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Queering Your Identity, a film.

holsn39's picture

Heather Olson
Final Project Proposal
Queering Your Identity, a Film
    For my concluding project in this Gender and Sexuality class I want to explore the concept of queer identity.  What does is mean to be queer? And how does our identity alter the way we experience the world.  Using the idea that gender and/or other identities like disabled is a "construction" I am going to present an experience of the world that is constructed to represent transitive identity.  What would it be like to live embodied as a transitive character? Is there anything that makes us not queer besides a desire to be normal?  
First I want to explain what my definition queer identity is:
"reclaim queerness as a radical expression of individuality. If you are not queer identified we encourage you to claim queerness for yourself, thus approaching life from a nonconformist, outsider perspective which contains a huge amount of power in the homogeneity of American mass society. You don't have to be gay or gender variant to be queer, all that is required is a rejection of that which is offered up as "normal" in America." (IndyMedia)
    I have claimed queerness as an identity that I happy own but I wonder what the implications of this identity are.  I think that by 'queering' our perspective of ourselves we can learn a lot about the constructed nature of our identities.  How can we have a "queer lens", and how would it be different from our existing perspective? I want to really focus on these questions and try to create an experience of queerness that might bring some insight into these critical questions, and maybe allow the viewer and myself to understand the  value of queer identity a little more.  My plan is to create this experience through film and exploring visual and audio perspectives.   
    My movie is all filmed through the lens of one character, which will be played by me but the viewer can imagine the character as themselves as well.  The character isn't really me, well it could be me, but it is a multi-dimensional character.  I will film it from my eyes so that you feel like the frame of the video is the eyes of the character (or your own eyes).  You won't ever actually see me, except maybe my feet and hands, so that it's truly an anonymous character.  This way there isn't a clear image of who's head your in and the viewer can create their own image, and/or leave the body image non-existent. You also won't hear the character's voice, there will be sub-titles when ever they talk, but you can hear the other sounds they make that aren't speech. When other people talk we will be able to hear their voices normally.  This is so the character isn't gendered (or stuck in other identities) by their voice or appearance which gives me the ability to create a more fluid character.  My ultimate goal is to create a very realistic character portrayal but if you try to identify the character in specific ways you will be confused.  This character isn't gendered, but they also aren't androgynous, or physically 'abled/disabled' in any defined way.  
    So what happens in the film?  The character will go about random activities in different places interacting in different ways.  I'm going to try to make it fairly simplistic as far as plot,  but there will be many subtle details that make the viewing a thoughtful experience.  Some of the scenes will have dialogue, that is sometimes scripted and other times candid.  I plan on carefully writing the script (especially for my character) so that there is gender variance in the language and also an implied variety of other identities that sometimes seem to blend together and other times contradict.  This film will most likely be filmed sometimes in black and white and sometimes in color.  I plan on carrying a camera with me in different settings and presenting myself in different ways so that there is a variety in the way I am perceived and treated by the other people I interact with.  I might include some relationship scene where I am speaking with someone but it is unclear what kind of relationship is implied, maybe we're lovers, maybe friends, maybe siblings, etc.
    What is the purpose of this film? What effect should it have on the viewer? I want to confuse the viewer without making them uncomfortable.  I want to create a reality that can make sense from a 'queer' lens but not from a hetero-normative lens.  And by making the whole movie from the eyes of one character the viewer might be confused about whether or not they're suppose to assume they're suppose to let themselves be in the eyes of the film, or to try to imagine that they are looking through someone else's eyes.  By watching this movie someone can have an experience of living with a queer identity, one that is nonconformist and noticeably transitive.  What I mean by transitive is non-definitive, fluid, but real. I hope to kind of 'queer' the viewer at least while they're watching the movie.  This is an art piece that intends to not answer but inspire exploration of the meaning and implications of our identities and allows us to see how carefully constructed our identities are, also to think about how personal or impersonal they can feel.  Another purpose is for myself to experience seeing my own identities as being fluid. I'm very intrigued by the idea of looking at a real capture of a segment of my life experience and being able to see myself as embodying  many dimensions of personality and physical body.  I hope I'm able to do this successfully!

QueerFest. "We Recruit! - QueerFest." 05 Aug. 2009. Web. 02 Dec. 2009.
Inspired by:
Film, "Coffee and Cigarettes" (2003) Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Film, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (2007) Directed by Julian Schnabel
Book, "What It Is" by Lynda Barry.


holsn39's picture

uncomfortable... correction.

I don't mean to say that this film isn't meant to make the viewer uncomfortable... but I don't want it to make no sence at all to whoever sees it. I think it's important to have a contrast of effects, both comfort and discomfort.

Thanks for the feedback!

Alice's picture

Make us uncomfortable

 I really like your idea. I, too, contemplated doing a film but realized I know nothing about film, so that probably wouldn't work out so well. This sounds like an ambitious project and I am excited to see how it turns out. 

One thought. Why don't you want to make the viewer uncomfortable? I feel like the best way to catch someone's attention and to really make an impression is to make them uncomfortable. It is a whole other aspect of a thought experience when we ask what about the film makes us uncomfortable? Is it because we are so used to living in a gender-specific world that ambiguity is frustrating? I say, MAKE US UNCOMFORTABLE. 

Also, I like that you will be putting the viewer in the "driver's seat", essentially, by filming it in...1st person? I honestly have no clue how to describe film techniques. And, you said that you are going to include carefully thought out dialogue that retains the sense of ambiguity. I wonder if you will be able to capture this from first hand experience? I mean, will you be using some sort of theory or someone else's experiences to form the base of your film? Or make assumptions about how people many react/you react as a person who is queering, well, everything. I hope that makes sense...

Overall though, I really like your idea and am excited to be make uncomfortable :)