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Appears in Collections:Communications, Media and Culture eTheses
Title: Attending, listening, taking time: the quietly radical ethical practice of the filmmaker Jenny Gilbertson
Author(s): Main, Shona
Supervisor(s): Neely, Sarah
Birrell, Ross
Keywords: filmmaking practice
critical listening positionality
stop colonising
Issue Date: 6-Jan-2023
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Jenny Gilbertson, an independent self-funded filmmaker, lived and filmed Shetland communities in the 1930s, then, after a teaching career, Inuit communities in Arctic Canada from 1970–1978. Keen to develop a practice that resists the extractive nature of documentary production and a determination to foreground Gilbertson as an ethical filmmaker, in this thesis, I ask what can contemporary filmmakers learn from her way of living with and filming an Indigenous community? Ethical debate in documentary filmmaking is largely dominated by the protection of the filmmaker’s property (the film) through copyright, consent and freedom of expression. Yet this strengthening of ownership cannot deny the very nature of documentary, which is extractive and assimilatory. Gilbertson’s approach was quietly different: shaped by the valuing of friendship, community and reciprocity, it resulted in a portrayal of Inuit by a qallunaaq (white person) that was unlike any other at that time. Using the three experiential events of archival research (including close readings of Gilbertson’s diaries, her last film, Jenny’s Arctic diary (1978) filmed in Grise Fiord and her newly digitised Arctic Sound Recordings from 1970–1978); fieldwork (filming and interviews carried out in Grise Fiord in 2018); and the editing process, I used my buddhist practice and theory as liberatory practice to deepen and develop the ethics – thinking and caring – in my filmmaking practice. Recognising the 40 years of political and cultural change between Gilbertson and myself, I consider the daily business of documenting people and place and how in thinking and caring about those you film, you confront and negotiate desire, responsibility and possibility, all within the context of a relationship, a project, an industry, a technology, a budget, and, significantly, the history of the other. My written thesis draws on these confrontations and negotiations to examine Iris Murdoch and Simone Weil’s theories of attention and Pauline Oliveros, Dylan Robinson and Salomé Voegelin’s approaches to listening and sounding, I consider both Gilbertson’s and my own attempts to resist ‘taking’ from and ‘using’ the people we filmed and recorded and where this sits alongside our shared overriding desire to make community and kin. The outcome of this liberatory theory on my practice research is a 75-minute film in which I go ‘with’ Gilbertson to Grise Fiord. In this I learn about her time there, the people and things she looked at, listened to and spent time with. Using this time between Gilbertson and myself, I present a visual and sonic reflection of Gilbertson’s practice through my own and reveal the ways in which attending, listening and putting the filmed before the film can generate ethical possibilities that interrupt the norms of documentary filmmaking.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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