WEEK 2: Poet vs Patriarchy: Staceyann Chin

Poetry vs Patriarchy 9mins 45secs

Poet vs Patriarchy, featuring poet Staceyann Chin, is one episode of a documentary series called the “What’s Underneath Project”, whereby subjects are interviewed and speak on several topics while undressing until all that’s remained is their underwear. This “stripping down” has a double meaning. In theory, it is meant to honour how style is not the clothes you wear, but it is knowing who you are, it is your spirit, comfort in your skin and what’s underneath. However, from watching the documentary, I deduced that the stripping of clothes while being interviewed signifies the subject becoming more open and vulnerable with the audience and showing more of their true self as the interview progresses.

Staceyann talks about life growing up in Jamaica, sexism, how she had to flee from Jamaica because of extreme homophobia, her birth experience, her poetry, the trials she faces on a daily basis being a black lesbian Caribbean person residing in the US among many other topics.

The documentary is filmed mainly from two camera angles, head on and one side angle, and the subject, Staceyann, and all other subjects from previous episodes sit in a single chair against the backdrop of a brick wall. I can be categorized as cinema verite, since the director is heard asking questions and interacting with Staceyann. I appreciate and was intrigued by the simplicity of the setting and how neatly and smoothly the project was edited. It kept my attention regardless of the simplicity and I believe it did for two reasons, the captivating topics Staceyann was discussing, as well as the stripping naked concept. It leaves the audience wanting more as they see Staceyann’s story unravel along with her clothes.

The film also proved to leave an impact emotionally. The director accomplished this by carefully choosing which topics would be discussed mainly on the wide angle and which would be addressed in the close up. As a result, when Staceyann spoke about her incident in Jamaica where she recounts being gang raped by a group of boys from school for being a lesbian, the audience felt her pain and was able to empathize because it was shot as a close up, and as a result her unspoken emotions, the way she almost stuttered before she said the words, the calculation before addressing the topic, was well captured. I would also go an extra mile to commend the fact that there was no use of music to help the audience feel for Staceyann, she is a very passionate person and just from the manner in which she speaks, we are able to understand and feel her story, and also, the void of music makes her story more authentic and not pampered or decorated to force the audience to emote.

In summation, this film was successful at informing the audience about the trials Staceyann faces in her life, her stance on serveral issues and more. It also proved that a documentary can be simply executed and still leave an impact on the audience it is intended for.



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