by Jason Whyte
The Skin I'm In - At Victoria Film Fest
"In 2005, young American filmmaker Broderick Fox was found unconscious on the Berlin subway tracks with his head split open and a lethal blood alcohol level of 0.47. Rescued by strangers, he embarked on an international journey of self- discovery marked by a collaboration with Victoria’s own First-Nations artist Rande Cook and African-American tattoo artist Zulu to produce his full back tattoo. With penetrating but disarming candor, Fox invites all of us, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, or background to actively explore the world and continue to challenge ourselves rather than simply accept the status quo." Director Broderick Fox on "The Skin I'm In" which screens at the Victoria Film Festival.
Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival?
After screening in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, the U.S., and an ongoing European tour, this Candaian Premiere of The SKin I'm In as part of VFF is especially meaningful, as Victoria, BC is the hometown of featured artist Rande Cook, whose art and collaboration served as a powerful catalyst for the film's journey. Rande and I will both be in attendance at the screening on February 2nd. And VFF and Alcheringa Gallery have partnered to present an exhibition of recent work by Rande for the duration of the festival, which is fantastic.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.
I suppose I've always been somebody who is fascinated with making sense of the world through story and image making. Those impulses led me to explore a range of mediums; everything from painting to studying biology. Film and video have proven to be the most effective means for me to communicate my ideas.
How did this whole project come together?
Having gone to a dark place with alcohol, I went on a search for community, ritual, and meaning to pull myself back from the edge and chart a new way of living. Rande's art and First Nations myths and imagery were/are a powerful part of that journey. Rande designed an artwork with me, combining three Kwagiulth myths of personal significance, that has become my full back tattoo. People ask me how I thought to film it all, or when I knew this would be a film. I'm a filmmaker, so when everything fell apart in my life, my instinct was to pick up the camera. That’s something I knew how to do. It gave me a sense of purpose and a structure. I always told myself, just shoot. In my independent fashion, with no producers or studios waiting for me to deliver a product, I knew I could always keep the material to myself or toss it if nothing developed from it. I gave myself the time to really craft something and refine it until I felt there was something there worth sharing with others.
Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.
I shot much of the project myself. It also pulls from a lifelong archive of video, film, and photographic imagery I shot growing up. As such it contains a dizzying array of formats including Super 8 film, VHS, Hi-8, Mini DV, SD Video, and HDV. Two wonderful friends from film school shot key materials; Sarah Levy, shot my first trip up to Victoria to meet Rande and also filmed the sit-down interviews with my multiple “selves.” Andrew Groves shot nearly all the tattoo sessions for me, 29 hours of tattooing all told. It was a real gift to have the camera operators in these intimate situations be close friends whom I trust implicitly. In a few additional instances other friends, a former student, and my partner picked up the camera when needed. People have called the project a very big "little film," and I hope it inspires others to pick up the tools and technologies at their disposal to tell great stories.
Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was your favorite moment?
I think showing it to my parents was the hardest part of the entire process. I've made autobiographical work before but have never directly implicated other family members. This film covers a lot of difficult terrain in my life including coming out to my parents as a young adult and then having to go through a second coming out of sorts with them in my early thirties, as an alcoholic. I think their example in the film will be an inspiring one to other parents, but the experience of sitting them down to watch the project was hard nonetheless. It's painful for any parent to have to experience their child's suffering. They were really gorgeous about it though, and the chance to have such an open and loving relationship with my parents as an adult is a real gift that the journey of this film has made possible.
My favorite moment in the film is when I travel all the way up from Los Angeles to Victoria to meet Rande Cook and ask him to collaborate with me on a tattoo design. He was a complete stranger whose art spoke to me strongly enough of me to put rationality or other internal censor at bay trust my instincts. I took a big risk going up to meet him and springing this proposition to him on camera. And he was of course gorgeous about it. That was a real confirmation to me, as someone who often resides in the intellect, to honor intuition and the heart. To have that moment, which sparked what will be a lifelong connection between Rande and me, captured for posterity is very special.
Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?
Marlon Riggs, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, Vanalyne Green, Tom Joslin…there were several early queer and feminist video makers who broke new ground in telling personal stories through a combination of autobiographical disclosure and inventive performative play. So works like Riggs's Tongues Untied, or Green's Saddle Sores: A Blue Western, or Hershman-Leeson's Confessions of a Chamleon are definitely inspirational.
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
I've always felt that the greatest role of a critic is to bring attention to new or inventive work that might otherwise get lost in the noise of mass culture, and so in our digital moment with the platforms for criticism expanding and diversifying I think that role is more vital than ever.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
The Vista Theater in Hollywood as that was the place where Silverlake Life: The View From Here, a groundbreaking autobiographical film by Tom Joslin, completed by Mark Massi and Peter Friedman after Tom's death, had its premiere 20 years ago. It would be very special to bring another autobiographical work that asks related questions about identity politics back to that same screen.
If you could offer some advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?
As a maker and as a teacher, I always encourage people to tell stories that matter to them using the tools at their disposal. If the story comes from the heart, offers fresh insights, or gives voice to something new, the work will find an audience.
What would you do or say to someone who is talking, texting or being disruptive during a movie?
There are so many new opportunities to access media online or on-the-go, but these are largely solitary experiences. There's something very special about coming together in community to watch a work on the big screen and that experience is becoming rarer. So when we do manage to get into a shared space together, we should be looking for ways to increase the collectivity of that experience, not checking out from it.
And finally, what is the single greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?
The Skin I'm In was programmed with a short called Simply Rob (2011) by Tom Shrapnel at the Byron Bay International Film Festival that made for a powerful pairing.
Official Website: skiniminmovie.com
This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Victoria Film Festival. For showtimes and further information visit www.victoriafilmfestival.com.
Be sure to follow instant happenings of the festival and updates on my Twitter @jasonwhyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3500
originally posted: 02/03/13 06:40:56
last updated: 02/03/13 06:42:53