Self inclusion is often justified by students in relation to the intention and message of their films. I quote the reflexive comments of three student directors whose focus on depression capture important aspects of reflexivity, embodiment and self inclusion. All required sharing or facilitating the sharing of deeply personal, and potentially embarrassing information.
Running Monologue (Naomi Webb 2014)
‘ The film aims to explore mental illness and represent a snapshot of what this experience entails, the auto-ethnographic account that offers truth, insight and experience of mental illness. Film is way of identifying with contemporary problems, especially the issue of mental illness, therefore although discuss potentially uncomfortable topics, the sensitive nature makes the creation of the film about depression and suicide all the more important. The reflexive nature of voice and narration, a private discussion is significant not only for the audience but furthermore for my own development and battle with mental illness. This film is a process of healing and personal development; private efficacy.’ ( Webb 2014 )
Fragments of a Life (Simon Schwarz 2014)
At the beginning of Fragments of a Life, Simon Schwarz offers in voice over ‘‘Pete once told me you’re doing me the biggest favour in making this film, for I can explain to people how depression feels, but they never seem to really understand’’.
On his blog he explains:
‘There’s much to Pete’s story which could be explored on a socio-political level, on the intersection between the individual’s ‘lifeworld’ and the larger social structures. From the appalling lack of NHS services to how a society as a whole relates to mental illness. Potentially there could then be claims of generalisations, a study of ‘service-users’ or ‘survivors’. However, that’s not what I’m aiming for here. If anything I want to honour a man’s strength to not lose hope in the face of enduring adversity and to use the film to lend Peter a voice to talk about his condition. A condition which may no longer be taboo in our society but which nevertheless is often nothing more than an assemblage of stereotypes in our minds. I hope that we manage to challenge some of these stereotypes and as a result foster greater understanding and compassion for the people suffering from depression. ‘
Later he references the transformational process of making the film:
‘However, I believe the whole process of working on an ‘ethnographic’ film is not so much a one-way street but rather a process through which both researcher and participant are altered. This has certainly been my personal experience as the close engagement with Pete has broadened my understanding and empathy of living with mental illness. I therefore would suggest that rather than being concerned about the camera altering the subject, it’s much more important to constantly reflect about the presence of the camera and actively encourage the ‘subject’ to give feedback about how the presence of the camera is experienced. Wright (1992) argues that ‘the essential problem of the ethnographic film-maker is that the subject is altered by the intrusion of the observer’ (p. 275). It’s hard to deny that the presence of the camera has not in some instances prompted Pete to maybe weigh his words more carefully, or to be more forthcoming than he otherwise might have been. However, Wright’s criticism is based on illusory objectivist thinking that assumes a reality that’s initially untouched and which gets contaminated in the process of engaging with the subject. ‘ (Schwarz 2014-reflexive essay).
Telling Secrets (Simon Holt 2015)
‘Personal transformation came through as a theme of the film largely due to the transformation the filming process caused me to have. The experience of talking openly about depression to experts and friends was liberating. I believe the video being shown to a larger audience will be even more liberating. The film has done its part to help me and I hope that in some way it will help spread awareness of a condition for which raised awareness would help massively’ (Holt 2015)
Kloda’s review also confirms the therapeutic potential of Holt’s film: ‘Telling Secrets began with its maker and subject, Simon Holt, attempting to light candles on a birthday cake that become continually extinguished: in a droll cut, it is revealed that this is because the table is positioned next to an electric fan. Holt chose to make a film about his prior struggles with depression and is candid on camera about his feelings. But it is the facility with visual metaphor that distinguished this piece, that opening image profoundly resonant through its deadpan simplicity. A therapeutic experience, for both Holt and the audience. ‘ (Kloda 2015).