I will be forever fascinated by light and shadow. Within them I find a remarkable exchange of meaning, a dichotomy where one often does not exist without the other. The genesis of the idea of my documentary came from a moment of inspiration when at one time I was discussing this interest with my sister and I realized that the presence of both can become a metaphor of sorts for life. I realized that just as the blend of light and shadows on the leaves of a tree can create a beautiful and enriching scene, a mixture of the highs and lows of life can enhance our growth, increase our strength, and change us into better individuals capable of facing challenges.
Thomas S. Monson illustrates the idea perfectly when in an address at a BYU Women’s Conference he expressed,
“Our mortal life … was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father … knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.”
It was with this perspective in mind that I sought to create a poetic mode documentary about how light, shadow, and growth often work in tandem. It is a sentiment I’ve thought a lot about with experiences I’ve endured in my own life and observed in the lives of others.
The project is deeply inspired by documentary giant Joris Ivens’ film Rain. Within Ivens’ mesmerizing film, he assembles a narrative arc by chronicling a rain shower. Just as the documentarian shifts his focus throughout the different periods of the occasion, I took a similar approach when capturing and assembling the sights of shadows, light, and plants in the world around me. I too assembled a narrative arc in creating a metaphor in that just as light can penetrate even the darkest of shadows to facilitate profound growth within nature, we can likewise embrace the tragedies of life, because it is most often through our trials that we grow into stronger, compassionate, and more authentic individuals.
Poetic documentary films regularly stress ambiguity through a series of fragments. They often emphasize the filmmaker’s voice in giving an area of the world a formal aesthetic. Poetic documentaries enable audiences to see and experience the world in a particular, calculated way. In my documentary, the concept and meaning is generally ambiguous and unclear. Instead, the fragmented images act as a vehicle through which my voice, perspective, and vision as a filmmaker is conveyed. As a filmmaker, I was involved with the film form itself, as is often the case with poetic documentary films. I altered the lighting and saturation in multiple areas in an effort to communicate a particular mood. Initially, the film begins with shadows, signifying life running smoothly as normal. Then, small growth begins with the presence of plant life. It isn’t long before trial and shadow strike, consuming and perhaps even stalling progression. And then light is introduced and a remarkable change takes place. This is when the greatest growth occurs, when the plant and individual have each faced the highs and lows, and have come out resilient and stronger than ever before. Ultimately, I believe the documentary successfully conveys a perspective I have regarding the world with enough ambiguity andmetaphor that it has transformed the idea into something quite profound. Above all else, I am grateful for the chance I had to articulate this idea, for the experiences I’ve had, and for every trial and triumph I endure in life.
Thomas S. Monson Address – https://womensconference.ce.byu.edu/sites/womensconference.ce.byu.edu/files/presidentmonson2008.pdf?lang=eng