Prelude and Title Image: LS fade in night house, Ramona telescope, CU eye, night sky, aerial shots night city, title superimposed: Second Nature
Scene 1: Lost in the Wilderness
Image: cars at night (5), cars day (4), aerial tracking shot car to forest, Stephen drives
Stephen voice-over: The word history comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “to ask.” It’s when you’re asking about something that you realize you’ve survived it. Now you have to carry it, or make it into a thing that carries itself.
Image: out of car, magic forest (4), cooper in forest (4), disappeared joggers Stephen voice-over: When my father told me he was dying I invented a ghost that looked just like me.
Image: Stephen running backwards
Image: super 8 home movie, cooper as a boy slides down slide twice
Stephen voice-over: It felt like running backwards, as if I’d never been his only son, his only hope.
Image: Stephen into car backwards, Stephen through office door, paging through notebook, b/w bonobo chimp nursing, Emily and Stephen read on couch, Emily in supermarket.
Stephen voice-over: As if I’d never went to university. Never spent my twenties in the Congo, studying apes. Never came back to marry Ramona.
Scene 2: Together and Not Together
Stephen and Ramona exit grocery store, Stephen and Ramona walk, timelapse in bed
Ramona: You said I was pontificating, that’s what.
Stephen: You were pontificating.
Ramona: You were saying nothing.
Stephen: I was not saying nothing. I was saying exactly what you were saying.
Ramona: No. Fine.
Scene 3: Palestine
Image: couple in bed, LS night house, envelope picked up by Ramona, Ramona (holding envelope) and Stephen on the streets (rapidly cut)
Ramona voice-over: Stephen and I had just started living together when the letter came. I was headed to Palestine as a doctor. I had met him along with his two best friends. When I invited him to spend the night, it felt as random as drawings borders on a map. Why does this citizen belong in my country and not that one?
Image: Ramona turns. Ramona in field. Ramona enters door.
Ramona voice-over: I went to Palestine to make a record of the apartheid. The separate schools, and roads, and hospitals. Even the water systems were divided.
Image: Ramona stutter slow motion.
Ramona: There are two kinds of revolution. The first aspires to freedom, the second to virtue and work. The unspoken aim of every movement is the rediscovery of beauty.
Image: costumed buglers pre-parade in Palestine, sheep herding and truck, Stephen drives in car superimposed with filmed figures standing. Young girl opens door. Ramona throws sheets, sheets fall, figure under sheet moves. Ramona strokes Stephen’s face.
Scene 4: Dreams of the State
Image: hallway, Ramona reads in hallway. Ramona and Stephen argue in hallway. Stephen pulls closed a barn door, then it opens and he steps out.
Ramona: The dream of the state is to be two.
Stephen: And the dream of the individual is to be one.
Image: Stephen hand on Ramona’s shoulder. Her hand on his.
Ramona voice-over: I don’t know why I went away, I guess I was looking for something.
Image: Emily digs in dirt, carry dirt into car.
Image: Ramona and Stephen walk.
Ramona: Life is full of beauty and life is full of hopelessness. It’s part of being a human animal to feel hopeless and despondent, just as it is part of being a human animal to feel love and empathy and optimism and a desire… Not only the appreciation of beauty but…
Image: Home movies of Stephen’s parent’s wedding, Stephen walks out of bathroom, Stephen in rainy window, home movies Stephen as a boy plays with ball
Stephen voice-over: Does every belief protect us from something? Perhaps a belief is like a symptom. We imagine a catastrophe will arrive if we let go of it. A symptom. A religious belief. A belief in the country. These are all ways of not leaving home.
Image: Ramona at window, bonobo family (2), black. Bent trees, sunflowers, bee on flower,
Ramona voice-over: What do we find if we leave home? A reality that can’t be wishfully improved? Something we might call nature.
Scene 5: Bonobos
Image: Stephen turns on projector (3), bonobos Stephen voice-over: For the past half dozen years I’ve been studying our closest ancestor, the bonobo. It is a society run by females. There is no war, or struggles over territory. Sons remain dedicated to their mothers for a lifetime. And their greatest intellectual achievement is not the use of tools, but a sensitivity to others.
When I was a child I liked to put on bandages before I was ever cut. Now I make pictures.
