Justine

 

To screen the full film, please contact lotusfilmsuk@gmail.com. Proceeds of the film screening will go to Justine.

Author: Pratap Rughani
Format: Documentary
Duration: 27”
Published: February 2016

Runner-up, British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies Practice Research Award 2016.


Research Statement

Criteria
Reviewers / audiences / academics have picked up on the central research questions especially (i) below:

(i) Revisiting foundational documentary ideas of consent (with its trajectory back to the Nuremberg trials) Justine fractures this into notions of ‘assent’ and ‘dissent’ and embodying this through a ‘haptic visuality’ – for example when Justine chooses a direct address and even ‘performance’ for the camera and camera operator. This approach extends the pioneering work of Kate Adams & Project ArtWorks who I am grateful to acknowledge.

The key research question is: How to make work that relies on the ‘contract’ of consent yet unfolds with someone not able to give their consent in the sense that we would normally understand it.

This opened out onto questions that I explored through a year and a half of training with people with advanced neurological disorders and resulted in the book chapter ’The Art of Not Knowing’[1] as preparation for filming.

(ii) How is my experience of another enabled (a paradox in journalistic terms) by refusing the medical model / problem model to speak on behalf of Justine as an a priori frame for encountering her.

(iii) The use of separated documentary modes in the same film. The structure attempts to draw the value of both ‘observation’ and ‘exposition’ but by rigorously separating these and pacing them, a radical shift in perception is attempted (discussed by leading Documentary Studies scholar Prof. Michael Renov) here: http://www.lotusfilms.co.uk/?p=176

Viewing Conditions
This film was initially made for projection / installation rather than viewing on a laptop. The contrast between the focus on small details in the rhythm of Justine’s day plus the community discussions that have ensued in debate of the film is heightened by the scale of big screen projection. The collective experience of community response when being invited into the world of another is drawn out most effectively in public and community contexts. However, as the film finishes 18 months of festival and human rights / conference distribution the team have recorded a range of events based around audience Q&As etc. which can now be used to help the film find a window into and a virtual resonance of this experience if Justine finds a home with Screenworks.

Supporting Research Statement
Justine is a film portrait of a young woman with severe neurological disorders. Her interactions (rather than her ‘condition’) are the focus of the film, which offers new challenges for documentary practice. Developed over two years, the film aspires to give insights into Justine’s experience through the rhythms of her connections with the world. The research contribution lies in developing forms of filming and post-production based on Rughani’s method of navigating the ‘art of not knowing’ with empathic looking and listening in order to offer a portrait of Justine – a person living in a world where people often speak about her and she cannot reply. The film was commissioned by Project Artworks, pioneers of disability arts practice yet the film does not ‘lead’ with Justine’s disabilities.

Sustained observational directing aims to extend the ethics of consent in documentary. Typically those who are unable to give consent are rarely seen except in terms of their condition. Observational filming in a non-verbal arena refines ‘consent’ into notions of ‘assent’ and ‘dissent’ putting the focus on collaborators to form bridges of understanding into non-verbal communication typically by sustaining relationship and staying present to the subject’s attention even when it is hard to read.

Justine is an observationally-led documentary portrait of a young woman with advanced neurological disorder. Among the challenges in making this work are the ethical questions of seeking to make a film with a central subject who is not able to give her own consent (in a form that English law recognises). Consent traditionally passes to parents/ guardians but

what might Justine’s consent look like and in the research process {which informs an accompanying book chapter} the notion of ‘informed consent’ is fractured into ideas of ‘assent’ and ‘dissent’. The chapter ‘The Art of Not Knowing’ explores the history of the commissioning artists’ group ‘Project Artworks’ and examines connections between documentary ethics and aesthetics when working with people who are non-verbal & therefore not able to give consent in the usual way.

Through workshop and training experiences with people with advanced neurological disorders, Rughani worked with Project Artworks’ concept of ‘Calm Bafflement’ – a response by the film-maker/artist of openness to what is unfolding, especially when the person with complex needs may respond in ways that appear abrupt or are causally hard to read i.e. difficult to see in terms of a visible series of events.

Such reflections are part of a broader enquiry, unfolding over fifteen years thus far, into the theory and practice of documentary ethics (see research trajectory below).

