This practice-based research project comprises two related components: a feature length film Town of Strangers (80 mins) and this written thesis (c. 50,000 words). The film Town of Strangers is an exploration of longing and belonging in the lives of several people with hybrid identities in the small Irish town of Gort, Co. Galway, who responded to a casting call in September 2015 by the filmmaker. This thesis text explicates the methodology and context for the film, which aims to explore documentary filmmaking as the production of reality rather than as observable truth.
The research examines the place of the filmmaker, in relation to the subjects represented in the film. It searches for ways to respond to Lila Abu-Lughod’s call to make the lives of others less other (1991), and to Sara Ahmed’s concept of the stranger (2000). It presents the embedded research period as a literary ethnofiction in the first chapter, placing the author at the centre of the research in the third person. This is extended to the performance of the filmmaker as another character in the film, in the third person, and proposes that this construction is an expanded form of first person filmmaking.
The thesis proposes the concept of the ‘performative making-of’ film as a primary generative form. It reflects on the discoveries made through the processes of scriptwriting, auditioning, storytelling, fabulation, ethnofiction and making-of methods. It frames the overall method as a form of reflexive lucid dreaming, in the dynamic between surrender and control, in both the shooting and the editing processes. The thesis and the film are framed as an encounter between filmmaker and subjects, filmmaker and the material, and between the filmmaker and herself.