From Confession to Dialogue: The Ethical Transformation in The Priestess Walks Alone and Small Talk
Sophie Shu-Yi Lin(Department of Motion Pictures and Video & Graduate School of Media Arts, Kun Shan University)
This paper explores ethical issues raised by two documentary films: The Priestess Walks Alone (2016) and Small Talk (2016), both made by director Hui-chen Huang. In a comparison of the two films, I analyze how each deploys a first-person confessional mode, narrative structure, mother-daughter dialogue, and reflective film language to generate different perspectives on and different interpretations of the central mother-daughter relationship. By situating the two films within the historical context of Taiwanese gay-themed documentary films, this paper scrutinizes the changing effect of ‘first-person autobiography’ films. It also compares the ethical issues portrayed in Huang’s two films with those raised in previous Taiwanese gay-themed documentary films. This paper uses a form of ethical critique inspired by Levinas to interrogate the significance of the Self-Other relationship represented by the films.
The paper finds that while both of these films represent Huang’s perspectives through new ways of organizing reality, they each interpret mother-daughter relationship differently. This paper argues that Huang’s films propose a new direction for gay-themed films: documentary is no longer a ‘site of resistance’ but a ‘site of encounter,’ where documentary filmmaking is used to construct and negotiate relationships.
Although Huang’s films are not always successful, they aim to rewrite the mother-daughter relationship in the process of filmmaking. Switching from the short film to the long version, the point of view of each film changes from an outward-projecting ego-centricism to an other-oriented relational perspective, thus creating different relationships between self and other. From confession to dialogue, from visibility to relationality, the change in viewpoints suggests an ethical transformation in Taiwan queer documentary filmmaking history, an understanding of self which embraces a face-to-face, ever-interactive, ever-constructing intersubjectivity.
documentary ethics, first-person documentary, queer documentary, relationship, confession, queer kinship