The diary is a fermenting dialogue that may never arrive to its conclusion. Anyone, short of a translation, can respond to it on the message board; while search engines discriminate on the basis of a few words, not colour or nationality, not even fluency of language. My editor, Folake Shoga, has asked me to trust the process, to write without so much revising, to be transparent about my mistakes and look at the clouds of my thoughts with wonder instead of being so wary. She talked about being “exposed” and “vulnerable”, referring to the artists in residence and their online diaries. Although I have been unusually autobiographical – a necessary detour in this case, a gut feeling to which I am not interested to give the pretence of intellectual justification – I tend to subtract myself whilst looking at the work. Besides, I am not so deluded as to think that I will discover the value(s) of my life through words or images – mere poultice over panic attacks.
Needless to say trust is a very important issue in filmmaking. I have been begging for trust to the persons I wish to film for a few months to no avail. The portraits require abandonment and resilience. As a filmmaker, I look at the camera with distrust too. How can I persuade camera-shy individuals to be filmed, knowing that the value of the film may not reside in the intent of the participants? Somehow, I feel certain that it doesn't; that the film should be slightly fazed; that the diary should attempt to salvage it. Therefore, the work of the reader/spectator is to reconcile what is said with what is meant while I strive to reverse these two repelling poles.
My proposal for “Calling:” stemmed from my previous work, Feminine, a short film. A young woman (Nicola Johnson) ties up her hair in front of the camera. This simple task is of course prosaic, unmoving, mostly brushed off awareness. Film transforms it into – female – ritual, a pause. She walks in and out of the frame, a painterly figure, while the fine grain of her skin absorbs the light. We worked tirelessly until the camera and I became invisible, till the acting was driven out of Nicola and her slender figure acquired its own fluidity. I looked for femaleness rather than prescribed femininity. Incidentally, she used her favourite hair clip, a gift from a relative (I forget who). I realised later how short scenes could capture enough of a person to be called portraits.