A Treatise on “Exclusion”
Filmmaking involves personal choices and decisions. The artist’s freedom to choose and decide is an independent filmmaker’s privilege that I am enjoying to the max. I feel privileged—privileged as there is no producer to tell me what to do—what to put, what will sell, what bores him to death so better delete it, etc., etc…
I have my creative freedom to focus on anything that I want to give importance to, as anyone can have their freedom to do their own thing. I cannot be obliged to see what others see or want to see. Let me tell the world that no individual, no school, no institution, no sponsor, no producer has ever commissioned me to do any of my advocacy films. All my films are personal dreams realized. Build your own dream!
My odyssey shall silently continue…new people to meet along the way…new friends…new knowledge to acquire…a whole new world to enter…new personal mission to accomplish for the greater good.
My films are vehicles to express and share my thoughts with. The audience are my passengers. And if you happen to journey with me as one of my film’s passengers, understand that your angle of view as we travel together shall differ because your story, history and experiences are different from mine.
From autism world, to the world of the Deaf, I have now moved on to the world of the Cerebral Palsied…In particular, SO traces not mine shall stay on however, to haunt others perhaps for what they call its lack. But to many others—whether Deaf or hearing, the film beyond trivialities shall certainly be a milestone, if not, a source of inspiration.
A PERSONAL TREATISE
I have written this to serve as my personal treatise on the subject of non-inclusion, little, or no exposure in my films, and all the films in the future that I am dreaming of producing as there are still lots that I want to do. This is therefore addressed to all those who presently harbor or unfortunately will harbor the sentiments or grudges of feeling “insignificant” for not being included in my “travel” which is a very personal and an independent endeavor anyway. It is never my wish nor my liking to make anyone feel that way. They unfortunately chose to wallow in it reminding me of a quotation which states that: “It is not what happens to us that is the problem. It is our attitude towards what is happening to us that is the problem.”
What I can just say is that easing of those feelings can’t be solved by shouting to the world their woes. It just won’t work. They should be discussed with the person directly concerned. If the problem for ex., concerns my work, matters that concern it should have be discussed directly with me. I am not Deaf to hear and to consider whatever is suggested to me if certainly something important is amiss in my film. Just get me convinced. Afterall, I produce my own docus. The problem lies in being mute to directly discuss things over with me.
BEING MUTE IS THE ROOT CAUSE
The problem lies in communication. I must be told right away after a film preview and/or after my film premiere screening that something had been bypassed if you may call it that, or directly called my attention through email or text messages so that something could be done. I can consider the absence of what is being lamented to and could add whatever is missing to the final copy. Afterall, I always directly project from the camera, and usually at that stage I can still subject my film to further editing, if needs be. And especially if the person concerned has already been introduced to me, or introduced himself to me before the screening. With the initial contact already established, a follow up chat re any observations and comments is very welcome.
THE RIGHT APPROACH
The reaction is not new anyway. When I made my film on autism, the segment on occupational therapists (OTs) were excluded because of lack of time and budget. In the OT case however, I was given the feedback immediately the day after the screening through proper channels and the right people until I finally met with them face to face, heard them and got convinced that they should be included in the film. (The OT segment can be found in the longest version of Alyana).
A similar thing happened with my SO film, the main difference being that my attention was called through an INDIRECT CHANNEL and so many weeks after SO’s premiere showing. I was forwarded a URL address and was asked if I would like to comment on it. When I checked what it was, it was the blog entitled “Deaf Education, My Retrospect” which commented on SO’s historical “lack.” Taking into consideration how the information was channeled to reach me, I decided NOT to apply the same thing as I did with my film on autism. Re-editing was not welcome anymore afterall. SO was already in its final form and I have started to move on to a new destination.
I am a transient traveler. Whatever I left behind, or failed to put in my film[s] could be done by those who want them. They are free to do whatever they want. In moving forward I need to leave behind people and places I have been to. I can’t stay longer. I need to move forward because others need to be heard too. My film will serve as their voice too.
Not being included in my film does not mean that whoever or whatsoever were not touched or included are unimportant or insignificant because my film is in the first place a record of MY experiences, of people I met who had the time to share their stories and experiences, of people who may not have been around but had impact in the lives of Deaf Filipinos, in the case of my film SO.
Silent Odyssey was described as a “docu-film…which showcases deaf history in the Philippines.” But SO is NOT a historical documentary. It is NOT A DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF DEAF FILIPINOS where it is a MUST to put ALL facts and figures! The notes on history are there because it gives us an understanding of the present, NOT TO SERVE AS LISTINGS of who’s who and who’s first in Deaf history. Such is a fresh reminder of what ordinary and mediocre history teachers want us to memorize then: Who, What, When, Where?
