And here it is, my film. Enjoy!
Ah, before I put my video up, if you are keeping up with my blog you simply have to watch this video of the Kernow King, Cornwall’s finest comic, who also happens to be a Guardian columnist. Watching his battle with the 2011 census is not only comedy gold, but also highlights a lot of the issues I have addressed in my film. ‘ave a looky my beauties!
So here I am on my final post before Vy Bos Kernewek is made public to the world. The film is being uploaded to Vimeo as I type, and as I wait, I would like to address some reflections on my work, and consider what implications it has for the future.
I would firstly like to mention that I have hugely enjoyed making my film, even more so than I thought I would. I threw myself into it, knowing that anything less than maximum effort would leave me disappointed, especially as I am documenting a subject that is personal to me. I feel that I have done the theme justice, as I know that I couldn’t display Cornish culture, identity and nationalism in their entirety in 10 minutes, as well as adding individual narratives and sub-topics. I wanted my film to be a taster for the topic, and introduce the lay person to what being a naturalised-Cornish feels like. I hope that the film gives an overall impression that current day identity is nuanced and highly individual, especially in an area of such high immigration and diversity among it’s younger residents.
In terms of what this film means for the future, I am highly optimistic. When I began polishing off my film this morning, I did query as to whether the topic was relevant and mainstream enough. However, I saw some great news that affirmed my film’s place in contemporary discourse only this morning. As of the 24 April 2014, Cornwall is now designated a ‘minority’ under European Council law. This means that Cornwall is now afforded the same rights as other celtic cultures such as the Welsh, Irish and Scottish. I am highly optimistic about what this can bring. An influx in tourism is something that can be anticipated, as Cornwall can now display itself on not only a national but also global scale with it’s presentation and distinct and protected culture. I am also optimistic about the development of archives and heritage sites in Cornwall, which will surely look to protect the ancient artefacts, sites and language embedded in the landscape, towns, villages, and people. I have grown up listening to locals complain about the erosion of Cornish culture, and it is certainly a valid concern, however I am pleased that steps are now being taken to preserve Cornish cultural capital, and I hope it can go someway to improve the county’s poor financial position.
With that, I would like to thank you for reading my blog. I would like to revisit my previous position on blogs, and predictably, it has shifted. I think blogs can be a great tool alongside a project like this to keep those interested updated, and can provide good textual information on an ongoing visual project. I have vastly enjoyed the experience, and I would like to leave you, the viewer, with a short clip from one of favourite programmes, The Simpsons. After today’s developments, perhaps we will be hearing Lisa’s words more and more often in the not so distant future…
Greetings reader, and thank you for taking the time to read my third blog entry. Anyway, to the sit-rep; my film is practically complete and the narration is done. I think it looks pretty good, as I have a good mix of long and short narratives, some good contrasts between the subject and the world the subject is embedded in (I find this distinction particularly important, especially anthropologically) and a good balance of emotions and notions coming through. As I look at my timeline for the documentary, I realize that the subject has definitely morphed and changed along the way; I certainly now have ‘characters’ in my film that shine through as individual components and a different point of interest that were not intended to be there. I have also changed my objective of my film, which was more or less to be expected. What was originally a nuanced documentary on identity, nationalism and exoticism, is now largely based on identity construction, senses of belonging in the world and a sense of home. This is probably more to do with what I find interesting and how I relate to the subject, projecting my relation to the subject specifically.
As promised, this post mainly reflects on other work conducted around the subject, especially ethnicity and identity in Cornwall. A good starting point for me was watching another film on Cornish people called Porth Emmett, a tongue-in-cheek look at how the Cornish look at outsiders. This short by by Mark Lanyon and the Cornish Fylmys Glawlen Gwer film collective presents a family from ‘up north’ coming down to Cornwall for a short holiday and their interaction with the patrons and staff of a small local pub. The family of messy, rude, unhygienic and particularly sunburnt northerners are led by a large alpha-male adorned with cliche tracksuit and gold chains, who ends up asking two local lads for directions to the best beach in Cornwall. In keeping with xenophobic Cornish tradition, the two lads suggest a trip to Porth Emmett. This requires a little explanation. Many of the beaches in Cornwall begin or end with porth, or ‘port’ in English. Emmett, as myth and folk knowledge dictate, is an old Cornish word for ‘ant’; every summer, we would witness the flood of ’emmetts’ coursing down the A30 to pack out our beaches, drink all our beer, and take all our women (that last one isn’t actually true, as women have as much agency as their male counterparts and are not objects to be taken; however, I am certain I have heard some Cornish boys muttering this under their breath). Anyway, back to the film, the family are directed east of the pub to Porth Emmett, the best, most pristine beach in the county. However, the beach doesn’t actually exist, and when pointing tourists in the direction of, you tell them to ‘drive up the A30 for 45 minutes, and it will be there on your left’. The will almost certainly take you out of Cornwall, and thus the aim of the Cornishman has been achieved.
