Friday, April 10, 2009

Performing Naturalness: A film by Dada Docot...

My friend Dada from Here, there and somewhere else, sent me information about her new film. I really like it a lot as it brings up many important and interesting issues in a very short amount of time. We will be talking about immigration and foreigners living in Japan in Globalization class soon and I hope to use the video as part of my lecture.

My only critique is that some of the captions are difficult to read. Dada has mentioned that others have said the same and she is working to fix this problem.

Information from the YouTube page:


Title: Performing Naturalness
Duration: 3min
Director/Editor/Actress: Ma. Ledda Brina "Dada" Docot
Cameraworks: Jong Pairez
Effects: Mike Garcia
Music: Fabien Claudel, Zikweb


Living for about four years in Japan, one Filipina has grown quite tired of the "random" questioning of immigration police who inquire about her visa status. One day, she gets off at the Shinagawa train station (the stop closest to city's busiest immigration office) to try a little social experiment.

A part of a series of work on space occupied during mobility, the short film documents an instance of surveillance of foreigners in nothing but an ordinary day in Japan. It emphasizes that the everyday life of a migrant IS a performance. The foreign space accommodates or rejects, and as the "visitor," you "perform" roles so that the space receives you (well).

- ALAB: Ten Best Student Shorts, ACTIVE VISTA FILM FESTIVAL, Robinsons Galleria IndieSine, November 29, 2008.
- In Competition, Documentary Category, 20th GAWAD CCP PARA SA ALTERNIBONG PELIKULA AT VIDEO, for screening on Nov. 21, 2008
- Installation Piece for the exhibit "DISLOCATED JOINTS," Poetry in the Kitchen, Tokyo Japan, March 2008 (Using the version edited by Jong Pairez)

I asked Dada a few questions about her film and she was most generous with her answers:

Performing Naturalness was filmed guerrilla style. I thought that the immigration police in their civilian outfit do the same to us foreigners -- the shooting style somewhat replicated what they do in a surveillance society. I was quite surprised though that they did not seem to bother when they saw my friend with the 8mm camera. They asked about it and I simply replied that it is for an art project. They did not seem to mind and in fact they smiled. Whenever I get approached by the police, I always show them both my gaijin and Tokyo University ID cards. I guess the police did not bother to ask anymore when they saw my Todai card. My student card was quite powerful, I guess.

Perhaps you have also noticed that the Japanese faces were all blurred. The cameraman and I had a sort of a disagreement whether the faces should be concealed or not. I decided to conceal their faces -- exposing them in a video without their permission, I thought, would be too much. I felt I still had to respect their privacy, even if I also violate mine whenever they inquire about my identity as a foreigner.

Others who have seen the film said it was quite interesting. Foreigner friends in Japan could relate to the isolation of the character in the film. But of course we do not have the same experiences. Caucasian friends felt lucky that they were asked only once, or never.

About the style, the film is only 3 minutes because we used an 8mm camera. The "experiment" had a time limit as one roll of an 8mm film is only 3 minutes. I really intended to do this experiment only once (partly because it is expensive). Good thing my experiment succeeded. The footage was actually less than 3 minutes, some of the scenes shot by the cameraman were not used. I just wanted to emphasize my message of isolation, and I thought it worked by stretching the last scene using slow motion or repeating some frames.

I think Dada is an extremely gifted filmmaker and visual anthropologist. I understand she has won awards in the Philippines for her work and that Performing Naturalness will be screened at a film festival in New York. I look forward to her future work. If you want to see more of Dada, check out the preview to RESTLESS.

Link to Baad ng Pauno (RESTLESS)

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