Tag Archives: Visual Imagery

My Mary Ann Shadd Emerges – Thu February 26, 2015

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.


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Right Back Into It – Thu January 8, 2015

Happy New Years all!  I’ve been right back into work on the film since Tuesday as I am starting to feel the pressure of knowing that this needs to be an actual film by April 23.  The good news is that things are coming together.

Jenna Richards, the pianist, has done several versions of “Steal Away (to Jesus)” for me to listen to.  So far I haven’t been able to unzip the files, but if I can’t, I’ll get her to put them on some sort of portable media and get them from her when I see her next week.

I’ve spent much time over the past few days trying to establish a date to go to Toronto to do the next set of interviews.  I am delighted to have Adrienne Shadd lined up.  She is the great (x3) niece of Mary Ann Shadd, and also co-author of The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! along with Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost and Dr. Afua Cooper.  Adrienne Shadd has also published two other books on Black history.

As well, Dr. Smardz Frost is going to be in Toronto from Nova Scotia on Feb 6, and is keen to do an interview, so I am trying to line up Adrienne and the senior archivist at Archives of Ontario, Adam Birrell, to interview on that day.  It’s all a bit tricky, since everybody is coming from out of town except Adam.

I’ve also been working on some research to confirm the effective burial of Black history in Canada up until the 1970s and 80s.  I was pleased to get some information from Ontario Heritage Trust about their historic plaques program.  They were able to send me the years that each of the 23 Black Heritage plaques were unveiled, confirming the notion that Black Heritage grew in importance to Ontario during and after the 1960s and more again in the 1990s and 2000s.  This result is supported by a search of scholarly publications about Black history in Canada.  (It’s also supported by things that scholars of Black history say, but I wanted to check for myself.)

Finally, I’ve been making pretty good progress on the Treatment, and am still aiming to have it submitted to Drs. Miller and Walsh on January 22.  It’s taking me longer that the Treatment for my first film since I’m trying to attach more scholarly rigour to it, including adding citations… something that I didn’t have to do for my previous film.

So this coming week I hope to confirm the date of my trip to Toronto – aiming at this moment for Feb. 6 and possibly Feb 7.  As well, I hope to hear the music that Jenna has recorded and see if that needs any additional work.  And finally, I want to keep pushing on the Treatment.  I am also conscious of the fact that I need to find more visual imagery for this film.  But it’s easy to get sidetracked from the Treatment and go hunting for images, so I’m trying not to do that.

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