Part testimonial, part confessional, MixedUp follows Howard J Davis (aka Haui) as he talks about his life growing up mixed race and part of the LGBTQ+ community.
I’ve never really seen a documentary like this, where we mostly hear someone’s story narrated over visuals. Normally we’re taken back and forward in time, everything is clean cut, but I really liked the homegrown style. With a mix of old family footage, as well as purpose filmed video sections, both showing discussion and looking at art in a deeper meaning. Let’s look at the archived footage first. It was nice to be taken back in time, and when these moments are being filmed, I guess nothing is really thought of them, however it’s funny how seeing them years later can be a great lesson in why we are how we are. I think having these clips really allow the story to flow. Even though Haui gives us a short family history, we don’t necessarily need much if we’re able to see cherished family memories on our screen and see the past for ourselves.
Like I said, we have more arty footage contrasting with this. Haui is dripped in white paint, he covers his skin in different foundations shades, all playing with the idea that he doesn’t fit into one specific box. When watching this, it really gave me such a personal insight into how people born mixed race can often feel not enough of either. Not black enough, not white enough, not Chinese enough, etc! We subconsciously see people’s differences and ask stupid questions or make people feel left out by accident, all because someone doesn’t look enough like one race. It makes me think of arguments over social media when someone is cast to play a black person, but are maybe lighter skinned than expected, or mixed race. The comments made are that they’re not black enough. Seeing this film has made me realise how people live their lives, constantly trying to prove themselves worthy of the culture and colour that their parents gave to them.
I really enjoyed hearing lots of other people’s thoughts about their lives, culture and skin colour. How they were interjected, pushing the narrative of the documentary along really helped to keep my engaged as things were always changing. It was so interesting getting to hear the thoughts of Haui’s sisters, both with different thoughts and feelings, but ones that are relevant and respected. Even though this was and is his story, I’m so glad we see quite a few perspectives to really let us learn about what people go through, but also what they’re proud of. To show that really did let me see how it can feel like the negatives are weighing us down, but there will always be goodness in who we are and what we do.
As well as looking at this, Haui talks about being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Even though his parents went through worry and disapproval when they first fell in love, you’d think that they would fully accept and allow their children to be who they want to be to not have to suffer the same. But we learn that this isn’t the case, when Haui tells us how his father doesn’t yet accept him and his boyfriend. It’s awful to think that in home life and into the outer community, you can feel refused and alone, due to who you love and what you look like. But seeing something like this really is inspiring, and I’m sure to people who are in a similar position, this can feel like a weight being lifted, to know that they are not on their own.
The film is an hour and 15 minutes long, however when I was watching, I did feel like it could be split into chapters and shown around in more bite sized chunks. This is something I’m sure would appeal to schools and those wanting to learn or feel seen. But fully, the documentary really is great at exploring history with family, and how we can often feel separated from them due to disagreements and changes in life, but when we talk about how we feel and know that we’re not alone, the world can feel a lot brighter and welcoming.