Food On Film – Assignment 3 (Blog Post 2)

Another food related issue I’ve recently come to consider is casual intermittent fasting. These first weeks back to university have been busy for me in regards to schooling, social and family commitments. I haven’t prioritised healthy eating habits and most of the time I’ve accidentally skipped eating for a full day or so.

It’s an issue for me because I’m aware of the physical and mental toll this takes. It’s a habit I have to force myself to break. In response to this week’s blog question, through documentary I would choose to remind others and myself that mindful eating is so important for health, and that inevitable consequences of unplanned starvation will lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and eating.

There are various ways I could document the importance of scheduled eating times. Using a program like Eko, an interactive video platform, I can create a non-linear pathway of scenes. The movement between scenes would be determined by the viewer’s answer to:

Interactive

The viewer that clicks pathway A or B becomes an active participant in the sequence of the work when option A leads to a scene of eating, or scene B leads to a scene of difficulty concentrating (to demonstrate potential negative effects of skipping meals). The first type of the Interactive mode of documentary is satisfied where the viewer is engaged in the work and becomes an active determinant in how it is presented.

Performative

If I were to incorporate the time I had headaches because I skipped eating when my body needed food to function properly, the reenactment of this entire experience for the camera would suggest a Performative mode of documentary. I would suggest that it is important to reenact this kind of experience for which there is no in-time recording. If I do not present my face/identity, the viewer may be able to picture themselves as that person going through trouble, aiding empathy and immersion that may prove helpful in getting the importance of safe diets across.

Interactive/Participatory

In a subsequent scene, the project invites viewers to participate by typing and submitting stories of their own negative experiences of unhealthy eating schedules – eg. impaired immune system, headaches, unsettled stomach, etc. which the following person that interacts with the project gets to learn about. The features of this scene would again suggest evidence of (the second type of) Interactivity – where visitors are able to contribute their own content to further the intentions of the documentary. Umberto Eco classified this kind of interaction between producer and audience to be an element of “open works: those works of writing and art in which, rather than intending a “closed,” singular experience, authors intentionally invite interpretation and contribution to the form, function, and meaning of a text”, (Fox, 2017, pg. 65). Here in an open work the power imbalance between producer and viewer is improved, as participation is not pressured by the physical presence of the producer (myself). The willingness to partake comes from the audience. This suggests a Participatory mode of documentary, where “…filmmakers [recruit] their subjects as active participants”, (pg. 45).

What I found interesting from this week’s reading, and what I also hadn’t really considered before, was the fact that documentary can engage in multiple existing modes and can overlap in terms of technical features, and creative and and ethical motivations. It seems that some of the best examples of documentary don’t just adhere to the features of one selection alone, but take advantage of multiple different modes of documentary production. I hope my own final film in this studio on animal welfare will also reflect this decision.

Fox, B 2017, ‘A Brief History of Documentary: Movements and Modes’ in, Documentary Media: History, Theory, Practice, 2nd edn, Routledge, Milton, pp. 27-72.

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