working with a single, uncharged, 2/3rds full battery power camera to a Tascam recorder that was completely devoid of life, it’s safe to say that we got off on the wrong foot.
Arriving at the station one thing was abundantly clear and that was the lack of people. Of course, it was in the middle of the day so most people were at their jobs, but the sheer lack of life really invoked the idea that place was the end of the line, the last stop far away from the cities center. Going through the process, I was too confident in my filming skills so Kadallah took the lead in that category while I stumbled around with an iPhone attempting to capture anything that would embody the space, which was oddly humorous since the most defining aspect was simply the lack of any. The highlights of audio for a while where the cars themselves, only passing every few minutes, it got to the point that I was actually excited to see a passing car, excited to see something that could break the monotony of sound and cicada. After recording some audio, Kadallah really helped to push me to take some film of my own. To “capture what’s in your mind”, was some pretty good advice and so I did my best. Recording things like an abandoned door; the pathway covered in plants, the entrance to the subway as dragonflies zoomed through the air, a lone man walking into a building the ground floor almost completely save for himself, the guard, and the friend that he seemed to call out too. Eventually the iPhone recorded once again fell firmly into my grasp and it was then that I decided to wander around a little bit trying to capture the small things I could hear around me, the loud crack of construction in the distance and my favorite, the groovy, yet haunting tune of the nearby street cleaner as it invoked memories of a child chasing after the ice cream truck.
All in all, I think I learned a lot from this experience, audio-wise, film-wise especially, and even editing, I got to experience doing the work myself as well as learn from someone who has had at least a little more experience than I. Coming to the following assignments, I’m excited to do more, see more, and capture more, the desire to slowly progress and creating something amazing definitely one my favorite aspects of this class. To return to line 13 and capture it in a completely new light is a task I’m looking forward to tackling head-on, and only time will tell what stories will unfold.
So I really enjoyed “Kings of Nowhere”, I think the mixture of beautiful still-shots mixed in was something that I really appreciated. That though the three families lived in solitude and not in the ideal conditions, they still lived in this place surrounded by a peacefulness, surrounded by the beautiful sights of nature, something that was very interesting to me given the darkness of violence that lay behind the scenes.
Watching the film initially I immediately thought of America when I saw the opening, I thought perhaps it might have taken place in a bayou or somewhere else that was rather marshlike. And then as the scene continued and we realized that there were buildings underwater I asked myself if there had been a flood, perhaps this was a place left over, left behind after the ravages of nature had left their mark. Given the title “Kings of Nowhere” and the rather young looking person who we first saw I thought that this might be a documentary of a real-life Peter Pan. About a group of individuals living together in this beautiful, yet forgotten piece of the world, the initial graffiti in the scene amplifying this impression. But then what greeted me was this peace, peaceful yet so slow and quiet, like a land stuck in time, where the residents were left only with their memories to carry them through the dark night.
I think one of my favorite scenes was the one with the thunderstorm. As someone who has always loved thunderstorms, I truly enjoyed the sense of peace brought by the rumbling thunder, the beauty of the lightning dancing across the sky. But in the darkness of that moment, it struck me on how truly unmoving that town was. The couple still continued to debone chicken into the night, with no neighbors and no friends, and despite the fact that they no longer had any electricity to work with. And with only a flickering candle to provide light, it really piqued my interest how they slowly began to tease this idea of death and violence, unexplicit and elusive, like horror stories being told around a campfire.
The film, Kings of Nowhere by Betzabé Garcia, is a fantastic work in which the director put an enormous amount of time and efforts. The first impressive moment for me in this film is when the camera panned from the beautiful sunlight to a man. The director wanted the audience to feel the involvement of the crew so hard that she let the cameraman roughly pull up the ND filter to correct the exposure in the less bright scene. The crew even asked the man whether he wants his house and himself to be shot. That was a shocking creative decision for me.
