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Accepted Paper:

Visualising my grandparents: Filmmaking as a way to make visible the experience of elderly people in an era of age blindness  

Author:

Jón Bjarki Magnússon (Freie Universität)

Paper short abstract:

How can documentary filmmaking become research practice when the lens is focused on the everyday life of those living through old age? In this presentation, I discuss the process of filming and editing Half Elf (2020), a feature length documentary film, I made about my aging grandparents.

Paper long abstract:

An obsession with youth in mainstream western culture has left those living through old age feeling

somewhat neglected. The last stages of the life course are underrepresented in Icelandic society at large. As people get older images of them fade from sight on our screens and their voices start to disappear from the airwaves. In this presentation, I look at how documentary filmmaking becomes research practice when the lens is focused on the everyday life of an elderly couple. Further, I will explore how an ethical approach to fieldwork and editing techniques are affected when working with those familiar to us. My case study is Half Elf (2020), my feature length documentary film made during the Masters in Visual Anthropology program at Freie Universitat in Berlin. The film is about my grandparents, Hulda and Trausti, who have shared a roof on Icelandic shores for over seventy years. As his one hundredth birthday nears Trausti begins searching for a coffin and tells his wife that he wants to change his name to "Elf". Hulda warns him that if he does this his family will abandon him and she retreats into a world of poetry with the help of an electric magnifying glass. The process of filming this story, editing a narrative and raising funds to bring the film to a wide audience were all fraught with familial difficulties. I needed to navigate these obstacles and use the problems they presented to support the filmmaking and deepen the research.

Panel P060
Illuminating Futures of the Life Course through Visual and Digital Media [Age and Generations Network]