Introduction Non-fiction filming involving death and dying has taboo status in terms of what western society can and cannot sanction. Made over the course of 12 months through close engagement with individuals experiencing and witnessing death and dying, our film consists of long sequences showing the people, environments and activities in and around the hospice, exploring what happens at the end of a person’s life.
The project Upon filming it became clear that the hospice acts as the beating heart at the centre of the island, with its community team operating as an artery system, extending out to every part of the land. In many ways this is a palliative island, a place where dying is visible. With this notion of an island as ecology, one that is familiar with end of life, the filmmaker began to notice complex and coexistent movements and practices associated with dying. Filming with people in family homes and on the ward during the last weeks of life unfolded to include the very intimate moment of the instant of death. Filming also extended out into the landscape, taking in chemotherapy, bereavement seminars, pathology lab activity, but also ferry crossings, druid death ceremonies, and palliative care given to ageing big cats at the zoo.
The project attempts to engender a space where the phenomenon and phenomena of dying and death can be given an image. This reflects changing attitudes in palliative care and society around the visibility of death and dying. Navigating this difficult ethical territory involved adopting a way of seeing, and being with, the terminally ill person that has some confederacy with the practices of the palliative care professional. What emerges is a slow cinema description of the temporality of dying, an image of care and attentiveness and the very natural process of death.
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