Image: Ramona writes: and if the animal answered?
Image: Ramona and Stephen in forest (3), her hands over his chest, she strokes his head (2), black
Image: Ramona walks to bed (2), plays with cat (2), cat opens mouth slow motion
Image: rain on leaf, windy trees, bonobo looks up, lightning bolt, rain in vegetation (2), Stephen crouches behind paper in rain, bonobo in rain, jungle, bonobos, Ramona into car, Palestine landsape.
Stephen voice-over: These apes, these bonobos, our closest ancestors. After two months in the jungle I got word about my father. I felt the left side of my body go numb when Sheila, one of the largest apes, put her hand on my shoulder and pulled me towards her. As she did the feeling in my side rushed back, and I could feel my heart opening for the first time.
Scene 6: Palestine 2
Image: Palestine landscape (3), Sonia on road, kids in garage, fence, 3 girls onstage, Sonia in room, Ramona on porch, Ramona smiling at the end of a pole.
When I was 25 I joined Doctors Without Border, and they sent me to the Gaza Strip. Every day these boys of seven or eight would throw stones, and the Israeli soldiers, who were barely teenagers, would shoot back.
One day I was amputating the arm of a young boy, and when I looked into his face I saw my face. After that operation, whenever I looked at the other Palestinian boys who had been shot, I saw my face.
Scene 7: Campfire
Image: fire on stick, people in flames, Stephen and Phil laugh and talk outside by fire (8 shots)
Stephen voice-over: One Sunday I pulled out a book of poems by Emily Dickinson, I guess it was,
And found every kind thing she had ever said to me,
Written by someone else.
Scene 8: Sex Researcher
Image: Ramona walking through revolving glass door, science lab moments superimposed, Ramona puts on white lab coat (4), walks in abandoned building (12)
Ramona voice-over: When I came back to Canada, I tried on the camouflage of a new job. I became a sex researcher. I wanted to know: what are the politics of emotions?
Scene 9: Jungle hands
Image: Stephen in forest, with binoculars, bonobos climbing through trees, Ramona and Stephen walk, Bonobo looks on, black.
Stephen voice-over: A climbing bonobo grabs a branch with one hand, holding on tightly until the other hand has found the next branch. Is there a connection between this ancient pattern and the human ritual of barter and trade? Both activities depend on careful coordination of grasp and release. With his goods held closely, a trader reaches for the other’s offering with his free hand. Failure to perform this sequence in the right order, or with the right timing, might have fatal consequences in the trees, or leave the trader empty handed.
Image: Ramona through trees, Ramona TV remote, computerized sex footage, multi-screen faces
Ramona/Stephen voice-over: I used to like having sex, but when I got back from Palestine, after I saw what had been done to those bodies, I just couldn’t stand being touched. Not even by Stephen, who had trained his hands to listen. I became a sex researcher because I wanted to know how people could allow themselves to open, to have faith in that opening, while these girls, some no more than ten or eleven years old, were being tortured in the Israeli jails.
Scene 10: Ghosts
Image: Palestinian girl reads, two young girls in field, Ramona picks up something (7), Ramona writes in yellow sweater, Ramona face ECU, Ramona at door angry then step printed slow motion turning back into room.
Ramona voice-over: It was hard to explain to Stephen. I’m not the person you see. What you see is what’s left over. A ghost that can’t be touched.
Image: Stephen face in window, Stephen down hallway, Stephen hand on glass, opens door, in city (4), surgeons in hospital (2), Stephen at window, hand picks up glass
Stephen voice over: After my father got sick, I could look into someone’s face, even a photograph would do, and I could tell if they were going to die. Image: City crowds, skate park, kids get through fence, hang out, chew gum, one guy skates alone. Voice-over: There would be a crowd of teenagers at the supermarket, laughing and jumping up and down on their skateboards, and one face would look back at me, and that one face was dying.
Image: Stephen lies down on floor multiply exposed, time lapse bed
Scene 11: Dog
Image: couple in bed, home movie girl, underwater (3), home movie girl swims, home movie girl mouth toy, Ramona and dog sunset, man in door, open legs, open books.
Ramona voice-over: I come from a country where men begged not for their lives, but not to be murdered in front of their children. If I can’t tell where my family ends, and my body begins, how can I say: (pause) this is the border of my country. The border of my body. Of us.
