Under the Same Roof:
a personal documentary


Filmed and edited by
Pitcha Suphantarida 
We only often recognize the value of some things only when we take a little step back. Sometimes, it meant that one has to travel away for a while to realize somethings that they often taken for granted.

The same goes for myself as I traveled to Japan for my undergraduate studies in 2016. Separated from family for the first time, I began to feel more distant from my home country. At the same time, it had enabled me to look my home from a new perspective. During the summer break of 2019, I met P’Sorn who came to work in our home.

Loud, little daring, but also strong-willed and loving.

She reminded me of all the ladies who lived in my home. Those who had stayed and left; some with a short goodbye, others who just faded away without a trace. Those who for one moment felt like a family member, but a stranger in the next. Meeting her rekindled childhood memories of playing with them. But I hardly remembered or knew anything but their name.

At first glance, our relationship seems pretty simple, and perhaps transactional. I am the daughter of the P’Sorn’s employer. But behind the label, I often wondered if there’s anything else beyond such status quo. As I explored the boundaries and possibilties of the relationship, I slowly learned to put myself into P’Sorn’s shoes. In my last year of university, I returned home to pursue my graduation project. I began taking footages and get closer to P’Sorn, in hopes that I might be able to understand our relationship a little better.



“Under the Same Roof: a personal documentary” is a film of sorts. Not a documentary, not a family video, the film fits itself into an undefined category. To me, it may have been an attempt to reconcile with my childhood. It may also be a personal letter from myself, to all those who once, in their lifetime, had shared time under the same roof.

This film was created in the process of my sense-making of my relationship with P’Sorn in for my undergraduate studies. The project had spanned from August 2019 until July 2020.

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a cyclical process of knowing and reflection


Fieldnotes

Daily reflection and observations on everyday life becomes part of a growing collection of memories. They become fragments for which was a tool for reflection and rediscovering the past. The reflections were used to identify ‘turning points’ or ‘moments’ where the relationships seemed most ambiguous. 






Interviews

    Interviews were done periodically in an informal manner with Sorn and family members before and after the movie. The interview with P’Sorn generally surrounded every day conversations, as well as inquiring about her history and life philosophies.

    Family members were also interviewed before and after the screening of the video to develop a better understanding of their self-perceptions, as well as perception of P'Sorn in relation to the household.   In these interviews, I slowly developed a better understanding of each person’s impression of each other, as well as their expectations and values in family and work.

Screenings

    Screenings were done offline with all research participants. In observing each of the participant’s reaction, it became possible to elicit deeper conversation tounderstand each persons’ boundaries in regards to each other. This was part of the re-editing process as I re-evaluate the message of the film.

    In the final part of project, the audience groups expanded to larger audiences as I reached out to close friends and collegues who I have affliated with at different life stages. We held the screening through synchronised play on Zoom, followed by a free discussion based on their thoughts on the film. The feedback from those outside of the field (household) allowed me to re-evaluate how others perceived myself, as well as get new ideas and ways of thinking. The audience, on the other hand, were able to get a glimspe of the field and imagine the life inside it through the screen.



Film As...


...knowledged creation

Based off Sarah Pink’s extensive works on visual ethnography, this project’s methodolody is designed on the foundation that visual media such as videos and photographs has potential not only to record what has happened, but also can create new meaning. In order to do so, it was crucial that I interact with research participants during fieldwork to observe how my interpretations and differed from them, and how so. The video, although filmed and edited by myself, is essentially an accumulation of experiences based on the interactions exchanged with research participants- therefore making the proccess collaborative as my perceptions and ideas were being shaped and molded over time through the process of fieldwork.




...a moving portrait

As the film was not directed or held any particular narrative right until the editing process, the film requires the process of weaving a narrative through clips that captures the essence of everyday family life, from my personal point of view. The thread that holds the film together therefore, were narration and pieces of interviews conducted over the course of the fieldwork.   The film, therefore does not shine the objective truth, but rather emphasizes on the importance of establishing my worldviews. It becomes an expression of my emotional journey as a student trying to re-discover and make sense of the relationships that were created in the process of filming.


... a communication tool 

In this project, the video was used as a communication tool with family members and P’Sorn in the initial stage, and then with others beyond the household.  By showing the video to the P’Sorn, I was able to relay my feelings to P’Sorn, as well as eliciting a meaninful response from her to better understand her point of view.  In showing the film to the family, we were able to discuss more difficult issues with more ease. As I began to open the film to those beyond the field, my perspectives widened as the crowd reflected on different themes that surfaced from the video. Through the process, I am able to grasp a better understanding of my position not only in the household, but my place in the ‘world’.


...a time capsule

Last but not least, the film is a record of the events and thoughts of an ever-changing, dynamic environment of the home. As myself and all research participants change, the film may be revisited again and again as time passes, bringing forth new ideas and interpretions of the film.