A MOMENT OF LIGHT
Sat. May 28th 7:30pm
at The Trunk Space
WHO: A Moment of Light by Perry Allen
WHAT: Examining a year in the life of a family with 2 children, one dying from Cancer.
WHERE: The Trunk Space, 1506 NW Grand Ave. 602-256-6006.
WHEN: Sat. May 28th. $6 per person.
WHY: In an exploration of life, thru tragedy.
Cally's older brother is dying and her ninth birthday is in April. Only three years old when Killian was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Cally does not remember a life without her brother's illness. Moment of Light balances between a projection of the film maker's own childhood sibling loss and that of the subject. For one year, we are invited into Cally's world; a place where imagination and expression challenge loss, and the bonds of family and community allow laughter in the face of tragedy.
Since I was a child it was expected that everything I produce should explore my grief, which was necessary for my development in dealing with the death of my brother's death. Unfortunately, however, due to this expectation, I was never able to produce anything true. There was such an emphasis on how my brother’s death was intertwined in all my work that the work itself was always left half-realized.
If I have done anything with "Moment of Light," it has been an attempt at dissecting my personality, constitution, and identity to use my art honestly. For two years I have studied child psychology, sibling development, death in society, and artifacts from my own brother’s illness. I have interviewed historians, doctors, cemetery caretakers, and other bereaved siblings, trying to understand how this particular form of grief affects the individual. But now I don’t know if I am any wiser. I may have more questions than I started with.
The main component of this undertaking was to a film a documentary about childhood sibling bereavement. In the fall of 2008, a New York based charity agreed to help organize a way for me to incorporate a camera into the lives of a suffering family. We ultimately agreed that I would follow expressive arts therapist Rebekah Near on her rounds of in-home therapies. The following two years were vastly different than I expected and all my pre-conceived notions of art, family, and self ultimately had to be reevaluated.
I ended up filming mainly with one family, for a total of one year. The Mansfield family is Barbara and Phil, their son Killian and daughter Cally. Cally was three years old when her brother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Now eight years old, she has few memories of living without a terribly sick older brother. From behind my lens, I began a connection with Cally. Though I did see myself in her, I was not ready for the heartache that comes when watching a young girl’s innocence fade. In August
2009, after six months of filming, Killian died.
Moment of Light:
Though the family initially betrayed all preconceived notions on how a family grieves, no story can be too sweet. As winter rolled in, I videotaped as Cally started to realize the finality of death and its effect on her family. The bitterness of the freeze did not make any of it easier.
I feel sometimes this project has been difficult on my physical and emotional stability. In analyzing this family, I have questioned much about myself and must have learned something. But what? In January 2010, I attended my fourth funeral – that of a fellow student. I had never been to the funeral of a peer and have been troubled since with how to comprehend his suicide. It has been trials like these that have made this project a total experience.
The greatest challenge in filming Moment of Light was my role in Cally’s life. I was privileged enough to be allowed into the home of a grieving family – there is an intrinsic moral question there. When constantly guarded by a video camera it is easy to remain unattached. You do not completely feel present in the situation because you are just documenting it. I feared getting to know Cally outside of the lens. Even now, I am always unsure what to say to her because our relationship has been defined by the presence of the camera. This detachment allowed me to justify the main ethical issues of my piece: the boundaries of exploitation, the nature of consent, and a child’s right to privacy. There is no denial that my presence altered Cally’s therapies and her grieving. Though it is impossible to say whether the effect was negative or positive, I am horrified to picture an aerial view of her therapy sessions – a complete stranger across the room with a trained video camera in his hands. I have spoken with the Mansfield family directly about this, but even their undying support does not always quell these thoughts.
Have I fulfilled my initial goal to strip down pretense and create something true? Not nearly…but it’s better than all my previous attempts. To think I have completed a project that rings completely true would mean I have nothing more to learn and explore. Only in a few years will I be able to see the making of Moment of Light with some perspective.
I am incredibly grateful to the Mansfield family because, selfishly, existing in their world helped to make more sense of my own. There have also been so many people who have kept me sane and helped foster my ideas into an hour-long film. It would not have been possible for me to do it alone. With their help, I have experienced how the act of creating can shake one to the core. I can only hope that as a viewer, we can share in that experience.
A MOMENT OF LIGHT is scheduled to screen Saturday May 28th at 8pm at The Trunk Space. Tickets are $6 per person, and profits will go to a family who need financial support taking their child to NYC for doctor consultations.