Belonging Heat and Dust

6 June 2016

Belonging is an abstract and dynamic concept which can be defined as that which belongs to one, that which pertains to one or that which is connected with a principle or greater thing. Jason van Genderen’s short film ‘Mankind Is No Island’ (2008) was shot entirely on a Nokia phone on the streets of the New York and Sydney. Van Genderen represents the notion of belonging/not belonging through the use of powerful words, music and visual images.

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Deepak Chopra once stated that “Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging”, van Genderen represents how love, care and attention to those who are marginalised in one community can create a new sense of belonging. Social inclusion in a network of groups and relationships is a primary factor in developing a connection with the world we live in. van Genderen effectively uses juxtaposition of two very powerful images to convey the effects of social inclusion on the sense of belonging on the homeless.

Van Genderen’s effective use of mise-en-scene to position the elderly homeless man with his trolley, solitary and stagnant, whilst everyone around him are in motion, emphasises his disconnection to the wider community. This image is juxtaposed with an image of the same homeless man in the latter stages of the film, however this time he is conversing with van Genderen who is giving the homeless man his time and courtesy, interacting with him.

The non- diegetic music emphasises the significant difference of offering the homeless recognition as it gives them a sense of belonging in the wider community, the change in the rhythm and tempo creates an immediate sense of hope and optimism. It is evident the impact of social inclusion as the elderly man is no longer the salient figure as he has become immersed into the crowd. Van Genderen suggests that ‘the gentle art of hearing’ is tool which is often underestimated.

Each individual story has significance and value and as we listen to and validate these stories, we foster for the creation of affiliation. In other words, van Genderen is communicating to the responder that it is their moral responsibility to ensure the homeless are not made the scapegoat of the society as having a sense of belonging is a part of humanity. A sense of belonging can emerge from the affiliations made with people, places, groups, communities and the larger world. ‘Mankind Is No Island’ portrays how social inclusion can help to create a sense of belonging and positive feeling of self-worth. In conclusion, van Genderen effectively challenges our views, beliefs and assumptions on the homeless. He does this effectively through the clever use of cinematic devices and language. Van Genderen conveys the importance of interacting with the homeless.

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