Experimental Film Practice – Memories Of Shiqi et al

Experimental film

Film movements

The term avant-garde was first used in the modern sense to typify various aesthetic groupings that appeared immediately before and after World War One: cubism and futurism (both 1909), Dadaism (1916), constructivism (1920), and surrealism (1924). (Hayward, 2018: 39)

While my films employ some of the methods associated with; Dadaism, Surrealism, Structuralist Film, and the genres, for example, City Symphony there is no doubt that my films have been influenced by these important movements and filmmaking techniques. My films are a personal expression, formulated from my research into memory representation in films and my experiences as a filmmaker. Therefore, it is of no surprise to me that my films do indeed share similarities and methods with these movements. My films include montages something that I have employed in documentary filmmaking to rapidly move the timeline of a documentary across years if not decades but in, for example, Memories Of Shiqi they do more than that, they reveal memories of the past and juxtapose them with images of the now, but of course, these images are now also in the past. André Bazin the film critic and film theorist “[o]ffers a definition of montage as ‘the creation of a sense of meaning not proper to the images themselves but derived exclusively from their juxtaposition” (Hayward, 2018: 109) the meaning in my films montage is Shiqi’s age chronologically increasing with the timeline.

experimental film Memories Of Shiqi
Film practice

Memories Of Shiqi (2021), IVY (2021) & Remember (2020)

Daniels argues that “[t]he goal of the experimental film is to offer alternative and different ways of thinking to mainstream films about methods deployed in the mediation of the historical event.” (Daniels, 2014: ii).

My films reflect upon the conceptualisation of memory and historical events viewed through flashbacks and a non-linear timeline. I would include them within the definition of being experimental, whether they are projected in a cinema, screened on a mobile device or as a social media post.
In reflection and production order, “Remember” (2020) is experimental through both its lighting and visuals, the nonlinear editing to represent the memory concepts of flashbacks as explored in chapter one. The follow-up film “Memories Of Shiqi” (2021) with its juxtaposition of analogue and digital film, matching shots, and overlays. This film is almost a definition of flashbacks and prosthetic memories explored in chapter two. The film juxtaposes digital archival film with contemporary analogue film sequences. Memories Of Shiqi is then followed by the film “IVY” (2021) filmed entirely in black and white using both analogue film and digital film, the film sequences overlayed to create a dream-like image emphasised by the isolated lighting of the subject using minimal lighting sources to create deep blacks and bright flares. IVY represents the idea of dreams in combination with reality, flashbacks and collective memories, each sequence a combination of analogue film in flashback overlayed onto the digital images creating mirroring and reflections of the subject in the same physical space.

In my films much as in the majority of experimental films there is no dialogue, no script only visuals and soundtrack, as a limited definition of experimental films Rees states “For the most part they avoid script and dialogue, or approach film and video from an angle which emphasises vision over text and dialogue.” (Rees, 2011: 3). For my experimental films the original aim is to create a conceptualisation of memory, collective memory but with a different meaning for each member of the social group, the spectator, to create confusion, discussion, and meanings, as Daniels states “For the experimental filmmaker, metaphors and metonymy offer a useful rhetorical function that are effective in evoking a sensation or thought beyond the image or sound’s direct indexical link to the historical world. They may also provide additional meaning to the film’s discourse.” (Daniels, 2014: 66). In my films as with other experimental filmmakers they tend to work alone or with minimal cast and crew, controlling all aspects to the films production.

Bordwell, Thompson and Smith state “Experimentalist Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) was shot by her husband, Alexander Hammid, but she scripted, directed, and edited it and performed in the central role.” (Bordwell, Thompson and Smith, 2016: 32).

In my films visuals can be interpreted to have different meanings, my films have a historical reference and invoke both a memory and a location. A place may have different meanings to a spectator in the audience. For example, as Bordwell, Thompson and Smith argue that “. . . the filmmaker may choose to disturb our expectations. We often associate art with pleasure, but many artworks offer us conflict, tension, and shock. An artwork’s form may even strike us as unpleasant because of its imbalances or contradictions. For example, experimental films may jar rather than soothe us.” (Bordwell, Thompson and Smith, 2016: 55). In reflection, my film Memories Of Shiqi begins with a statement, what is the underlining meaning of the dates in the opening credits, they have a start and end date, does this mean Shiqi dies in 2021? My influences here were taken directly from the disclaimer in the opening titles to Fargo (1996), a fictional thriller but with the opening statement, “This is a true story”. As I intended in my film Memories Of Shiqi I wanted the audience to accept this film was a true story but leave them with questions, what is the real story?


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