Although I had been having some doubts about ever being able to complete this project, Adilzhan finally came through and we managed to produce more than enough material to make a 3-minute film. I had filmed the interview with a view to combining still and moving image, but in the end I decided against using the moving footage because it didn’t necessarily add anything to the overall film and in fact made the whole thing much longer as I was unable to edit out a lot of the hesitations and false starts – something that I am able to do with the sound files.
Similar to the first film, I began by listening again to the interview materials and selecting the major points that Adilzhan covered that were consistent with the disability issues I had identified as well as being important to him. Adilzhan spoke about work, education, his dreams and ambitions, as well as attitudes of both disabled and non-disabled people. I had taken two interviews on separate occasions, but hadn’t taken into account the difference in sound quality between the two – apparently each room has quite a different resonance, and so the sound quality is significantly affected. Although software can modulate and equalise the tracks to a certain extent, I was unhappy with the loss of quality the second interview suffered and decided not to use it at all so as to keep the sound quality consistent throughout. The only problem is that you can hear a clock ticking in the background, but I guess that adds to the overall atmosphere.
I whittled the sound bites down to four that we felt were the most relevant and important to Adilzhan – sport, friends & quality of life, work and a personal message (this time to fellow disabled people as opposed to non-disabled). The film is thus divided into four sections, although I have not separated them too much to economise on time (though I don’t know if the separations should be clearer?).
In the first section, Adilzhan starts talking right away about the importance of sport and break dancing in his life. I combined images taken at his home weight training with rehearsal and performance shots as well as some outdoor images juxtaposing him in his mobility device against a backdrop of young people playing football. The section ends with an image of Adilzhan interacting with some local children as the voiceover says that sport helps him to feel ‘normal’.
This sense of ‘normalcy’ is carried over into the second section, where Adilzhan is talking about his friends, and we see him chilling out and having tea with both disabled and non-disabled people. Here everyone is sitting and so Adilzhan’s disability is not apparent or the focus of attention. He then goes on to speak about his experiences of other disabled people who, in his opinion, have basically given in to the stereotypes. Rather than showing those others, the images show Adilzhan going about his daily business, running errands and going to the market. I was considering using some of the shopping centre images here, but I felt that I had already done that with Dinara, so this section ends on images of Farkhat teaching Adilzhan how to repair shoes. This fits with the voiceover, since we hear him say that disabled people also want to work and have families just like any other people.
This leads into the third section, which focuses on Adilzhan’s attitude to work. We begin with some images of soap making, and the images show the diligence and care put into the work while the voiceover tells of putting one’s heart and soul into one’s work. For Adilzhan the primary importance of work is related to the cultural norm in Kazakhstan, where the man is seen as the breadwinner. What is endearing about Adilzhan’s explanation is that it’s something he sees as coming from his upbringing, and I think this quite neatly fits in with concerns about emasculation among disabled men that I came across when researching disability issues. Adilzhan thinks that as a man he has a duty to provide for his family, as well as to strive against the societal barriers faced by disabled people – both physical and discriminatory.
Following on from this, in the final section Adilzhan expresses a personal message to fellow disabled people, telling them not to give up but to keep at it, for the simple reason that at some point in our lives each of us has to fend for ourselves. The images show Adilzhan mixing with other disabled people at the day centre (not sure about the images showing Adilzhan goofing and falling down here – need to discuss), while the final ‘day in the life’ sequence reflects the idea of autonomy by showing him calling a taxi and making his way outside to go on a shopping trip.
As with the first film, the large-sized captions are hard coded and the sequence begins with Cyrillic script. Although the film is slightly longer than the last one, at just over 3.5 minutes I don’t think it is overly lengthy. I have not used text slides and all the images are my own since the interview material does not really delve in to Adilzhan’s history – he’s talking in the present tense. The shots are taken from an angle that neither condescends nor heroicises Adilzhan, and I have tried to include shots that show a bit more of the cultural backdrop (including the mosque minarets, showing interaction with others in various contexts)
Adilzhan’s messages are clear, and I hope that by the end of the film the audience is endeared to him and his sheer indomitability – we feel that he’s not going to take things lying down; he’s accepted his disability and is dealing with it, just getting on with life the best he can. I wanted to get across the idea of his being a survivor without making him out to be a hero (supercrip in disability speak).
After working on this film for a few weeks, I am no longer convinced about the strength of the images or whether they are illustrative enough of the interview. As such, tutor feedback here would be most welcome!
Some shots that didn’t make the final cut:
Although I really like the feel of both these images as portraits, they didn’t really fit in with the rest of the narrative. Since I begin the film with Adilzhan speaking about sport, I decided to use the image with weights in the background as an opener.
Some more images of Adilzhan working, but I felt that I had shown enough of his shoe repairing activities, and since he didn’t mention this work in the first interview (only in the second) I decided not to place too much emphasis on this work but show the soap making activity as well.
Part of the notion of ‘normalcy’ is bound up in simple activities like going shopping. However, since I have already shown Dinara at a shopping centre looking at clothes I decided against these images since the films may come across as repetitive or following a template.
I really wanted to use one of these images in the final film as a referent to the documentary making process (elsewhere I have discussed this in conjunction with the ideas of Ritchin, Trinh T. Minh-ha and Benjamin). Examples like Frank filming himself in the mirror during the shooting of Cocksucker Blues, or Wiseman and Herzog including their own voices in interviews. This is something that I have never done before and was keen to introduce, but just could not find a place to include it.