Wednesday, March 07, 2012

More about that film about a lone twin

This article is about a film made in Canada

Belgian filmmaker Anna Van der Wee interviewed fraternal twins Denise and Michael for her documentary Lone Twin. When asked to ponder the prospect of losing her sibling, Denise turned speechless and was pressed to tears.

Documentary filmmaker Anna Van der Wee struggled for decades to find her own identity following the death of her twin brother. She was only 20 years old when he died and her life fell apart. She later spent decades searching in vain for the level of intimacy she had shared with him.

In her documentary Lone Twin, to be broadcast on TVO on Thursday at 11 p.m. and rebroadcast on Tuesday at 9 p.m., the 50-something Belgian filmmaker investigates the unique bond shared by twins and the common experience they feel when one dies. It was a journey that took her around the world, from Belgium to Canada and Nigeria. She interviewed scholars, pairs of twins and those who lost their other half.

Mostly she wanted an answer to one question: Am I still a twin?

The Star spoke with Van der Wee by telephone. She was in Kotagiri, India following the premier of Lone Twin at the Mumbai Film Festival.

STAR: Your twin, Dirk, was an adventurer. In particular, he loved caving, which can be extremely risky. He was, in fact, killed in a caving accident. You reveal that your parents distanced you from the grieving process following his death — mourning the loss of their only son and ignoring your unique loss. That seems profoundly painful.

ANNA: My brother had been expelled from the family home about a year before he died. I know my parents felt very guilty about this. Their grief was enormous. My parents had so much trouble dealing with their own sadness. We children felt we had to respect our parent's pain. They weren't necessarily distancing me from the process in any negative or devious way. They didn't know better.

STAR: You interview pairs of twins and ask them to contemplate the possibility of losing their other half. Their reaction, even in the hypothetical, was very dramatic. One young woman was speechless, pressed to tears at the thought of losing her brother. Did this reaction mirror your own pain? How did you move on?

ANNA: I know how tough it is to live with that loss. When I was young, I never met anyone I could talk to about it because it is so different. All I really knew is that there was something wrong. So I spent my whole life looking for that level of intensity in my relationships with other people.

STAR: By the end of the film you answer your pivotal question — Am I still a twin? — concluding that you are still a twin. How confirming was it to make that declaration? How have you changed since his death?

ANNA: Being a twin was such a big part of my identity that it was always one of the first things I'd tell people when I met them. But after my brother died, I felt I had to stop saying it. Now I can see that the death of my brother has made me a fuller person. I was a wild and happy child. Dirk was quiet, thoughtful. Then later on I became a deeper person, a scholar and a documentary-maker. His death left me with the space to become who I am. Even in loss we gain things.

STAR: How has the making of this documentary changed you, particularly how has it impacted that lifelong search for intimacy and intensity in your relationships with men and your relationship with your daughter? It seems the making of Lone Twin was life-changing for you.

ANNA: Though so much time has passed, I've never been able to turn a page — to find peace. But this documentary has given me a sense of closure, of completion. Now my film will speak for me. In that sense, it's not just about twins. It's about everyone's search for completion. I was not conscious before. Now I am more conscious.

STAR: In your research, you came across a culture in Nigeria that celebrates twins and appreciates the profound loss when one dies. You report in the documentary that this area of Africa has four times the global average of twins. You travelled there to experience their rituals and participate in a two-day ceremony they believe helps the twin who is left behind. The ceremony involved a lot of spitting, the blood of three chickens and even a dead rat. Are you a spiritual person?

ANNA: This culture believes that twins share one soul. When I read that, I was moved and felt I had to go there. I thought, that's exactly what it is. That's the closest description of what I felt. I am not a flaky person and I was quite skeptical. I'm not really a meditative person, but I am interested in philosophy. And I understand the value of ritual. I thought I have to accept what they are doing — and you couldn't help give in because I was surrounded by so many twins. But I also thought I hope they don't ask me to eat that rat. That might have been too much. I just kept in mind `Be aware'. It was a very human experience. We can learn a lot from rituals.

STAR: The twin ceremony honoured you and your brother. Did this ceremony seem as if it were the funeral and the grieving process you were denied when your brother died?

ANNA: Everyone was there in this dark hut for the death of my brother. For the first time, the whole community was there for him. It was easy to feel a sense of completion.

Download the full conversation here

Watch the film in full here ( not available in some areas)

1 comment:

  1. I am unable to download the film, as I live in the States. Hopefully, I will be able to see it at a future date. Nevertheless, the conversation with Anna is remarkable. It is amazing that I personally feel the same way she does, even though I lost my triplets in-utero and she lost her brother at age 20...there is that same deep, profound, inexplicable sense of loss that cannot be discussed with most people...as evidenced here with Anna saying her parents could not acknowledge her loss and pain, and even some of her other family members did not totally understand. This is what all of us go through...that there is usually nobody who can comprehend our unique situation and deep feelings about what we lost, and indeed feel every day of our lives! I thank Anna for her deeply insightful film. Even though I haven't viewed it, I have gleaned so much from her written interviews, and it is of tremendous help to everyone in the wombtwin community.. that we are and always will be a twin.

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