Justine takes Rughani’s long-standing documentary practice and research into the territory of severe disability. Rughani’s contribution to knowledge is in seeking a way to understand consent in a way that can include the agency of people like Justine, rather than surrendering these choices to others. Justine’s pace and responses lead the camerawork and direction. Project Art Works’ aspiration is to develop a methodology that can acknowledge the realm of ‘not knowing’. It is a place where doubt and tentative, tender exploration unite people in an extended humanism – speaking a language of gesture, inference, intuition and feeling. Ultimately, it is beyond words and the sometime comfort that comes from an ability to draw down and define a specified meaning.

The ethics of creating a film with someone who cannot express consent in the usual way is at the heart of the film Justine. The film aspires to communicate something of Justine’s experience and the rhythms of her interactions with the world hopefully enabling her to emerge through acts of empathic looking whilst revealing a soundscape where people speak about her.

The emotional tone or climate of the conditions of contact between the filming team and Justine gave clues to what worked in these conditions. This departs from the framework of observation understood in the ‘Direct Cinema’ movement, with its implied rhetoric of invisibility of the filming process. At times Justine courted the camera’s attention and related directly to it during filming. When Justine looks into the camera it felt important that audiences experience these moments, to open onto newer documentary questions that circumscribe screen presence with notions of performativity rather than simple ‘authenticity’. This meant reconfiguring a director’s control and seeking a more shared engagement including the key decisions of what, when and whereto shoot and how aspects of the edit and distribution decisions should take shape.

Through the research and filming process (during which the emphasis was in stepping back from making judgments about Justine’s world through trying to stay open to what might be happening} Rughani came to think less about ‘collaboration’ and more about Justine’s acceptance of his presence and her open-ness to being seen, especially when the camera was present. The process is configured to be led by Justine, listening closely to her language of movement and gesture rather than imposing views about what might happen to create ‘story points’ for a narrative. Here the directing and camera experience is about being alive to difference, with the freedom of allowing the film to find a form through Justine’s relationship with the filming process. Each encounter was a fresh experience that turned on the nature of the gaze especially when Justine gave a clear-enough sense that she wanted to be filmed or accompanied. Increasingly, Justine was drawn to the camera and filming process, by turns coming towards the camera and taking notions of ‘performativity’ into a different neurological space.

Research Questions
For me the research questions overlap very substantially with the summary of research statement and viewing criteria (above).

What are the ethical practice parameters of creating a film with someone who cannot express consent in the usual way? How does ‘affect’ in viewers’ experience of the film encode this?

Is ‘consent’ better recast as ‘assent’ and ‘dissent’ in documentary practice with people like Justine with advanced neurological disorders?

NB The film’s production process and evolution of thinking is underscored in the book chapter ‘The Art of Not Knowing’ (2012). Commissioned for a book on the visual arts, social inclusion and social care, the chapter examines the pioneering development of documentary practices with people who are neurologically impaired to create new kinds of visibility and knowledge informed by ethical practice.

Context
I’d long been haunted by Werner Herzog’s Land of Silence and Darkness and by Nicolas Philibert’s Le Pays des Sourds and the barely speaking old beggar woman in Satyajit Ray’s neo-realist Pather Panchali. These films left me thinking – how might it be possible to create work where editorial control passes at key moments in to a realm not controlled by subject of director but held in a space of ‘not knowing’ which either and both can by turns influence the direction of travel of the work.

The contemporary leading work in this field of practice in the context of disability emerged from the Project Art Works series ‘In Transit’. Information on the series is available from the Project Art Works website at: http://www.projectartworks.org/pr_intransit.htm

Live Projects: In Transit
The Government recognised the threats to the ‘rights, independence, choice and inclusion’ of those with complex needs in its 2001 & 2007 papers ‘Valuing People. In particular ‘Transition into Adult Life’ was identified as an area where more needs to be done “to find creative and innovative solutions” to involve young people in the decision making processes that affect their lives. The Executive Summary of ‘Valuing People’ identified person-centered planning (PCP) as essential to the delivery of real change in the lives of young people with learning disabilities. This is extremely difficult to achieve for young people who have severe intellectual disability and communication impairments. In Transit represents a dynamic and innovative approach to enabling young people who are ‘non-verbal’ to be seen and heard on their own terms and meaningfully included in defining the direction of their lives.

The film was included in Person Centred Reviews and planning meetings, personal files and the Single Assessment Process facilitated by Social Services during transition planning. It aims to communicate a great deal that paper based assessments may not be able to encapsulate. Young people will be consulted about who they show their films to and how this is done.”

