VISUALITY AND NARRATION: TELEPRESENCE AND LEVINAS’ “ANTLITZ” IN MY CHILD
„This revulsion from the given to the neighbour, from imagination to context, from knowledge to ethics, is Antlitz and human skin. […] I am obsessed by the neighbour, by this Antlitz and this skin in the trace of this absence, in other words obsessed by them in their abject desolation and their irrefutable entitlement to me; […] The touch, in which I verge on the neighbour is neither appearance nor knowledge, but the ethical event of communication; […]“ (Levinas 1998: 292f)
A great documentary about an important issue
„While he was trying on [a t-shirt], what I saw was… My son had breasts. Real breasts! I shouted, ‚What are those?‘ He just stood there silent. I ran out of the mall and called the doctor.“ The Turkish mother tells this empathically, sitting frontally to us, not able to realise that her telling seems theatrically exaggerated. She is one of seven. We look at her face, listen to her words which tell her struggle with her child. And we cannot resist to listen further to her. In the Antlitz of the Other we recognise ourselves. The Antlitz is not only a face, it is not only a gaze, but the fundamental request not to kill and it antecedes us. This is a possible description of the Jewish philosopher Emanuel Levinas’s ‘Ethics of the Other‘. In the face-to-face communication we realise our responsibility. It is not a responsibility in a common sense, but the Other antecedes us and we answer before we are at ourselves. Subjectivity is then a being-elsewhere, a being-offset. And the film confronts us with this ethics.
When they were told, that their children are “lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender“
Can Candan presents seven Antlitzes in his documentary “My Child”, seven faces of Turkish parents from Istanbul: Ömer, Şule, Günseli, Pınar, Sema, Nilgül, Zeki. They look at us frontally, they speak to us. Behind these seven faces there are their stories. Even if these parents are not bodily present in front of us, they are with us and we are with them. This is because films enable a tempo-spatial configuration of their own. They bring people, which are part of the past, dead or absent, to us: audiovisually at least. This presence of the absent, which has something of “a presence-in-moment”, was called Telepräsenz by Vilem Flusser. In this telematic presence of these seven faces, these people, these parents and their narration-performances, we attend their words. All of them tell about one specific experience: about the moment, when they were told, that their children are “lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender“. However, the filmic telepresence is different from the telephonical, it is similar to the photographic one. It is a telepresence of absence: a tele-represence. The filmed parents appear again in front of us, by a time-gap. The two fathers and five mothers sit frontally to us and their telepresence gives almost no space for our gazes to escape their Antlitzes. Filmed in a domestic setting, the light of the filmic image keeps the background dark, hardly visible. The bodies of the parents are visible, thus, their corporal telepresence is very “clean“. What remains invisible are the children who the parents talk about. Their names are told in the fade/outs which come with no hunch and present second lasting black screens. The invisibility of the children – because we do not see them, maybe for short – transforms into a visibility in the imagination of the viewer itself because we are shown no pictures of them, no images which materialise the told stories. The black screens give the viewer a point for the imagination to last for a while, to come into regeneration. A moment of empty fullness. We are forced to a kind of to-listen-to-be-seeable. This status of being a gap of the pictures of the children fills itself with the thickness of the narration of the parents. A process which could be called the creation of an auditive transmitted textual fullness of imagination which goes along with the corporal presence of the parents.
An invitation to think about the complex relation between visuality and narration
Can Candan succeeded in presenting us a very clever constructed documentary which seems simple prima facie. However, behind this simplicity there is an invitation to think about the complex relation of visuality and narration, about visibility and becoming an image. This invitation, as which I consider the part of the film which presents the confessions of these seven people, makes the precarious and sometimes deadly symbolic world of “trans, homo and bi” people socially approachable. The film makers dedicate the documentary to Irem Okan who was murdered by 29 stabs in Bursa due to trans bashing.
Title: My Child – 82 min – Turkey – Surela Films – Director: Can Candan – Director of Photography: Oğuz Yenen – Link: http://www.mychilddocumentary.com/