Givers and Framers: Voice and Context in Two Documentary Texts

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Bilbrough, Paola Givers and Framers: Voice and Context in Two Documentary Texts. In: Visible Evidence XIX, 19 December 2012-21 December 2012, Canberra. (Unpublished)


Filmmaker and theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha (2007, p.115) has observed that, ‘In affirming righteously that one opens a space for those who do not have a voice, one often forgets that the gaining of a voice happens within a framed context, and one tends to turn a blind eye to one’s privileged position as a “giver” and a “framer”. In this paper I discuss ethical tensions around ‘voice’ and ‘framed context’ in ‘How the West was Lost’ (an article by Dan Oakes, which appeared in The Age in July of this year), and Separation, a ‘documentary-poem’ I completed around the same time for my doctoral study. The link between these two seemingly disparate texts is the issue of youth homelessness and disengagement. What makes each text inherently problematic is that the protagonists in each are young men from African-Australian backgrounds –a group who have been subjected to a huge amount of racial essentialism and negative stereotyping in the media. While the first text claims to ‘faithfully reproduce’ the voices of the young interviewees the second is blatantly subjective –an auto/biographical record of my attempt to parent a young Sudanese-Australian. Key questions are how much of a sensitive personal narrative should be included in a documentary text and how the artist/author balances ethical and aesthetic concerns.

Item type Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media
Current > Division/Research > PVC Students and Learning and Teaching
Keywords Youth homelessness; youth disengagement; documentary; framed context
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