SO is more than anything a film which tells of current Deaf issues to make both Deaf and hearing society know about them, gives a glimpse of the events at the 15th World Federation of the Deaf Congress in Spain, a film which is trying to tell the world that “Deaf can.”
I think one should be able to distinguish between personal history and general history before reacting to something which was not meant to be seen that way.
All the films that I have made so far and all other films that I will be making in the future are just journeying with the viewers and simply taking them along with me—irrespective of who they are—in traversing diverse worlds.
Others might have taken a different route, have met different people in the process and found themselves in different settings. Their experiences, story and history are different from mine. I cannot be obliged to experience and see what they see, want to see or experience. IF MY FOCUS WAS OFF THEIR LINE OF VISION THAT SHOULD NOT BOTHER THEM. When we are on a journey, don’t we literally focus only on what catches our interests? You may find something interesting, important or significant which may not have the same effect on me. If the track that I took happened to be different from other people and the angle of view that I got is therefore different, why would some feel insignificant if they were off my vision the time I passed?
To allusions, for ex. by some that DLS-CSB SDEAS is the ONLY institution working for the benefit of the Deaf because I featured much about it in my film is just too bad. Because who can refute the fact that MANY institutions and individuals, not just one, have worked and are working for the welfare of the Deaf? No one! So “to clear things up and set the record straight too”—and to anyone who feel rather uneasy about SDEAS’ exposure in the film, I just want you to know and understand that that Deaf school has become for nearly two years an important part of my “existence”…MY existence, I repeat! NOT YOUR existence, not the existence of others.
It is where I studied and learned Filipino Sign Language under the Filipino Sign Language Learning Program. It is where so many memorable experiences in my life as part of getting into the Deaf world happened, where I first got exposed to a local Deaf community, and where I met a lot of good and sincere people—both Deaf and hearing. SDEAS has not given me a dime but lots of moral support to make SO.
Most importantly, it was where my first film on my immersion in Deaf world–“Breaking Down the Barrier” (2007)—was born. And where Silent Odyssey formally started and developed. All in the confines of SDEAS classrooms and PEN laboratory. I can outright tell anyone that if I was led to study sign language at MCCID, PFD, PRID or any other places offering sign language, the first step in making Silent Odyssey, those places would have been no doubt my setting, not SDEAS.
If being a part of my existence is being a part of MY story and history, why should that bother anyone who has NOT been a PART of my existence?
For Dr. Marie Therese Bustos of UP Special Education Area and Philippine Deaf Resource Center to say that “Silent Odyssey captures the cry of the Deaf soul…” and for Ana Kristina Arce [Deaf] to say that “Silent Odyssey shows who Deaf people are and what they want” is to see beyond the trivialities of just knowing who is who or who was first in Philippine Deaf history.
- (L) Rev. Ada Aimee Coryell, Deaf Inc. Founder and Rev. Elena Castillo, Bible Institute for the Deaf President (R) during the premiere of Silent Odyssey
Moreover, receiving the recognition and appreciation from the majority of the members of the Deaf community, and specifically from pioneer Deaf educators as the Bible Institute for the Deaf President Rev. Elena Castillo and DEAF Inc. Founder Rev. Aimee Ada Coryell, CHED Legal Counsel Head Atty. Carmelita Sison and Bro. Victor Franco, FSC, President of DLS-CSB are enough gauge for me to know the value and importance of my film. Added to this was the remark made by Dr. Liza Martinez after its showing in UP Manila last November 2009: The film is a very significant contribution to information and to advocacy…I never thought I would see in my lifetime an interest in documentary by filmmakers who actually worked with the Deaf…I think when you walk out of here, you will remember this film and you will remember all the sentiments, the attitudes which were presented in it. Take home a sense of history, I think it is very strong in the film; a sense of diversity of the Deaf community; and continuing vision on things which are still to be done…I hope that you enjoyed, and learned, and most of all—you have taken it into your hearts what you have seen tonight.
Their reactions are a GOOD LEVERAGE OF AN INTELLECTUAL AUDIENCE WHO VALUE THE FILM FOR WHAT IT OFFERS IN TOTALITY, NOT JUST CONCENTRATING ON A SEGMENT WHICH IS ONLY A PART OF AN ENTIRETY…NOT FOCUSING ON THEIR ABSENCE IN MY JOURNEY.
I have been a witness on how people have been “moved” and “educated” by my films, not just SO. For SO though, such impact lies on making the hearing and Deaf audience aware and conscious of Deaf culture and their Being—the sign language issues, the need for recognition of their linguistic human rights; the reality that Filipino Sign Language which is being recognized to be the sign language of the members of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf is not yet being recognized by our government; that hearing and Deaf can work together, that they can happily and harmoniously live together as husband and wife, that the feeling of neglect, lack of respect and their needs should be addressed to have an atmosphere of equality in the society. And above all, that DEAF CAN!
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