“My family will starve.”

Flight Paths is a piece released in five episodes. However, given the brevity of the pieces, they could have easily been combined into a single work – not all of the episodes even represent the kind of story arc that one usually finds in the episodic form. Why, then, did the authors choose such a guise?

The first episode introduces Yacub and the inciting incident. The second episode sees Yacub acting on said incident. Up until this point, the viewer has been immersed in a gritty world of hard things – hard work, hard lives, hard choices, and harsh conditions – narratively as well as visually. The third episode opens with the line “I have to go to the supermarket today, otherwise my family will starve.” Given the character of the previous episodes, the viewer is likely to interpret this literally. However, it is clear that this episode is different from the others – the font is clean, as if from some well-polished magazine, as opposed to the previously rough, sketched font. Furthermore, the background is neither flat black nor a sparsely color-paletted depiction of India, but of some busy, fast-paced street in a developed and affluent area. The next section of the episode reveals that the family is far from the brink of starvation, but rather one that already has and wants more. The effect of the juxtaposition between this thread and the former will likely be a three step process: the audience will be taken in by the literal meaning, condemn the display of excess upon awareness, and finally realize that they are guilty of such exaggerations and excesses themselves.

This third episode of “Harriet Driving” is a distinct departure from those preceding and, apart from the opening clearly intended for juxtaposition, seems to have no connection to the piece thus far. There is suspense, then, of how these two utterly disparate threads will come together (especially if one knows that there are only two short episodes left, as can be seen from the project’s page). It is in the fourth episode when the juxtaposition is most direct – stark white text on a black background describing great suffering on one half of the screen while crisp, clean text details a woman’s struggle to navigate a parking lot with a shopping cart on the other, complete with cheerful, colorful graphic accompaniment. The two threads push and pull at each other, competing for screen space and for their voice to be heard.

The final episode finds them joined – with their paths crossed, the narrative becomes unified, and no competition between story threads exists. Curiously, the remaining story is told from Harriet’s perspective, using her font (even when it is Yacub that is speaking), though the visuals are somewhat more in line with those of the Yacub threads. I honestly didn’t know what to make of the final chapter, and welcome any interpretations that any of you might have.

Dave Turka


~ by kartud on February 5, 2011.

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