So far, commissioned films in this series called ‘In Transit’ have been screened at the Tate Britain, MK 2, Modern Art Oxford & De La Warr Pavilion.

This work seeks to integrate often fragmented or disparate modes of documentary practice and aspires to do this by situating documentary ethics as a central and defining aspect of production and research methodology. The historical separation occurs since documentary film practice is often splintered into different subcultures e.g. broadcast documentary contexts are very different to gallery and many festival contexts. The insights of each are rarely integrated across the field of documentary praxis. This work (I hope) strengthens an integrative process which refuses the separation of documentary practice into modes separated by questions of industrial context and thus takes seriously the many contexts of British documentary practice and has fostered conversation through common ethical imperatives.

Justine and the publications around the film mark a key moment in my 25 years of documentary practice; integrating reflexive and critical insights from making with reflexive academic thinking. For the last ten years my exploration of reflexive practice has interleaved film and photography with critical writing. Justine emerged during the period of thinking and writing that produced’ The Dance of Documentary Ethics’ (in The Documentary Film Book, bfi. London 2013, ed. B.Winston.)

This chapter built on the testing questions I asked of myself (and other practitioners) in ‘Are You a Vulture? Reflecting on the ethics and aesthetics of coverage of atrocity and its aftermath’, in Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution, eds. Richard Keeble, John Tulloch and Florian Zollmann, foreword by John Pilger (Oxford: Peter Lang).

In my PhD research “Towards Intercultural Documentary” (Central St Martins, 2013) I described how Lévinas mapped out a radical view of human connectedness, insisting on relational ethics. Lévinas rejects much in Western philosophy and asks us to pay close and deep attention to the person before us – to look into the face of the other. Lévinas insists on considering the other first; that is to say that our first duty is an ethical one of realising our relatedness. For Lévinas this is ethics as first philosophy, the primary responsibility, which implies questions for makers and audiences alike. I take this emphasis as a key influence on what I’ve come to talk of as “intercultural documentary” and which Justine is an important staging post in my practice.

The inquiry that flowered in Justine began by asking what practitioners (including myself) think we’re doing making our living/work/career out of the suffering of others. This is NOT an argument for quietism – my own filming and directing during the Sierra Leone civil war or the aftermath of a series of murders in India in 2008 – were necessary enquires in order to question and investigate as part of documentary’s link to the concept of the Fourth Estate – aiming to help hold powerful people to account (however imperfectly).

My experience of these and other situations discussed in chapters listed above opened onto abiding ethical questions that I found to be too often ignored or handled imperfectly (this is corroborated by research evidence from Aufterdheide et al).

At one extreme some industry contexts reduce these questions of practice ethics and underpinning approach of relational practice to ‘qualms’ or were seen as inconvenient or worse – as naïve or something to ‘grow out of’. Some artists by contrast saw the emphasis on ethics as a threat to free expression.

Between these twin dangers is an ethically informed artists’ documentary practice that goes beyond the minimum legal obligations that frame consent debates and instead use

My personal research trajectory has become more and more deeply concerned with the ethics of how and why documentary practitioners do what we do and to use reflexive modes to surface and then enable thinking / writing and presence of the enquiry to be foregrounded rather than effaced. Continuing this trajectory, the emphasis on reflexivity (drawing on field notes and self-questioning of my own practice published in references listed) opens out onto notions of performativity which I have most recently gone on to relate to the relationship been documentary and drama in my newly published chapter ‘Kubrick’s Lens: Dispatches from the Edge’ in Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives (2015) based on bringing some of Kubrick’s reflexive questions of process into the public domain for the first time.

My intellectual/practice ambition in continuing this trajectory is to join the debate around performativity with notions of how ethics-led enquiry can contribute to a re-grounding of performance in the relational networks that are so central to documentary and to lead this through the effects (and affects) of the practice itself.

