Yesterday I received the chalk drawing of Mary Ann Shadd. It’s kind of remarkable, to see this sort of image for the first time. This person who I’ve been studying and whose letters I’ve been reading suddenly has a face. Now – it’s true that it’s an artist’s rendition of the face, but it’s based on an earlier photograph as well as pictures of her father and sister. So it’s kind of a facial reconstruction. And it DOES feel like a person emerging out of the haze of history.
But it makes me think about the importance of visual imagery. On the one hand it provides new information – or a new interpretation. But at the same time, it closes off an avenue of the imagination. And it also limits the diversity of options that we, as historians, might consider about a person’s appearance. It could inadvertently close off lines of enquiry.
In the case of Mary Ann Shadd, I think having the picture has more advantages than disadvantages, since it’s based on existing knowledge of what she looked like. But in my previous film – about Marie Joseph Angélique – there were no images of her in existence. All we know is that she was Black, female and around 30 years old in the year of the film. We don’t even know where she was from, or what her ancestry was. So by manufacturing an image of her, I automatically slant assumptions about her heritage, by giving her a certain complexion and a certain look.
But filmmaking, unlike book authoring, seems to require that the filmmaker create a visual interpretation. And this interpretation extends beyond faces to every other aspect of the film.
Anyway…this week I finished the final draft of the Shooting Script for review by Drs. Miller and Walsh. I also inched forward a little on the voice actors. I now have all my voice actors identified, and have a date (if not a time) scheduled to meet my narrator to record his part. I’ve also booked my first day in the editing suite, so will start loading everything up on that day – Monday March 9.
I also did one final research task to confirm the view of at least some of academia about the burial of Black history in Canada. I got hold of Dr. Afua Cooper’s book The Hanging of Angelique, wherein on page 7, she says “Canadian history, insofar as its Black history is concerned, is a drama punctuated with disappearing acts. The erasure of Black people and their history in the examples of the Priceville Cemetery and Africville is consistent with the general behaviour of the official chroniclers of the country’s past. Black history is treated as a marginal subject. In truth, it has been bulldozed and ploughed over, slavery in particular.” So with this and my own research, I feel justified in echoing this sentiment in the film, especially the burial of Black history before the 1970s.
This coming week I will be confirming the schedule of voice recordings, and organizing copies of my consent forms for these actors to sign. I also plan to get started working on my Reflexive Essay. I don’t know how much progress I’ll make, but just getting it started will help me to start running through it in my mind.