A strange day

You know how I mentioned that I am happy if I finish the day knowing we shot one (only) interesting scene which might make it into the final film? Today was the first day I didn’t have this feeling. Usually we shoot for a few hours, and suddenly, unexpectedly, something happens in front of the lens which moves the story forward. Or explains an issue. These are the better moments, which I cherish. Every day has had one, sometimes up to three. Sometimes they count for quite a lot of final screen time, like the birth (which will easily take up between 6-8 minutes).

But today, no such thing happened. There was one little thing, where Sujeylin is cutting up marijuana with a pair of scissors for Juan Carlos to sell in smaller bags. She doesn’t like the drugs, but he can’t cut it because of his hand. And it’s their only income…  But it’s not that interesting. The whole drug-angle of the story is easily exploited into something banal and can take away from the real issue. So to me it’s not that relevant.

The one thing I did want to capture, and had spoken to Sujeylin about, was her bathing the child in the park. I wanted to see how she does that. And where. But despite us having spoken about it, and very much in line with her modus operandi, it happened when she felt like it and we were away at lunch… Oh well, tomorrow there’s another bath.

Which brings me to the issue of objectivity. Don’t ever believe anyone who says that documentary can be objective. Well, maybe with the exception of very factual programs (you show a picture of Einstein and then you say: “this guy came up with E=Mc2” – that’s objective to a certain extend). But for the rest, it is absolutely impossible. Not even near.

Of course in the edit room, we will try to reconstruct the story in a way where I think it does justice to the lives of little Karla and her mother and father. In a way where I feel we respect their very being. But objectivity is out of the question.

Just think of it. A day has 24 hours. Of those, we tend to have the camera running between 1.5 and 4 hours, with a daily average of 2.5 hours. Then, I am always debating what direction to shoot in. Do I point the camera here, or there? Do I follow Juan Carlos, Sujeylin, or Karla? Or some of the other dwellers in the park? Do I focus on one person in close up? Or is it best to fit both (or all of them) in the frame? Invariably, I only turn on the camera when the action suits some preconceived idea of mine – something which is in the script (like bathing the baby in the park), or some prejudice which has come out of my years of research. And that’s only the shooting part. I now have about 30 hours of material, and will end up having double or even triple that before we start editing. This has to be narrowed down to 85 minutes for the cinematic version, and only 55 for the TV version… Again, many choices have to be made. Who says what? Do we include that reply? Do we respect the order in which things occurred or are we tempted to construct a stronger story playing around with the days a little? Oh, and not to mention the music. What feeling do we want to evoke? Let’s put this piece of music here but that other one not there…

You see, objectivity in observational documentary doesn’t exist. Some filmmakers insist that it does. Well, maybe when they were at lunch something really great happened, and they never even knew. Don’t let them fool you!  🙂

Today was such a strange day that I didn’t even think of a picture to post. Hmm. How about this one? Mom and dad have just woken up but Karla is still asleep (can you see her?). On the sidewalk. Quality of life seems worse than it was in the room, but I think they are happier in the park – surrounded by friends. With business opportunities. Where life happens. Theirs, at least.


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