Bibliography

List of Publications: Films
Native American Dance (working title). Gallery film for Royal Academy of Art (London) In pre-production (2015-2017), director / camera.
Justine. Gallery film for ProjectArt Works / Paul Hamlyn (2013), director / camera.
Loving Berlin. Music film for Japanese broadcast, portrait of a friendship (50 minutes, EcoMusic TV, 2011), artist.
Remembering Khairlanji (photographic essay & performative lecture at ICA, London, 2010), photographer.
The Botanist, art-film installation (21 mins, 2009) Modern Art Oxford (MAO) & Fowler Museum, California, camera.
Urunanna, Rwanda (5 mins, 2008) BBC World, director.
Found in Translation (50 mins, 2007) Lotus Films (Dept of Education), director.
Glass Houses (47 mins, 2004) British Council (Lotus Films), director.
An Indian Affair (1 hr, 2001) Channel 4, director.
New Model Army (1 hr, 2000) Channel 4 (Umbrella Pictures), director.
Beautiful Death & Such a Wonderful Thing, 2 films for the series Planet Ustinov (2 x 1 hr, 1998), Channel 4 (Granada), associate producer.
Satellite Wars (2 x 40 mins, 1995) Channel 4 (Brook Lapping), director / associate producer
Africa’s Big Game (1 hr, 1994) BBC2 (Scorer Association), director
The Dog’s Tale, (40 min, 1992) BBC 2 (Union Pictures), director
Water Wars (50 min, 1992) BBC 2, assistant producer
Taking Liberties (2 x 30 min) 1991, BBC 2, director / assoc. prod
Antenna: Islam & the Temple of ‘Ilm’ (17 min, 1990) BBC2, director
Antenna: How Green is Your Garden? (20 min, 1989) BBC 2, director
The Play on One (1989), BBC One Drama, commissioning new writers / script editor.

Print publications: Book chapters and catalogues
2015, Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives; chapter ‘Dispatches from the Edge’
2013, The Documentary Film Book, author chapter ‘The Dance of Documentary
2013, Ethics’. British Film Institute. London 2013, ed. B.Winston.
2012, ‘Anthology’ Project Art Works 1997-2012, ed. Adams, K & Shaw, P, author book chapter ‘The Art of Not Knowing’ pp. 204-7. Project Art Works, Hastings 2012.
2010, ‘Are You a Vulture? Reflecting on the ethics and aesthetics of coverage of atrocity and its aftermath’, pp. 157-71 in Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution, eds. Richard Keeble, John Tulloch and Florian Zollmann, foreword by John Pilger (Oxford: Peter Lang).
2004, Catalogue essay for A Place Called Home, touring exhibition, supported by the British Council.

Edited volumes
1996, Art, Activism and Fundamentalism, special issue of The India Magazine, vol.16 (January 1996).
1993, AIDS and HIV, special issue of New Internationalist 250 (1993).
1993, Tourism, special issue of New Internationalist 245 (1993).

Articles in journals / exhibition catalogues
2013, John Akomfrah in conversation with Pratap Rughani for Vol 2.1, MIRAJ (Moving Image Research Art Journal) 2013
2013, Round Table, Ethnography and Documentary in the Avant-Garde for Vol 2.1, MIRAJ (Moving Image Research Art Journal) 2013
2011, “Where Three Dreams Cross” Review article for Photography & Culture Journal
2004, “A Place Called Home”, Art South Africa 3, no. 1.
2004, “British Homeland”, Essay in art catalogue A Place Called Home (British Council, South Africa).
2001, “Representing Cultures: From National Story to a ‘National Brand’… and Back Again”, British Studies Now (British Council)
http://www.counterpoint-online.org/doclibrary/member_ content/download/24/bsn15.pdf

Photography
The Karuna Trust, annual photographic essays, in India (9 x24 pages, annual publication 2004-), 60 photographs for Planet Ustinov Granada Book, Simon & Schuster, London 1998, photographer.

Journalism and reportage
2008, “The Dalai Lama’s Practical Guide to Happiness” The Times of London, 30.5.08
2007, “Escaping untouchability”, The Times of London, 20 January.
2006, “Documentary Film”, article series, The India Magazine, February-March.
2005, “Prayers on the Wind”, text and photographic essay, Ladakh. Indo-Brit Magazine.
2002, “Anish Kapoor” studio visit, article and photography, Urthona Magazine, issue 19.
2002, “Conscientious Objection”, The Times of London, 19 October.
1998, “The Pardoner’s Tale”(Truth & Reconciliation in South Africa) Dharma Life Issue 9.
1997, “Pilgrim’s Process” Dharma Life Issue 4.
1995, “India’s Documentary Films” The India Magazine, Issues Feb & March.
1996, “Satellite Television”, Himal magazine, Vol 9, No. 4, June,
1991, “The Struggle to Keep Justice in Focus” The Independent, 27.2.91

Methods
A central theme of this film practice is to disinter, refine and deepen documentary’s engagement with research ethics. With Justine the embrace of ethical enquiry creates the space in which the film evolved. The relationship of ethics and aesthetics is thus integral to the work.

