Coda: Preparing for Assessment

Since we had used up all the assignment slots, and I hadn’t been sure that I would get the fourth film produced at all, this part exceeded the structure that Les and I had agreed upon. Nevertheless, he was willing to give me feedback on it and tell me what he thought in a personal email, and I really appreciate his input beyond what was in fact his duty. He also cleared up some doubts I had been having about the content of my written work and the limitations of printing and presentation materials in Georgia (where I have relocated from Kazakhstan).

I submitted the fourth and final film, which I feel is the most polished since it contains all the elements I wished to include and runs at a pace I am satisfied with. I was also able to include some moving image footage of our interview, and this is a really significant moment for me technically.

Amanat’s narrative centred on the importance of taking control of one’s own destiny. Although I had focused a lot of attention on his university studies, once we listened again to the recordings a new dimension appeared. I was thus able to include some images of his rehabilitation, something I had not even considered with the other participants. Another example of collaboration with the subject matter determining the style and way of presentation!

We wanted to use one of the two images above, where Dameli is looking directly at me and Amanat can be seen in the background. On the other hand, I didn’t feel that there was enough narrative content for the image to work alone, and so I tried combining with one of the images below. Since I had trimmed the section where Amanat is speaking about his family down to 30 seconds (we had agreed that his ‘normal’ family would not be the focus of our film, and this was confirmed in my reading about the representation of freaks), and I wanted to include some vernacular family album shots, I could only include 5 slides. I worked and reworked this section until I was happy with how the slides work together. Another issue for me was the juxtaposition of the able-bodied child in the foreground with disabled parent in the background; I wasn’t sure how audiences would interpret this and thus whether it was totally in the spirit of the project.

After making an initial selection and putting together a draft film, I went through it with Amanat and we discussed which images and sections worked and how the pace of the film was structured.

Les wrote me the following in a personal email: “Amanat’s film is great, some excellent moments, I love the transition into him speaking on film into the camera. Thanks for the article. Yes, retain all text in essay. Don’t worry too much about a photograph box. I think you could put a note in about the difficulties sourcing presentation materials in Georgia, and use the best that you can find.”

Prints for Assessment

I had contacted the Assessment team when I was in the UK in August with a few questions about presentation of materials, and I was advised to submit prints even though my work is digitally based. While I was uploading Dinara’s video to Vimeo, the website automatically assigned a thumbnail image, and quite by coincidence the image was this one:

Which is an essential message of the film. Then when I uploaded Adilzhan’s film, the following thumbnail came up:

Again, a central theme of the film about Adilzhan. I remarked on this to Les, and we discussed how uncanny it was.

When I uploaded Yernar’s film, I had to select the thumbnail, as the one assigned had no text. It was while I was thinking about what prints to send in that it occurred to me to use screenshots. Not only do they attract the interest of viewers since they are poignant extracts from the first person narratives, but I have seen video and film-based work represented as screenshots in exhibition catalogues and brochures. After discussing with Les, he agreed that it was a very good idea and recommended sending in A4 prints, 2 for each film. I have thus selected the following screenshots to send in for assessment:

Dinara

As I have already said, this shot captures part of the essence of Dinara’s film, since she says that being with able-bodied people helps her to feel normal, while showing her out shopping with friends is very empowering since it shows that disabled people are also consumers and care about their appearance.

The second shot shows Dinara at home working on the computer. Her message is plainly written across the bottom of the screen in the subtitle, and works well with the image. I have tried to keep the image as normal as possible without drawing unnecessary attention to the fact that Dinara is using her left foot to operate the laptop.

Adilzhan

Part of disability discrimination is the assumption that life with impairment must be intolerable, barely worth living. Adilzhan challenges those stereotypes by claiming that he has a high quality of life and enjoys socialising with friends. A simple but strong message.

The second image shows Adilzhan working out, since sport is a significant part of his life, and something he recommends all people engage in. The caption speaks about strength, and his expression shows the effort he is making to increase his own strength – in essence he is empowering himself through sheer determination. This is a very strong point and a deceptively simple but powerful image. The subtitle also intrigues the viewer as to what he’s talking about – you won’t be able to do what?

Yernar

This was the image that I selected for the Vimeo thumbnail. Yernar is clearly being transported in a vehicle for disabled people and staring grimly out of the window, while the subtitle reads “You can’t run.” It’s almost as if he’s looking out of his ‘prison cell’ of disability (intensified by the straps and cage on the rear window) and contemplating able-bodiedness.

This led me to select this as the second image, as it shows Yernar handsome after his haircut and liberated since he is controlling his own movement in the mobility device. He is looking directly at the camera with a positive air of confidence, while the caption tells us that he’s decided to walk. Although the subtitle is taken out of context, it contrasts nicely with the first image.

Amanat

Again, this image was automatically assigned by Vimeo, and it captures the essence of the first part of Amanat’s speech. It is probably of interest to viewers since it shows a typical Kazakh family sitting down to dinner. Amanat’s wheelchair can barely be seen, and unless one was actually looking for it, would probably be completely overlooked.

It is Amanat’s ambition to try and change the way disabled people are treated in Kazakh society, as he says from the top down. This is a key moment in his life, and a key element from his interview. It is open-ended enough to pique the curiosity of viewers as to just what it is he is talking about. Although the other students and lecturers can be seen standing, the angle I have chosen makes Amanat’s mortar board appear on the same level as the students behind, thus placing him at the same level visually. The gesture of hand over heart and the homogeneity of garments also mean that Amanat appears no different from any of the other graduates, neither pitiable nor supercrip. The wheelchair is included, but deliberately cropped out of the bottom of the frame so that is not prominent. This is a truly empowering disability image according to the research I have done (Garland-Thomson in particular).

The prints will be included together with my final written work, and each one is to be labelled individually. I believe that they are both representative of the work and arouse enough interest to engage viewers with the photofilms.

Learning journal for Assessment

I also asked the Assessment by email about how to submit my learning journal, since I had not been keeping an online blog due to censorship of blogging sites in Kazakhstan. For my previous assessment I had submitted my learning journal as pdfs, and I was told that I had provided the Assessment team with “too many pdfs to trawl through, and I think that this contributed to an overall negative impression of my work. As such I wanted to know how best to present my research. They recommended that I post the document as hard copy, but since there are over 800 pages it would have cost a small fortune in printing and courier costs. I contacted Les, and he suggested setting up an online blog using the preferred interface WordPress. This I have done, and although it has taken me a while to get all my posts up online in an order that I am happy with (drop down menus and contents page making it easy to navigate and easier for the Assessors to find what they need) I have finally finished!

Merry Christmas!

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