Anonymity and Representation: Everyday Practices of Ethical Documentary Filmmaking
Isobel Blomfield and Caroline Lenette
Abstract: The five-minute film Mouth of a Shark (Isobel Blomfield, 2018) conveys a young woman’s experiences and precarious situation while she awaits an outcome on her refugee status determination in Australia. Aasiya (pseudonym) lives in community detention. Her interest in creating the film stemmed from her own acknowledgement that she had a platform as a young, literate asylum seeker woman with a “strong” story, and was therefore in a position to portray asylum seekers in a positive light. However, she cannot be identified in the film, even though it depicts her story, due to concerns over safety and her claim for asylum. We use this example to illustrate issues of anonymity and representation, and suggest strategies in line with our commitment to avoid depersonalising tropes in filmmaking. While we are committed to ensuring that people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds exercise agency in filmmaking, protecting Aasiya’s identity had to prevail. We wanted to avoid depersonalising tropes, and instead devised filming strategies that were more respectful of the protagonist and, within the constraint of anonymity, ensured that Aasiya could still represent her story in meaningful ways. We argue for an ethical model that reconciles the need for both anonymity and representation in filmmaking, especially through collaborative editing.