Outcomes

(i) Example of open exploration of production ethics & and modelling questions of practice which tests the limits of the foundational documentary access principle of ‘consent’ – explored with contributors who are rarely visible as authors/key subjects of their own stories.

(ii) Reversing / recontextualising people who speak ‘on behalf of’ those who cannot speak so as to restore the central subject’s sensibility as the key factor of a film portrait.

Dissemination

Funding:
Justine was funded by Project Art Works; the Paul Hamlyn Foundation; London College of Communication (Univ of Arts London) and heavily subsidised by Lotus Films.The research enquiry underpinning work with people with advanced neurological disorders was supported by Modern Art Oxford, and the De Ia Warr Pavilion, Bexhill.

Where has the work been shown?
Justine was initially screened as part of the case assessment for Justine’s support funding and this was a key audience I wanted to reach as the social purpose of the work involves using documentary as a way of social services developing a more three-dimensional view of someone who would otherwise be assessed through written case notes.

It’s been selected for several of the leading international documentary film festivals, including Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival (SIDF) and in competition in the London Short Film Festival (2015) Best American Shorts Festival (where it won an award of Merit) & was chosen for screening & panel debate at the London Human Rights Film Conference; the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Art & ‘The Lives of Others’ character documentary weekend at UCL. It was selected as one of three works to open the “Politics & Poetics of Documentary” 2015 conference – this year in Santa Cruz, California – an event that happens only every 2-3 years.

Its reach continues to surprise and delight Justine’s family: it’s being debated at the Univ. of Arts London Postgraduate and public seminar on collaboration and photography (Oct 2015) and been selected for two screenings and debate at next month’s Leicester DocMedia month Disability Day (Nov 2015).

It was selected for several academic conferences including the World Documentary Conference (2014) & Visible Evidence (2014)

Further interested parties include the National Portrait Gallery (London) as part of a group show that is under discussion and not yet confirmed. There are many other expressions of interest including bfi which are not listed here as I don’t believe these things until they happen. It’s also starting to gain traction in mental health and film circles. The film’s trajectory of leading with Justine’s experience (rather than her advanced neurological disorders) is a pivotal debate here.

Deirdre Boyle, of The New School for Public Engagement in NY is writing on Justine for Cineaste magazine (due in the next issue) and there are many appreciative testimonials on the Lotus Films website. It somehow doesn’t feel quite right to list a lot of praise.

Anthology I Project Art Works 1997-2012 (2012) Frame and Reference, 24 October. http://frameandreference.com/anthology-project-art-works-1997-2012.

Maggie Hampton (2013), Book Review: Project Art Works Anthology 1997-2012. Arts Professional, 3 July.

http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/265/review/book-review-project-art-works-anthology-1997-2012.

Project Art Works launches 15 year Anthology (2012) British Council Film. http://film.britishcouncil.org/industry­ news/current-news/oct-2012/project-art-works-launch.

Impact
The demonstrable impact falls into 3 main areas:

(i) Film has been screened and debated in several conference, festival and social services contexts listed above. Audience engagement has been strong as evidenced in panel discussions and Q&A events for example: http://www.lotusfilms.co.uk/?p=872

(ii) Respected commentators such as Prof. Michael Renov and Deidre Boyle have either published reviews / chapters / recordings discussing Justine and further writing is commissioned and being completed

(iii) Strong response from communities that live with disability issues and on-going research conversations with Project ArtWorks to extend the research questions listed.

Additional Information
Thanks for your consideration – though it’s a long form, it’s helped me think more about how to communicate what I’m attempting to develop.

Notes:

[1] The Art of Not Knowing for the Project Art Works publication Anthology: Project Art Works 1997-2012. (eds Kate Adams and Phyllida Shaw, ISBN: 0-954101c-5-6).

Full Credits:

With thanks to Justine Whitwell

_____________________

Camera
Pratap Rughani

Sound
Iris Wakulenko

Dubbing mixer & On-Line Editor
Jon Klein

Production Manager
Iris Wakulenko

Editor
Esperanza Jimenez

Commissioned by ProjectArt Works

Music
“Mamma Mia”
performed by ABBA
Courtesy of
Polar Music International AB (Sweden)
Under license from
Universal Music Operations Limited

“Halfway”
Written by Jon Klein, performed by Snail
“Disco Flair” by David Hamilton

Produced & Directed by
Pratap Rughani


Peer Reviews

The peer reviews that follow were part of the BAFTSS Practice Research Awards shortlisting process as this volume is published in association with the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies.

