Editorial: Some Kind of Normal
Several days before going to press I received an email from filmmaker Anne Koizumi announcing the release of her new film, In the Shadow of the Pines. The film was premiering at Hot Docs 2020 online, available on CBC Gem. As it had been released to the public that same day, there was a link in the email. One quick click of the mouse and I was watching the film. Ten minutes later (the film is only eight minutes long) I wrote Anne back, asking if she’d be willing to be interviewed for The Bulletin.
In eight short minutes, In the Shadow of the Pines expresses so much. Intensely personal in its expression of grief and loss, it artfully questions the idea of shame and how it can shape and define us. The filmmaker’s childhood shame at her father’s job as janitor at her elementary school and how it coloured their relationship in a family where emotions were not discussed is heartbreaking relatable.
As children, much our energy is devoted to defining our place in the world. We are so focused on how we ourselves see our relationship to our parents and the world that we are incapable of thinking about what they are going through. It’s all about what is being done to us, and not for us. If we are lucky, we are able to resolve those feelings as we get older and come to see our parents as three-dimensional humans with their own fears and difficulties trying to navigate the world. At least that’s been my own experience.
In my case, my sense of otherness didn’t come so much from growing up mixed race at a time when intermarriage was unusual, it was more that both my parents were artists and their friends were all artists. Even as a young boy, I knew instinctively that it was not normal. Looking back, of course, I am deeply grateful for that lack of normalcy, how it opened up so many possibilities for how to live my life, and how it ultimately shaped me. At the time, though, it was difficult to reconcile. I remember aching to be normal. Whatever that meant.
One of the gifts of being an artist is that it gives us ways to process the kinds of feelings and emotions Koizumi address in her film. As artists we process much of these emotions and feelings in public, which makes us vulnerable, but it can also be cathartic. Individually, each piece of art, whether it’s a novel, painting, film or song, has the possibility of touching someone on some level. Cumulatively, those works map the human experience, in all its messy complexity.
As I learned later in life, partly through my own art-making, “normal” is not only a false ideal to strive for, it’s also an illusion.
With this issue of The Bulletin, the second since the lockdown, we are hopeful that we can continue to remain relevant to the community and to our readers. Thank you for your words of support, your ongoing donations, and for sticking with us. Thanks too, to our advertisers and community contributors. Hopefully I am not over-using the phrase, but we are all in this together. And hopefully we can be together soon.