For the film, I really appreciate the sound design which illustrates what the producer tries to express. Water has such a symbolic meaning throughout the whole documentary. The sound of water, especially the sound of the boat-quant touching the river and the sound of rain. Some of the characters are introduced under the occasion of water, especially when they are on boats paddling. Water has become a collective connection among the remaining residents in the village. According to García herself in the interview by IndieWire, she said, “It seemed that the flood had become a metaphor for fear.” The flood draws a border between San Marcos and the “outside,” however, the fear, though, not only for the water and authority but a very complicated foldover of the elements involving home-attachment, bitter reconciliation to power and violence, hesitation to recognize themselves in a new environment. Water, to some extent, is a protection and concealment for the residents to hold onto what they consider significant and essential as a person. Water conveys a very similar religious message with the repair of the church. The obstinacy, permanency of muteness that integrates the individuals with the flood and with the land.
I was sort of reflecting on her words about the motivation of the documentary, “I was inspired by the stories of the people that had stayed behind, even in the most adverse conditions.” “However, what inspired me to make this film was the courage and the drive shown by the majority of the people we encountered during our stay there. They definitely don’t see themselves as victims.” I think she did a great job in presenting her subjects in their own manner, the way she introduces her subjects through conversations not explanations, bring the personality of the subjects alive and whole.
Documentaries indeed are highly influenced by the position of the producer, politically. I mean by “politically” refers to the different points of viewing themselves as in different relationships and power related to authority between the producer and its subjects, and whether a work is produced by a political purpose or not. So, back to the “victimhood” representation in some of the documentary works, or simply standing high and looking down would potentially flatten the subjects into a piece of paper of “victim.” I think that is why she put the introduction of the political message at the end of the film instead of the beginning.
Link to movie cut: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1dCW_EJYJpsYm0xc050S3JiZm8
For this project, Justin and I teamed up to go to the end of Line 8, and we chose our destination to be Shiguang road station. The most interesting (or non-interesting) part about being there is that there were a lot of repair shops lined up one after the other. After walking for an hour and not finding parks or anything, we decided to go back to the repair and cleaning shops around the area. This is a rough cut of what we decided to shoot. One difficulty we encountered with shooting was the use of a tripod, because while being helpful with stabilisation, it was also limiting and sometimes slowing us down when we were trying to capture live actions.
The beginning part of the documentary is really impressive. A small boat goes through a village that seems to be drown in the water for a long time as there are no other person in sight. It makes me curious about where this place is and the story behind such deserted scene. (Well the black man on the boat in the beginning doesn’t seem to appear any more in the film… Is he one of the producers..?)
And it’s really impressive that for most of the time, the characters in the film, the three families, they smile when they talks about the past and the present. I don’t know if this is a smile from their heart or they use this smile to cover their loneliness and other feelings…?
And I really like the darkness and the light (physical) in the film. I can remember the scene when the producer shoots from the porch and the only clear area on the screen is a door area where we can see the old lady walking through. This grabs my attention towards the light area and creates the feeling that the old couple’s life is like the scene: black and white, kind of boring and lonely. And I also like the scene when the streetlight is on while there’s no people around the street. The scene seems peaceful, but also sad somehow. Its quietness buries so many stories.
My partner Mate and I got the paper with the number 11 on it and then it comes to us as a surprise that one end of it in Pudong is Disneyland. So we easily reached the agreement of shooting something there. Because we don’t really want to get into the theme park, we decided to shoot the souvenir shop which doesn’t require an entrance fee but still have the Disney-style environment.
However, the embarrassing thing was that we forgot to take a tripod with us so we need to film the movement with our relatively shaking hands… So Mate is mainly in charge of the scenes and cutting while I’m mainly in charge of the sound. We made shoots both from the outside and inside and put them together in the clip. I recorded the background music in front of an acoustic and also recorded the noisy environment sound at the same time. In adding these to the clip, I let the background music goes along throughout the one minute so it won’t get weird when music changes too frequently. And I also kept the noise there to show the actual scene that happens around the shop.
I found this film to be very political because I approached it from a different angle. My motherland is Mexico and so I am very much aware of the situation with the government and the cartel that people are facing. The whole time I was thinking “fuck the government” because they allow fear to be infiltrated in these people’s lives. Like it’s already not enough that they live in a swamp with the bare minimum but they are also harassed from time to time because the cartel comes around.
I enjoyed the slow and steadiness of the pace becuase it captures the real time of the town. The slow-paced lifestyle carried throughout the film very organically and I really enjoyed it. I also mentioned in class that I like how Garcia incorporated the boy band that appeared after every rain scene that gradually began to grow. It reminded me of a Wes Anderson type of comic relief. Two quotes that struck me and I wrote down were “life doesn’t have any handles we’re floating through the universe” and “you can only buy what society has put up for sale”. I was taken back by the amount of positivity depicted in all of the characters optimistic attitudes that they didn’t allow circumstances to get in the way, they kept on carrying on with their daily routines like it was nothing and didn’t take life for granted.
