Honigmann and Sound

Dec 1, 2020 | NURJ Online Volume 4

LAMI ZHANG

Lami Zhang is a second-year Journalism and Political Science major with a Film Studies minor. She is from Shanghai, China. She co-hosts a film podcast called Subtitled and is the fundraising chair for NU Women Filmmakers Alliance. She enjoys photography, watching documentaries, and making coffee.

DOI: 10.21985/n2-2mck-vf18

Q&A

In a nutshell, what is your research topic? 

This podcast examines how Peruvian-born Dutch documentarian Heddy Honigmann utilizes sound, especially music and silence, in her documentaries to develop themes of memory, empathy, and self-acceptance, and to build upon Proust’s notions of involuntary memory and instant of eternity. 

How did you come to your research topic? 

I took a class called Women and Documentary last winter quarter and discovered the films of Heddy Honigmann. I was immediately struck by how different her documentaries are from other filmmakers of her era. She tackles difficult and sensitive topics such as political corruption, PTSD, and aging with such grace, kindness, and humility. Her films bring you inside the worlds of the people she interviews without a voyeuristic quality that many other documentaries possess. I was especially interested in how she utilizes silence during her filming process, whether it is staying silent after asking a question to allow others to speak or allowing her subjects to think in silence for as long as they need. I wanted to create an auditory multi-media piece to examine specific auditory elements and scenes in her films. 

Where do you see the future direction of this work leading? How might future researchers build on your work, or what is left to discover in this field? 

Much of the research about documentaries I came across is written research. As documentaries are very visual and aural, I think that there should be more multimedia research to better convey elements in documentaries that are harder to translate into writing. Because this project focuses on one particular documentarian, more indepth research can be done on other female documentarians, especially regarding how gender intersects with stories these filmmakers are trying to tell and how it impacts different aspects of their filming processes. 

Where are you heading to after graduation? 

I’m planning to attend graduate school for Political Science.