Image versus Narration

Tanyaradzwa is an independent experimental documentary. It is a portrait midway between an Andy Warhol screen test and a talking heads confession. It’s about the Life, Opinions and Circumstance (in an Orteguian sense) of the woman portrayed. Three fourths of the footage is devoted to her circumstance. Only a small part of it is devoted to her life (17%) and opinions (9%). But the power of the WORD will make it look as a full-scale testimony: that is the challenge of the film, how to produce images which are valid by themselves, without the support of the word; how to escape from the dictatorship of speech, i.e. from narration. The stillness and duration of the shots are aimed at that.

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Duration as a concrete dimension

The oral narration is the receiver of illusionist time: a whole life-span is being unrolled in front of us in just one hour. But that’s a pleasure only aimed at our ears, not at our eyes. The oral narration is embedded in long fix takes, which continue unrelentingly even when the voice stops, hesitates, disappears. To counterbalance this illusionist pleasure, the long empty shots fight the oppression of narration AND at the same time are the source of narration. The camera frames the woman, in silence; what was intended as a silent portrait becomes narration when the woman starts talking. But she wouldn’t start talking without the fixity of the frame, without the duration. Illusionist time would not be possible without the concreteness of duration.

The audience watches, the audience is being watched

While the non-narrative scenes try the patience and interest of the public, the narrative stream of the film, as a sort of visual (auditive) pleasure compensation, build up from opinion to the most personal and intimate secrets, to a climax not different to a strip-tease’s. But who’s getting stripped, the protagonist or the audience? The film is not about its protagonist: it’s about the public, whose reactions to what they see on the screen may lay bare their real selves, their misconceptions about “woman”, about “Africa” and “exociticism”. We watch Tanyaradzwa on the screen without realizing that it is actually US who are being watched by her. As Peeping Tom can only start when the protagonist opens his eyes, Tanyaradzwa can only end when Tanyaradzwa closes hers: We watch Tanyaradzwa watching us; she closes her eyes, the film ends.

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