Accepted Paper:

The elf within: Negotiating dementia whilst filming with my family in Reykjavik, Iceland.  
Jón Bjarki Magnússon (Freie Universität)

Paper short abstract:

I look at how the task of positioning myself whilst doing research with my aging grandparents, productively shaped the form and findings of my research, and explore how ethical considerations necessary for filming someone with dementia, helped me make sense of seemingly incommensurable spheres.

Paper long abstract:

Navigating between the different roles of a researcher or family member can be complicated when filming those closest to us. In this presentation, I look at how the task of positioning myself whilst doing research with my aging grandparents shaped the form and findings of my research. Further, I explore how ethical considerations necessary for filming someone with dementia, helped me make sense of the complicated spheres that separates sanity and insanity, truth and lie, reality and fiction. My case study is my feature-length documentary film Half Elf (2020), which is about my grandparents, Hulda and Trausti, both recently deceased. When I was making this film, they had been sharing their lives on Icelandic shores for over seventy years. As Trausti’s one-hundredth birthday nears, he begins to search for a coffin and is eager to change his name to Elf while Hulda tells him to move to a hotel, because she does not know of any Elf. He bursts out singing while she wants him to stop screaming. The process of filming this story and editing a narrative demanded constant negotiation between what I know as rational and emotional, closeness and distance, familiar and mysterious. The way I have found peace was by merging the more pragmatic enterprise of producing a film with a poetic approach to using the camera. Filmmaking here allowed for a way of bridging seemingly incommensurable spheres revealing what it means to be human at the end of a fulfilled life.

Panel P26a
Empirical art: Filmmaking for fieldwork in practice
  Session 1