For last weeks assignment, we decided to head to the Shibo Avenue side of line 13, under the impression for some reason or another that that was where the Mercedes-Benz arena was. However, upon arrival, we realized that there really wasn’t anything much of note. While shooting, we encountered quite a few problems… For starters, our taskcam turned out to be without batteries, so we ended up having to record audio with our iPhones. There was also the issue of what to shoot considering the relatively remote location, and we also ran into some issues with overexposed footage because of how bright and washed out the sky was when we went to shoot. All things considered though, I am quite happy with how our assignment turned out, and I think we did a decent job of capturing the feeling of stagnation that we felt once we arrived! As we were editing we went through a few approaches of arranging footage before finally settling on arranging the film with intro shots with minimal motion before gradually introducing humans, cars, and trucks for people to pay attention to. The audio design was meant to evoke the same industrial feel as the beginning imagery before transitioning into the natural cicada sounds that seemed to be deafening while we were there and the eery song of the cleanup truck that we heard a number of times while on site. The visuals we tweaked a bit in Premiere, mostly trying to flatten the colors to match the bland atmosphere we had encountered at the stop.
Moana with Sound
Going into the film, I definitely didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I tend to stay away from older movies, black and whites in particular, and on paper, a film that really doesn’t have a noticeable narrative arc sounds pretty boring. But after the first few shots, I really started to vibe with it after I realized that it had done a really good job of something that I have been struggling with a lot in my own art–capturing a “single” “moment” using a medium that encompasses more time than an instant. (This probably isn’t the best phrasing, but I feel like it most accurately reflects what I’m trying to get at, which is essentially that even though the film used time, it still felt like a photograph of sorts of this particular place and time.) It also was filllllllllled with beautiful imagery that I can only hope I will be able to replicate in such a timeless way.
Kings of Nowhere
While a number of people in the class commented that the film felt too slow, I feel like it was honestly the perfect pacing for what the film was trying to accomplish. The repetition of shots never really got to me, each time I still felt the suspense of potentially seeing the violence that the locals had warned of, or in the storm scenes, of seeing more of the disasters that the rain seemed to bring. I felt like the storytelling techniques they employed were brilliant… Despite the fact that there was relatively little visual action, having the characters give their own accounts of their own lives made the film really, really powerful–especially since each of the characters were really good storytellers in their own ways, and each employed their own special narrative techniques.
Alanna and I went to Gaoqiao (高桥镇) at the end of Line 6, which is the north of Shanghai. I did some research in advance and found out there is a Holland town near the north end of Line 6, compared to a sports center at the other end. The Holland town seems to have more life-like scenes that we can potentially have a chance to capture and experience. So we decided to go to the Holland town. But when we got there, before we had found holland town, we already had footage that is more than enough.
What we tried to present in the short video is dynamic in between such a town of contrast. As in the wide range of generations of the residents there, the little old shops of history, the crowdedness as well as loneliness of the small town. In our conversations with the locals there, some of the old houses are already being replaced by the new-built ones with the very similar style. And the rest of the old town will soon be demolished due to the construction failures in these old buildings. We have picked up signs of a sense of loss in the back alley with an abandoned house. But at the same time, when we talking to the locals, they were being very friendly and proud of the town in terms of willing to be shot in our footage, providing with advice for shooting, and constantly communicating with us. It was totally out of my expectation according to what I have learned in Google maps. Google maps are accurate enough in terms of measuring physical distance and transportation. But measuring locality from a producer’s perspective definitely needs more time and patience than one afternoon that we have spent there.
Alanna and I are a very collaborative and smooth team! We helped each other about using devices and framing our shots, etc. People in Gaoqiao love her, especially the kids and old ladies who are always curious about where Alanna is from. Even though the town is only one and half hour from Century Ave, it is pretty away from what we have been experiencing Shanghai as in international metropolitan in everyday life. That’s probably why the locals of Gaoqiao are very excited to see foreigners. It is such a good chance for me to reconsider and update my perception of the idea of Shanghai.