Putting Theory into Practice: Structuring the Personal Essay Documentary, The Silences

  • Margot Nash


Part memoir and part meditation on memory, history and photography, The Silences is a feature-length personal essay documentary about the tangled bonds, secret histories and unspoken traumas of family life that stretches from New Zealand to the Australian suburbs. It is an exploration of early childhood and the ‘silences’ of the past that resonate in the present. It is a film about family secrets and the ties of love, loss and kinship between a mother and daughter. In this chapter I will investigate how a long, discovery-driven creative development process allowed for a ‘brooding’, questioning space where the veracity of family stories, designed to hide the socially unacceptable, was challenged and stories that had ‘lived outside the boundaries of cultural knowledge’ were uncovered. I have taken The Silences as a case study, because it investigates the gaps and silences in my own family history and because, when constructing it, I decided to put ideas about creativity that I had been researching into practice. I will share the challenge of a story that resisted a linear chronological structure and instead required a non-linear elliptical structure in order to break chronology and create subtext, mystery and suspense. I will argue that searching for the key that might unlock the story meant experimenting with form and cinematic language and ‘writing’ with images as well as words; and that through a close examination of family photographs, my parents’ letters and clips from personal recordings, old memories were challenged and new memories were produced.



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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margot Nash
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia

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