This film gave me some good insight into media being produced by the people of Cornwall, and the contemporary themes they address. This film gave me particularly good insight; the father of the tourist family whipping out his wallet laden with notes mirrored the Cornish relationship with money, particularly the lack of it in the county and the impression we have of those living in more affluent areas. Relationships with modernity and technology were also addressed, with the kids constantly on their phones or playing computer games. Youth and adolescence in Cornwall, much like other rural upbringings, were centered around the outdoors and relationships with nature, which certainly becomes more pertinent when addressed as a contrast to people of affluent middle England.
Another resource that I found interesting was an article written by Maryon McDonald, Celtic Ethnic Kinship and the Problem of Being English. I found this article of interest from the outset, as it addressed an importance on blood relations and ancestry that I found recurrent throughout my research. Her mention of ‘flesh and blood’ is extremely relevant, as I found myself recollecting my friends and subjects’ words on how blood and ancestry is extremely important, especially Liam, a subject in the film born in Cornwall to Cornish stock.
This all feeds in nicely with some wise words imparted by Thomas Eriksen in Ethnicity and Nationalism. Eriksen mulls over the negotiation between the past and the present in the book, and in lay terms, asks what one influences the other most: does our history make us who are we as mere products of the pre-present, or do our present selves actively seek interest in the past, and allow it to help us in the formation of ourselves? Yeah, that’s quite airy-fairy, but I see it as a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, and so does Eriksen. He cites the work of John Peel and his move away from a view that ethnicity and group identity can be boiled down to structural conditions, in stating ‘Peel argues the need to take historical accounts seriously – both as sources documenting actual events more or less accurately, and as serious attempts by ‘natives’ to come to terms with their past. Ethnohistory should not, in his view, simply be regarded as a technique to generate a particular present, but can also be taken seriously at its face value – as an expression of an interest on the past.’
I hope that these little quotes on theory become clearer when the video is up and has been watched. The negotiation between present and past, individual and group, particular and universal identity are difficult to conceptualise, but I hope that by the end of this project, I will have something informed, and with any luck profound, so say on the subject.
Here is the opening of my film taking shape…
Ok, so this is the second post in my blog, and it is probably best to illustrate where I am in the process of my film. At the moment, I have a rough, rough, rough cut of my film, that measures 9 minutes in length. I must say, it isn’t bad; I was quite apprehensive as to how it was going to pan out, but for a first draft, so to speak, it is pretty decent.
I am currently at my grandparents for easter weekend; somewhere nice and quiet to do my narrating for the film. I was slightly torn as to whether to narrate in my film. Part of me wanted to believe that if a film is good enough, it doesn’t need narration, with perfect narrative being the exact thing that the creator wants to portray. However, I have chosen to narrate for a number of reasons. Firstly, the other half of me thinks that this ‘perfect narrative’ may be a bit of a naive dream that is practically impossible. Is it even possible to project my vision of the subject into an exact image and experience that others can consume? A large part of me thinks not, especially with such a personal subject. Secondly, as I am wholly inexperienced in the production of films, I think that a guiding voice throughout the film may be useful. It is probably better to be safe rather than sorry in the translation of my ideas.
