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Rosie Reed Hillman's Bearing plays like a series of quality home videos about a daughter and her mother - until it doesn't.

The award-winning Sheffield filmmaker's most recent documentary, following up the success of 2015's Cailleach, builds from ordinary slice-of-life scenes taken in kitchens, bedrooms and family trips, and slowly transforms them into a sombre, meditative look at a mother's relationship with her child, Aurora.

As the film progresses, Hillman more and more often leaves her refuge behind the camera and steps into the spotlight to reflect, contemplate and struggle. It is a tricky sub-genre of documentary when the auteur chooses herself as the subject of her dissection. If one is carrying out an operation on one's self like a war doctor, additional risks come into play. Self-awareness can easily slip into self-gratification, like in Ki-duk Kim's dazzling Arirang, or tear open long-healed scars, like in Sarah Polley's magnificent Stories We Tell.

Here Hillman finds a way to make her weapon of choice work in favour of the story she is telling. She asks herself questions she knows she might not be able to answer just yet, but her presence on both sides of the camera lends a significance to the discussion that being a subject of another filmmaker, or making a film about another mother, couldn't have granted the project.

Bearing premiered on 19 December at Create Coffee on Chesterfield Road, accompanied by a photo exhibition by the director. The project is part of auto-ethnographic research carried out by Hillman at the University of the West of England, and as such the audience was present as a participatory half. Questions were encouraged and the children kept interrupting Aurora's baby talk on the screen with their own incoherent observations, echoing the movie as it went along.

It is a rarity to see a motion picture affecting viewers in such an immediate manner, and this added value made watching Bearing even more intimate and endearing.

Next article in issue 130

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