As in any documentary film, the presence of the camera changes the nature of the ‘reality’ being documented.
However, in this film, the camera took on a remarkable and powerful role in initiating transformations in the relationships involved.
For all of us, the opportunity to watch the interviews conducted with our mother or daughter allowed us, for the first time in our lives, to witness the other at one level of remove. It was the first time we had any sense of perspective on our relationships, and were able to simply watch and listen to the other woman without reacting. The impact of being able to witness our mother/daughter speaking about us, but not directly to us, had the power of giving us perspective on them and the relationship. And the power of perspective was transformative. In my case, I could see my mother as a woman at the centre of her own life story, with me as a player in that story, but as one element of many.
I heard my mother reflect on our relationship. Just hearing those moments of reflection shifted how I related to her. My interviews with her were the only times which we spoke about our deepest conflicts – the presence of the camera felt like an objective witness, that ensured the interviewee could speak freely and earnestly, and removed the heat of any direct conversation. Watching the interviews provided me with precious insight into where she was coming from. Because my mother was on screen and not in front of me, I could not react to what she said, but had to take it all in and hear her whole story. Because my mother was not relating to me directly, I could sit back and listen and learn about why she thought or acted as she did. The other women in the film spoke of similar experiences. The power of having perspective had initiated an opening and a softening.
The first interviews were shot across 2007/2008/2009, and the second round in 2011. During the second round, it became clear that for all the women, the first interviews had planted a seed that had grown over the years, in combination with events within the families. The process of opening initiated by the first interviews had deepened, paving the way for empathy with the other woman in the equation. Various catalysts had shifted the relationships even further, in some cases leading to forgiveness, and a sense of meeting each other as equals.
The camera acted as a mediator in our relationships, allowing us to witness the other as a separate human being with their own lives and struggles, with us as just one element in the story of their lives. It showed me how often we can avoid looking deeply and directly into the conflicts that shape the relationships that are most important to us. And how if we are forced to, how we can be freed.