Considering I am not trained as a documentary film maker I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the film I was able to produce for the HIVideo 2017 Event to mark World AIDS Day.The feedback I received included –
“Very much liked yours and I’m not just saying that. Loved the visuals and the background sound of the beach. And it actually made sense unlike some of the films …”
“We were glad we could make it, and yours really was the best.”
“I just wanted to say congrats… it is compelling, captivating, accessible, powerful and very thought-provoking.”
The important points I take from that are the expressions ‘accessible’ & ‘thought-provoking’. Some of the other films shown at the event were beautiful pieces of Art, but the intent of the Event was to educate & help to reduce stigma in the general population. Therefore it was important my work was easily understood and did not alienate – yet was still visually stimulating so it stayed in the memory in order to get the message across.
While the film should be taken as a whole; an explanation of some of the stills may help to broaden an understanding of my intent :-
I was looking for an overlay or some kind of way of creating glitches as a form to represent our fractured identity and the way we are out-of-sync with ‘normality’. The video interference I found was even better as it enabled me to reference the height of video popularity in the 1980’s when this disease reached epidemic proportions. The title ‘Wish You Were Here’ is taken from the traditional postcard greeting; a cry to all those we have lost & also a wish that if people stood in our shoes then there would be a lot more understanding and stigma could be massively reduced. So the start of the film sets the scene with a seagull floating on the sea and it’s cry introducing the piece so we know the location is the seaside.
A slightly melancholy shot with dying orchid flowers symbolising both the exotic & beautiful, but also its slow decay and loss. The fact it is not too obvious just hints at something to intrigue, leaving a trace of puzzlement.
This is a close-up of a clay clock – mock Gothic in style and given to me many years ago by a lost lover. There is the hint of graveyard humour here which lightens but also mocks with the truth.
The Yellow Rose is a symbol of the warmth of the Sun & it’s endless optimism and is given as a token of true friendship where the red rose would symbolise true love. So I use it here in memorial to all the friends who are no longer with us.
A fairly obvious symbolic trope but it all adds to the narrative as a whole – the hands of a clock slicing away time and reminding us of our mortality.
Interspersed with still images are simple moving image clips that help to add to the narrative. For this we have the waves ebbing and flowing, referencing the cleansing and relaxing action of the sea. The serenity of the sea is well known so I use this symbolism here to induce a feeling of calm.
A simple domestic still-life that may be found on the mantelpiece of every other house around the country, with some china heirlooms and a diptych of a happily married couple. Symbolism here is the loving bosom of the family which in many cases are denied to us either through our sexuality or our viral status. Even sometimes down to our own shame that stops us from being part of the family’s loving embrace. The posies on the plates may signify the Victorian language of flowers.
Graffiti scrawled on the door of a public toilet is brutally frank and leaves you in no doubt to the activities that sometimes take place in these spaces. These hurried sexual encounters are not the situation to discuss safe sex so the assumption is these men have a very carefree attitude to their sexual health. This frame makes a dis-jarring Segway during the flow of the film…going from serene to suggestive reminds us of the source of the viral infection.
This humorous figurine took pride of place on the display cabinet of one of the interviewees. It is a cheekily suggestive and another reminder of the unadulterated pleasures of the flesh.
These two frames show the naked male form and allow the subject to show they still have a sexuality. The assumption is as we carry this infection we should remain celibate and quarantined in order to protect the rest of the population who wish to remain sexually active. The predominant reaction, even more so in the gay community, is that we are tainted and most people would prefer not to have anything sexual to do with anyone that carries the virus. The main message of my film is the current knowledge that people who have the virus under control cannot pass it on to others – it is no longer the deadly threat it once was.
While capturing still images to place into this film I initially had some ideas in mind that I sought in order to add to and support the narrative. When I had these shots & dropped them into the sequence I realised they did not work & were either too obvious or too descriptive. What I needed was images that had an atmosphere and spoke of a theme rather than having their own specific voice. This posed an interesting problem as I did not know what would work. I took to shooting in almost random effect…thinking back to the 10 rules of Lomography…don’t think just shoot. And with this I was able to capture quite a few images that when dropped into the film created a suitable atmosphere & this is a particular favourite.
Another moving image sequence that is nicely provocative but also symbolises the major route of transmission. It also juxtaposes the pride these men should be allowed to have in their sexuality with the fear a large part of the population still have for us as positive men.
These chilly pepper lights are another cheeky piece of homoerotic symbolism
I captured a clock from each of my interviewees, but this man had a collection. It could be a simple aesthetic choice, but could also be read as a symbol of an attempt to take control of the time we are allotted.
Initially this has overtones of the medicinal, but closer inspection reveals the fact it is an empty packet of lubricant which shows the real use and again merges the medical with the sexual. Changing something that should be natural into something artificial.
This is another shot that was ‘snapped’ yet is hugely atmospheric. In this case it is also symbolic as you have the gauze referencing a shroud as well as the cut flowers which to prostitutes traditionally signifies beauty cut down in its prime.
Another naked male form laying prone and relaxed showing the innocence and romanticism that should be available to us as positive men.
This still image gives an optical illusion as the flames seem to flicker due to the video overlay even though it is a still shot. Obviously it symbolises candles lit in memoriam
This was the first shot that made me realise I needed images that created atmosphere. Just a simple domestic still life that signifies the mundanities of real life & that to us we are not monsters, but normal people trying to get by the best we can…just like everyone else. This shot was so badly out-of-focus when I reviewed it that my first thought was to discard it. But by it surprised me in the way it created a feeling to the film.
An extremely subtle shot that needs states an important message. A macro shot of a daily pill box showing the anti-retroviral that are a daily reality of life with HIV.
Lastly another naked male that allows the subject to be proud in his masculinity and his sexuality. Relaxed and naked he does not apologise for his body or his status…nor should he have to.
When I started this film I was hoping the individual parts would come together to create something greater than the whole – and while some of the imagery is less important and almost there as padding