Scene 12: Coffee
Image: Ramona by window writing, Ramona and Stephen in bed together (after argument) (2), Stephen in café (3), Stephen at coffee machine (2), coffee farmers and boat (5)
Scene 13: Desire and dad
Image: hand makes water boil, Stephen home movie pool falls, blue swimmer underwater, man through water, moon, eye, home movie dad, home movie boy opens presents, rocks on a horse, night pool party, sex, night pool party, nude on the moon (astronaut looks, men turn stone circle wide shot, woman disappears behind stone, 2 men grab astronaut and bring him to female leader who takes him away.
Stephen voice-over: There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his son. And gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself.
Scene 14: Half In, Half Out
Image: Ramona and Stephen in doorway (3), little girl runs up stairs. Ramona face camera on bicycle wheel, hand in negative, pan up bedspread, Ramona face time compressed, Palestine road supered with woman
Scene 15: Countries begin by erasing
Image: Stephen turns in chair, Ramona opens book, open door, book, door, book, Ramona into bed, Ramona erasing in notebook
Ramona voice-over: How many countries begin not as invention, but in an act of erasing?
Image: Ramona with channel changer, Indian on horse (death in foreground), Indians chase (play), burnt teepees (2), Indians shot off horses by whites (5), Palestinian boy hauls cart, Israeli soldiers out of jeep
Her voice-over: The local population are killers, liars, savages. Something less than human, who must be hunted down and destroyed. So that the new state can appears as if it was always there.
Image: Ramona and Stephen walk together, Ramona and Stephen turn heads in sync, Ramona walks out of frame
Ramona voice-over: The beginning of a new country. Is this also the beginning of a new kind of looking? A new kind of love?
Scene 16: Ahmad
Image: icicles time lapse (2), LS building, man in chair, photograph of scarred body, hands tighten, doorway, Ahmad with head in hands, peace sign, Ahmad and family,
Stephen voice-over: In order to begin the new state. How many wounds need to be left behind?
And in order to begin. To begin again.
Image: Ahmad with gun, Stephen home movie as a boy in water (his father plunges in fearlessly), black
Stephen voice-over: Perhaps there’s no need to forget our wounds, if we can turn them into our children. The question that haunts development: what is unbearable about oneself, and where is one going to put it?
Scene 17: Forest
Image: timelapse landscape, Ramona and little girl in forest (14 shots)
Ramona voice-over: Last night I dreamt I was a little girl who invented the question why. I was every tree in the forest, the opening in every face. The first step of every Palestinian coming home.
Image: Ramona and little girl walk into room, home movie Stephen with brother, Stephen boy walks, Stephen crawls (3), Stephen baby crawls,
Ramona: And then I told him I loved him for the first time.
Stephen: And then she told me she loved me, for the first time.
Scene 18: At home
Image: Stephen axes wood, Ramona reads (11 shots), Stephen closes blinds, black
Scene 19: Graveyard
Image: timelapse train track night to day, woman runs in night forest, smoky forest, Stephen in forest, Stephen in a suit in graveyard (7)
Ramona/Stephen voice-over: The word history comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “to ask.” It’s when you’re asking about something that you realize you’ve survived it. Now you have to carry it, or make it into a thing that carries itself.
Scene 20: Dad is dead
Image: Couple embrace in field, Syracuse rainstorm, Stephen on deck with computer, time lapse day to night, phone call at night, father on phone. His voice-over: In the last two weeks before he died, my father called a lot in the middle of the night. He was always excited and busy discovering new words. We were finally learning how to talk with each other, Image: home movie boy winter blows bubble, Stephen in barn doorway, LS field Stephen falls, found footage falling (2), Stephen pulls pole down to ground, home movie boy in harness. His voice-over: It was as if, when I was growing up, he had fallen out of language, the way others fall out of love.
Scene 21: Surviving Paternity
Image: watery girl in nature, Ramona at window looks out, Palestinians behind bars: Qalandia line moving (2), cat looks up, Ramona and cat, cat looks (2), Palestine drive, boys wash cars, car disappears in desert landscape, Ramona stroke Stephen’s face, Ramona walks along wall supered with clouds, Palestinian boy walks in desert supered with Ramona’s many faces, Ramona writing, Palestinian demonstration supered with trees and then fire.
