The Silences: Process, Structure and the Development of a Personal Essay Documentary

Sydney University
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sydney Studies in English, 2016, 42 pp. 1 - 25
Issue Date:
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The Silences (Nash, 2015) is a feature-length personal essay documentary about the tangled bonds, secret histories and unspoken traumas of family life that stretches from New Zealand to the Australian suburbs. It is an exploration of early childhood and the ‘silences’ of the past that resonate in the present. It is a film about family secrets and the ties of love, loss and kinship between a mother and daughter. The literary tradition of the family memoir is well established and, according to Jonathan Letham, ‘One can easily argue that works of literature, which have focused the memory of the individual in subjective ways, are sufficient in number and quality to compose a genre in its own.’1 In the cinema the essay documentary, whose origins lie in the literary essay, is both well established and a genre in its own, but essay films are not necessarily subjective individual works of memory. Michael Revov argues the subjective was in fact shunned in documentary cinema until the 1970s when a ‘new subjectivity’ emerged out of the social movements of the time, giving rise to ‘work by women and men of diverse cultural backgrounds in which the representation of the historical world is inextricably bound up with self-inscription
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