Talking about the growing gun violence in America, ‘Speaking is Difficult’ is a film by A. J. Schnack that tells a story about a cumulative history that is both unbearable and inevitable.
‘Speaking is Difficult’ is a great example of how journalistic documentaries can use different approaches to narrate their story. The film uses audio from police recordings where we can hear people reporting incidents of mass shootings. Throughout the film, we see locations of these incidents in the present time. Places that are common to all, places where we work, live, study, play, worship. Hearing people caught in a crossfire, hiding away makes you feel their fear.
The film uses the audio to tell everything that is physically present, recorded and filed. Visuals, on the other hand, are reflective of pain that follows, persists and aggravates.
The video doesn’t use harsh, graphic imagery to help us understand the tragedy. It talks about how paralysing these incidents can be, where speaking up and protecting yourself or anybody around you becomes difficult. The film recreates these incidents by showing these locations in their present state. They are all still and the only movement in the frame is that of people moving around, entering and exiting.
The visuals add to what is being said, it helps us think about the enormity of the issue and how it’s grown over the years. The visual narrative of the film builds and recedes. In some of the shots, you can see memorials at the place of incident, pointing to how fresh these incidents are. At times, we see clouds moving across the sky, a sign in front of a café that says “We’re open”, shots that, inspite of no visible signs of violence, are eerie.
Apparently, A. J. Schnack had deployed 20 cinematographers to go to different locations. His film points out how the process of filmmaking has increasingly become participatory. With more people available at hand, it’s become easier to not just experiment with the form but also the process of making a film. There is a similar pattern in all of Schnack’s work, where he works with different crews, each focusing on a different element, all coming together to form a larger narrative.
With Laura Poitras and Charlotte Cook, Schnack started ‘Field of Vision’, a visual journalism film unit.
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