Throughout our lives, we constantly reconstruct our memories. All of what we have experienced in the past is considered as what makes us today. Thus, we can say that memories are an important part of constructing our own identity.
Many times, we do not merely recall the experience of an event but tend to make sense of it by putting it into a larger scale. The way we reconstruct our memories are often inspired by narrative forms of storytelling, that help us to explain why things happened or why we are and react the way we do. Thereby, some stories might stand out more in our memory and become a pivotal plot of our personal history.
The short films When One and Then Three (2019) and Apostrophe (2018) reflect on such stories. Both films are part of student projects and were shown during the hybrid short film festival cooperation between the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and Minikino in Indonesia. In the context of the program selection for the History and Memory program, the directors of the films explore a family tragedy that occurred in their past and affected their families and own lives in the long term. Reconstructing memories of the past from different perspectives, the films represent personal insights on understanding the self and their family members by exploring the past through the form of narrative films.
When one + then three: Connection the self with the past
When One and Then Three is a short film from 2019 that was directed by Tanwarat Sombatwattana. The film is separated into four different parts that reflect Tanwarat’s family story from different perspectives and time periods, which, in combination, present the viewer with the tragic and young death of the filmmaker’s uncle and its further effects on her family.
In the film’s first part, a mother waits with excitement for the return of her son from abroad. The latter shares his plans to move to the capital of Bangkok at the table with the parents and the sister. But after he left, the phone rings in the night, delivering the terrible message of his sudden death. The second story shows a mother that takes care of her dement mother, telling her about her academic accomplishments. However, the mother does not recognize her and asks about her son instead. The third part of the film shows a young girl during an annual school event and a proud mother cherishing her school projects. At the end of the film, the girl sits in a temple with her family and makes merits for her deceased grandma and uncle. The ghost of the latter appears to the girl.
For the short film, Tanwarat referred to the stories told by her mother and her personal memories of growing up. By piecing these stories together, the filmmaker’s project represents an attempt to reflect on how the past of the family affected her mother’s and her own personality. The different parts are showing episodic glimpses into her family’s past. However, by stringing these memories together, she establishes causality between different experiences that might seem noncontiguous at first, but complement each other at the end of the film.
Apostrophe: Remembering through the body
Apostrophe is an experimental short film directed by Paopoom Chiwarak. Retelling the tragedy of his mother from her perspective, the film reflects on a reality that became her son’s own burden in the future.
The film recounts the experiences of the mother that killed her husband in an act of self-defense due to domestic violence. Throughout the film, she defends the act for which she is sentenced and put into jail. This happens through a letter that she writes to her mother-in-law, which retraces her relationship and time with her husband. However, instead of merely retelling the story through a narrative plot, Paopoom complements the film by using dancing choreographies that convert his mother’s experiences of violence.
During the dancing sequences, Apostrophe depicts memories through the language of the body, containing something that, according to Paopoom, cannot be explained otherwise. By recounting his family tragedy through the perspective of his mother, the filmmaker seeks to establish a different narrative to the happenings, that, as opposed to her sentence, identifies her as a victim rather than a perpetrator.
When one + three others and Apostrophe are both films that recount the personal life story of the filmmaker’s families. In doing so, the films show how the memories of the past can become more tangible when narrated in the form of stories, helping us to connect the dots and make sense of ourselves and the ones that surround us. When watching the two films, it becomes very much visible that their main purpose does not merely lay in creating a compelling story, but that these films are part of a process with the inner self. And this inner confrontation is what made these two films special to me.