In Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s article, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, the questioned is raised of whether or not the subaltern can speak and be able to have their own voice that has not been distorted through the lens of primarily white academics, or through the lens of someone who has not experienced what they are going through. In the film Unveiled, this question can be applied in an interesting way. In some ways, I would argue that through this film, the subaltern was able to speak, but other ways the subaltern was not able to speak. Due to the fact that this is a narrative film, that had many people working on it, there is no one true authentic voice that can come through as being the subaltern and I am unsure as to whether or not those involved have actually experienced the events that they are telling or not. Certainly though, this film puts forth a less distorted view of the subaltern’s voice than we might see in an academic journal or in a news report.
The video shared by Sarah in her blog post helped my understanding of Spivak’s ideas as well (thank you Sarah!). In this video, there is a mention of how Spivak presents this idea of people having to assume what an event was like after hearing a retelling of it because they were not there to experience and as a result they will have a distorted view of what those experiences are really like. I felt this a little with the film Unveiled because we are told of these terrible things happening to Siamak’s brother and of the reasons for Siamak and Fariba trying to leave their country and seek asylum elsewhere, but we are never shown these things. This left me feeling in some ways like I really could never exactly understand what they were going through in order to leave for somewhere else, although I was aware enough that the situations were not good. I still felt that I could connect to the characters and I was able to feel their voice come through in an authentic way that speaks of an experience that I would certainly not be able to tell in the same way that they did, but as a viewer I do feel that I was left to fill in blanks on my own. I believe Spivak would argue that leaving those blanks empty for me to interpret in my own way, would distort the subalterns voice.
Overall, the question of “can the subaltern speak?” seems to be an incredibly difficult one that does not have a simple answer or solution. In some ways is it really possible for anyone to fully understand something that they have not physically experienced themselves, no matter how well this is retold and from who it is retold by?