While carrying out several
Q&A sessions in film festivals,
I was often asked about the
process of making this film.
Reflecting on the process
was not as easy as I thought because many things were improvised by responding
to what was happening on the site, and the process of making the film was part
of this product(film) as well.
Furthermore, as this
documentary was based on my family’s and my personal stories, within each
moment, I needed to consider the extent of the story that I could share publicly.
After the Q&A sessions,
I began to undergo a new realisation for the meaning of the film. The Q&A sessions were a process in which I was able to re-discover the meanings that I couldn’t recognise before. The final film is
different from my starting point, but the essence and direction that I had
unconsciously sought were surprisingly pretty much the same. With bittersweet
thoughts, and only a few screenings left this year for the first short documentary
film that I dedicated a lot of myself to, I decided to refresh my memories and
leave a piece of writing.
Making documentary - a process full of constant uncertainty
I’ve been steadily
interested in temporality, impermanence and capturing transience. That’s why I
devised the sandcastle sequence, which significantly functions as a structure
and a visual motif for this film, but many other things except for that were
improvised. I was responding to what was happening in my life by documenting these
events: the conversation with my mother in the hospital where my maternal
grandmother was, filming my grandmother’s house where no one will live soon,
and meeting a fortune teller. When filming
the process of making the sand sculpture on the beach where the waves crashed, no
one could know the result of the filming as well. Through the process of
editing, I could find the ‘subconscious intentions’ that I kept searching for
and was questioning unintentionally.
This film talks about
the uncertainty of life - how incomplete, unstable and unforeseeable it is. The
film doesn’t try to forcefully fit life into completeness or assurance.
Instead, this film squarely observes the imperfectness of life. Sometimes it
just lets time pass by as it is. In the relationships between my mom, grandma
and myself, there are still many things that we do not know about each other.
The sandcastle which managed to be completed at the end is also on the verge
of collapse. Nevertheless, the conversations between us three are continued and
the sandcastle is continuously made even when the waves lap. The process of
making this film was also full of uncertain elements. Plans sometimes failed or
were often changed. However, by accepting this uncertainty and by following the
events within situations with the camera, I was able to spot new opportunities.
Beyond ‘Personal Documentary’
This film might be a
very personal documentary, but that’s why I wanted this film not to go too deeply
into personal stories. Even though it’s intimate and personal, I felt that it
should be a universal story at the same time so that everyone can empathise
with it and relate themselves as if it’s their own story, and this is why I
tried to put appropriate emotional distance into the film. As a result, my
voice-over narration was involved as dryly and minimally as possible. When
filming my grandmother and mother in the hospital, I tried to film from far away,
or as if I was hiding and observing the scene, like the perspective of a third
party or a stranger. When I filmed my grandmother in the hospital, I tried my
best not to objectify her. Actually, I often questioned about why I needed to
film her while she was in a vulnerable position, and that’s why there’s less than three shots which presents my
grandmother’s face explicitly.
“Why should other
people care about my personal story? Why should others take their time to watch my
film?” This was one of the most vital questions that I asked myself
while editing. When watching films, audiences not only want to see the
protagonists’ story but also themselves and their own lives. Thus, films should satisfy such preferences of the audience. In
this film, the meanings of many elements are left open, and I think the
meanings can be differently received depending on one’s own experiences.
The sandcastle which
is complete at the end of the film can also be understood in different ways. Each
of us are making our own sandcastles respectively, in our own places. I hope
this ‘personal’ documentary is not only personal to me but also to the individual
audiences. The way I felt about this film also changed according to the
different phases of the production process of this film, including before
making the film, during the production, after completion of the film, and when
the screening of the film was complete.
I think the meaning will also change over time, when I watch the film again in
the future. I can’t predict how it will change at all, but I’m interested to
see how it will change.
This film was introduced
as part of the short programme 'Between Generations' at the Open City Documentary Festival where
the film was premiered. I thought that the title of the programme suited
very well with this film because the film deals with ‘large difference in time within generations’. At the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival,
I was asked why I put the dialogue with the fortune teller at the beginning of
the film. The fortune teller talks about what will happen after around 50 years
to the director. I intentionally took away the
specific details of the dialogue, but there seems to be an unfathomable distance
in what she says. In addition, several records of the past from approximately 30 years ago also appear, such as photographs in which a very young me is
making eye contact with my grandma, which I can’t even remember. By connecting the distant future and the distant past, relying on the vastness between time, I tried to overcome the sense of loss or uncertainty from the present. This film is about upcoming loss, but it’s also about
hope. Even though the sense of loss is always with us, by observing it, I
wanted to share that life is not that futile or empty.