Review 1: Shortlist
There is nothing particularly new in terms of documentary style in the use of observational camera techniques, however, the research statement – and the accompanying audio pieces – situate the film clearly in relation to Rughani’s previous work exploring documentary ethics, and emphasises the aesthetic / formal construction of the film, the use of hand-held, shallow depth of field to create the “bubble” that Justine’s brother imagines her world to be, the use of structural shapes in the frame to illustrate Justine’s relationship with her family at the birthday party, for example and the choice to lead with observational, non-verbal footage, only contextualising the other family members and their point of view in the second half of the documentary. I would have liked a bit more documentary theory to situate these practices within the wider artistic / academic context (e.g. Titticut Follies (Frederick Wiseman), Bill Nichols, Stella Bruzzi – documentary modes…)

Given the way in which the documentary claims to seek to challenge the othering of people with disability through the use of observational style and it’s screening at human rights festivals, etc there is potential for the film to have an impact outside of the academy – both within broadcast documentary ethics and human rights / social services provision – but emphasis on the impact and potential beneficiaries could be stronger in the Research Statement.

The Research Statement is clearly written, and argues effectively for this short documentary to be seen in the context of debates around consent / participation / documentary ethics and the representation of disability. However, there are issues with formatting, type size alignment, etc which make it hard to follow at points – resubmit with a bit of tidying up using the same font / formatting / type face / unbold text. The bibliography / filmography should be of works informing your practice – not your own works! This would address the point noted above, that the work needs to be further contextualised within a wider frame of reference.

Review 2: Shortlist
The screenwork itself is novel in its approach and focus in its exploration of a young person with severe neurological disorders. The screenwork doesn’t standalone as a research piece in itself – the supporting statement is imperative in the understanding of the documentary, and the makers aims to foreground issues of ethical consent (which are implicit and indecipherable in an independent viewing of the documentary – the additional contextual information which discusses the director’s approach is absolutely necessary in order to grasp a full understanding of this, and the key arguments of the piece).

The screenwork and statement are novel and original in that they address an understudied area (of the notion of informed consent in documentary filmmaking), and the screenwork encompasses a novel approach which foregrounds the point of view of the subject, capturing her interactions, as opposed to presenting her condition (through the perspective or judgement of others). The piece is therefore compelling, intriguing and emotive, and is supported by high production values in its presentation.

For these reasons, the piece is worthy of short listing. Further work is required within the statement which references and positions this work within the relevant research field (of documentary production – further references required in terms of documentary modes – but the work should also be situated also within recent work into inclusive arts practices, e.g. Fox and MacPherson, 2015).

Review 3: Shortlist
Justine is a very moving, thoughtful, enormously sensitive and thought-provoking film that displays great delicacy and respect for its subject while revealing some very intimate moments. The stated contribution to research is in ‘developing forms of filming and post-production based on [the director’s] method of navigating the ‘art of not knowing’ with empathic looking and listening in order to offer a portrait of Justine – a person living in a world where people often speak about her and she cannot reply.’

There is a very explicit focus in the scholarship that accompanies the film on the issue of consent – I’m not entirely convinced that this is quite as new or different as perhaps Rughani claims; indeed he cites Philibert as an inspiration/contextual reference point and I’d argue that Philibert had similar challenges albeit with younger children, and without such severe disabilities.

The film, commissioned by Project Artworks, is well situated in the statement within the context of documentary ethics and the interview conducted by Michael Renov with the director is very helpful in this regard, in particular the development of documentary practices with people who are neurologically impaired to create new kinds of visibility and knowledge informed by ethical practice (as outlined in a book chapter by the director mentioned in the statement). The dissemination of the film has clearly been wide and wide-ranging, reaching out to lots of different types of audiences and generating debate – it would have been interesting to know a little more about how that impact had been evaluated at those screenings.

The section on ‘outcomes’ makes brief reference to the issue of ‘speaking for the other’ and it would have been interesting to see this concept linked a little more explicitly to the film’s making; likewise/linked to this, a bit more on the decision-making processes when it came to editing the piece and how involved the family and/or others close to Justine were at that stage.

The series of statements in the submission felt a tiny bit repetitive at times and would benefit from some proofreading and editing. Nevertheless, the film is excellent with clear research objectives and I feel deserves to be shortlisted for this award.

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