So, that’s where I am in my production process. Building on the background I was illustrating last time, I think it’s important to say why it’s this particular part of the human condition, identity and a sense of belonging, that interests me. Ethnicity, identity and nationalism has been a particular interest of mine since I have been studying anthropology, which was probably first stimulated by reading Michael Jackson’s At Home in the World. I was fascinated by the Warlpiri’s close connection to the land they lived within, as well as more encompassing Australian indigenous myths. One of my favourite remains the creation myth of Uluru, or to us Western, Eurocentric tourists using this sacred site as a large red toilet, Ayer’s Rock. The myth tells of a great war waged between two ancient tribes, resulting in the deaths of both tribe leaders. Distraught at the bloodshed, the earth heaved and rose in grief, becoming Uluru. Anyway, I found the indigenous people’s of Australia and their creation myths and connection with the land fascinating; it goes beyond a landscape that provides a place to live, it’s practically a different side to the same coin. So, I wanted to see how this relationship represents itself among people that I know, in a place that I know. The fact that I talked to people with varying degrees of connection to Cornwall gave me great insight into what I wanted to look at, specifically birthplace, origin and connection.
Anyway, I don’t want to give it all away now, as I must reserve some details for further blog posts. In my next post, I will talk a little more about how my work relates to work that I have studied and I like, specifically one of my favourite theorists, Thomas Hylland Eriksen.
Ps. My disdain for blogs has not abated as of yet, but when I feel a pang of sympathy of bloggers, I shall let you know…
PPs. A first static shot
Disclaimer – I hate blogs. This is the first (and hopefully one of the last) in a series of posts that accompany my journey on making a documentary about my home. This is partly what I find irritating about blogs. I am currently making a short, albeit potentially insightful 10 minute film on an anthropological issue of my choice. I have chosen to explore my fascination with Cornwall; a part of the British Isles that I now generally call home, despite the fact that I have spent less than half of my life living there. When asking about my film, many of my classmates would nod sagely and look pretty interested, however no one mirrored my enthusiasm for my subject. I didn’t expect them to. My theme is personal to me, and the idea in my head, when explained, sounds pretty dull when tried to convey. This is my qualm with blogs. I expect most to be reading this to have little to no interest in me, Cornwall, Cornish nationalism and Cornish identity, much in the same way that I don’t find people’s blog entries on their favourite lunch of the week to be particularly interesting. I see blogs as platforms for shameless self promotion by people who are self deprecating in face-to-face social situations, but believe their lives to be widely fascinating when written out in text and embellished with as many adjectives as possible. Yes, I am aware that I am now using this blog as a platform for my opinions, which ironically very few people will find interesting, but I thought it might be interesting to revisit my relationship with blogs over the coming posts as an aside from the creation of my film. Reflexivity and the ability to scrutinise one’s relationship with their work is a running theme across the module that this blog and film are for, so I guess it’s worth a go by taking a look at my blog entries.
As mentioned, the theme that my film is on is Cornwall, why I and so many people call it home, and how it differs from the rest of the UK. I moved to Cornwall when I was 10, moved out when I was 18, and have continued to call it home ever since. I was born in Amsterdam, and I have lived in London, Devon, Cornwall, Australia, Amsterdam for a second time, and Canterbury, living in approximately 18 different houses a long the way. However, I have always felt a close affinity with Cornwall. Whether it was because I spent most of my formative years there is a reasonable answer, however I feel there is something about the people that come out of Cornwall that creates an immediate bond between us. If you meet a fellow Cornishman abroad, you immediately go for a pint together: no questions asked. You post ‘I really fancy a pasty’ as your facebook status, you instantly get 50 ‘likes’, many people telling when their last one was, and who makes them better, Warrens or Rowe’s. There is definitely a sense of shared culture between us down in Cornwall, even amongst my friends and I. Two of my best friends from Cornwall were born in Barbados and Paraguay, but still hold a close relationship the county we grew up in. I wanted to look at why and how many of us from Cornwall value the county, what it means to us, and how it has effected us as people. With the limited length of my film, I haven’t able to explore all of the contributing factors that I would like to; from the shared cultural symbols of the Cornish, to the language that refuses to become extinct, to the nationalism of many of the residents and descendants of the county. This last point is of particular interest to me, and is a topic I would like to explore further if and when the time comes. For now, I will leave you with two pieces of interest to get you acquainted with the issue; one brilliant piece of journalism written by the Kernow King, Edward Rowe, asking whether the recent storms have actually cut England off from Cornwall rather than vice versa, and a mock up of GTA Cornwall, which is just a crack up. Once I have reviewed my footage from my recent filming trip in Kernow, I will explain a little more about the film, but until then, cheers n’ gone.