Ramona voice over: You alone became the outer surface of my life. The side, I never see. And you will be that unknown part of me. Until I die.
Scene 22: Palestine Wounds
Image: Palestine house on rock, man in chair pan to photo of man with scars. Woman speaks in sync, pan down to photo, then shot reverses and pans up. Man in chair. Ramona strokes Stephen’s face. Black
Palestinian woman: The surgeon, a doctor in Jerusalem. He told him: you can live with these small pieces. Your body builds up, builds up you know, over them, and they cannot affect you.
Scene 23: Dying Father
Image: Ramallah night, flies at window twilight, Stephen in kitchen, Ramona in kitchen with cats, Ramona at window, Palestinian boy in barbershop, Ramona/Stephen porch flicker
Ramona voice-over: How many years I felt your dying father between us. As if you were holding onto something that was already gone. You remember what he said about the Palestinians? There was earth inside them, and they dug.
Scene 24: Bonobo sex
CU steps, Stephen down hall, pan down to desk, Stephen makes notes. Bonobos have sex.
Stephen voice-over: The great apes, the peace makers, have sex as a way to ease meetings with other tribes, or after arguments. It is casual, and gender-free, and part of nearly ever social interaction.
Image: Bonobos, Ramona and Stephen in sunglasses, t-shirt over Stephen’s head. Palestine road, Ahmad and two sisters, family photographs, living room, Ahmad in doorway
Stephen voice-over: Leaving the study meant saying good-bye to Sands, the young bonobo who’d became my best friend. He might say that the pictures are never made by us. They might show the embarrassment of a species uncertain why we were being looked at and recorded. Powerless to stop it. They almost always show us as helpless refugees or terrorists. Never a mother, a helpful neighbour, a son.
Scene 25: Two of Us
Image: Living room, hand touches glass statuette, hand on bracelet, doors open, hand on blinds fade out. Ramona voice-over: Sometimes, when I touch Stephen, I wonder if we could be the last generation to love. To believe in love the way people used to believe in countries, or God.
Scene 26: Picture Captive
Image: Stephen picks up mirror (2), soldiers in Palestine, Ramona reading,
Stephen voice-over: A picture held us captive. And we couldn’t get outside it, because it lay inside our language, and language seemed to repeat it to us, endlessly.
Image: traffic cop in Ramallah (real time, then step printed slow motion)
Ramona voice-over: This is where I learned to get along with Stephen. By watching the traffic flow in Ramallah. I tried to go back, but felt I was only running away from the Palestine of my own life.
Image: Ramona in car, rack focus Ramona then Stephen then Ramona on couch, Ramona and Stephen on couch, Stephen drinking, Palestinian march backwards
Ramona voice-over: The beginning of the state. Doesn’t this also make possible the beginning of love?
Stephen voice-over: And if you don’t have a state, or your state is taken away from you?
Scene 27: Back and Forth
Image: Emily and Cooper walk (strobe motion), Stephen home movies, Ramona and Steve walk, Ramona and Steve reflected in car glass
Ramona: You’re still here.
Stephen: I don’t believe in the revolution. I believe in love.
Ramona: I know. I know you think they’re different.
Scene 28: Railroad tracks
Image: Ramona and Stephen train tracks (pan fence, couple walks, Stephen and train, grass, Stephen walks, sneaker, Ramona, hand, together, Stephen, Ramona and train, tracks)
Ramona voice-over: There are two kinds of revolution. The first hopes for freedom, the second for virtue. Both aim for the rediscovery of beauty. The beauty that becomes possible only when every shame has been left behind.
Ramona voice-over: Hello Stephen.
Stephen voice-over: Hello Ramona.
Ramona: Let’s go.
Scene 29: Sky
Flying Image: Ramona and Stephen fly together
Image: Ahmad on cardboard paper slide in drive way.
Scene 30: Titles
Emily Vey Duke + Cooper Battersby
Allegra Fulton + Shaun Smyth
Additional footage: Emily Vey Duke + Cooper Battersby, Elle Flanders + Tamira Sawatzky
Thanks to Trinity Square Video + Canada Council