Holding Space – short film
Holding Space. When you know how to suffer you suffer less is a short ten minute film about grief and chronic illness and how both processes are also accompanied by moments of gratitude and grace.
“Holding space” means being physically, mentally, and emotionally present for someone. It means putting your focus on someone to support them as they feel their feelings. An important aspect of holding space is managing judgment while you are present.
Made entirely from found mobile video footage and set to the music of British composer Andrew Hunt, the film evokes long periods of being bedridden where a person might be physically still, but internally is experiencing a roller-coaster of raw emotion.
The film has three mini chapters. First, the trip to her father’s memorial. Second, coming home and coming to terms with sorrow. Third, happy memories, radical acceptance and feeling part of nature, even from bed.
The film begins with a lullaby sung by the film-maker’s mother. She sings in Mandarin:
“Dear wind, you must blow gently! Little birds, you all must chirp softly! My little baby is going to sleep soon. Baby’s eyes resemble Mama’s. Baby’s eyebrows resemble Papa’s. What about baby’s nose? It resembles Papa’s and Mama’s! Sleep Mama’s little baby. When you are awake, I’ll bring you out to play, I’ll bring you to Grandma’s house.”
We see a half dream landscape of cotton bed sheets that flow into fragmented memories of travel. Views from a plane, views from a taxi, and then guests at her father’s memorial wave to the camera smiling, faces full of empathy and pathos.
She arrives at home feeling unwell. But home offers a refuge of time and space and time to come to terms with loss. The bed landscape continues to come in and out of focus. Her breath merges with the sound of waves and sounds from a hospital. Is she awake or dreaming?
Winter is death and the end of a cycle, but winter is also time for rest and transformation. She remembers being outside, in nature. She meets a lone jogger who unexpectedly says hello. The memory of his high-vis vest cuts the image and brings her back to the world of people, prompting good memories of day trips to the seaside in England.
The sequence of happy memories flow into images of summer in Sweden and present-day views of bed life. The edits speed up with the beats of the song. She can sense the sheer wonder of being alive – and with that, the insight that no matter how ‘sick’ we might be, we are all part of this interconnected tapestry of life — where we all belong, just as we are.