They expect us to call in sick, watch television all night, die by our own hands. They don’t know we are becoming powerful. Every time we kiss we confirm the new world coming.
Extract from American Wedding by Essex Hemphill
Welcome to the 14th edition of Document Film Festival. Year on year we look to foreground the most innovative and challenging documentary film from around the world – from artists and activists committed to raising awareness and developing understanding of our shared human rights.
We look for films that demonstrate that at its best, cinema encourages us to look differently. It asks us to question the meaning and presentation of images and in doing so, to think differently about ourselves, our relationship to each other and to the world.
Over this extended weekend of screenings, workshops, performances and discussions we look particularly at the poetics of documentary form. We examine the creative, experimental and affective techniques filmmakers develop in order to work through complex, often overlapping systems of oppression that characterise so much of the global landscape.
The impulse to experiment finds many echoes, not only in the history of radical protest and thinking, but also in the explicitly contemporary context of social networks, grassroots organising and the emergence of genuinely intersectional political movements like Black Lives Matter.
Festival highlights include the sci-fi rendering of Zhao Liang’s polemic Behemoth and Hubert Sauper’s hallucinatory modern-classic We Come As Friends; a searing double bill charting the b-side of the Palestinian refugee experience from filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel; and a rare screening of Peter Watkins’ six-hour quasi-documentary La Commune (Paris, 1871), which reimagines the communard uprising of 1871.
We’re delighted also to showcase the work of Glasgow photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie, whose lyrical urban portraits chart the shifting geography and changing communities of our city, and to hold a hands-on video activism workshop in collaboration with Camcorder Guerrillas and Reel News collectives.
Few filmmakers typify the art of looking differently more profoundly than the subject of our retrospective strand, Marlon Riggs; a black, queer artist who, until his untimely death, worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to confront overlapping legacies of oppression. His work stood as a defiant response to the US government’s inaction in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Inaction that revealed whose lives mattered and whose didn’t in the eyes of the state.
Riggs understood the language of visual culture, how it is used to oppress and how it can be used to liberate. His was a striking, incisive and above all generative cinema of liberation. With this in mind, we hope you will join us for an exciting and invigorating weekend of looking, thinking and discussing.
50 Feet From Syria is a portrait of surgeon Hisham Bismar as he performs intricate acts of medical necessity undeterred by the chaos and complexity of war around him. The filmserves as a snapshot in time of the plight of refugees displaced by the Syrian uprising and indelibly communicates the human cost of one of most brutal, dehumanizing conflicts in modern history that continues to destroy and displace millions of lives.
This is the untold story of how an African dictator has been able to commit mass murder and still get a regular audience at The White House and 10 Downing Street. A Brilliant Genocide is a political expose and human rights documentary that details the untold story of suffering and an unrecognized genocide against the Acholi people of northern Uganda by the current Government, under President Yoweri Museveni, who has for decades been staunch ally to the west. But has the West been hoodwinked by this deceptive devil in disguise, the face of democracy in Africa, the US’s strongest ally in the region and who Clinton once called “a beacon of hope on the African continent”, or have they turned a blind eye and knowingly been dancing with the devil for their own selfish and strategic interests?
Reel News and Camcorder Guerrillas are teaming up to offer a video activist workshop during Document Film Festival. This short workshop aims to equip participants with the know-how needed to make their own short films and distribute them online. Course participants will explore ideas around local issues, political and community campaigning and citizen journalism.
We will cover the very basics of how to plan, film, edit and upload films to YouTube and share them using social networks, using basic camcorders, iPads, mobile phones or still cameras with widely available computer software such as iMovie. No special computer skills or previous filming experience is required.
János Orsós is of Romani descent, a teacher, and a Buddhist. Inspired by the history of the Dalits or “untouchables” in India, birthplace of both Romani culture and Buddhism, he founded a school in a small Hungarian village with the goal of enabling teenagers from the poorest Romani ghettos to attend universities. Angry Buddha documents János’ resolute battle against the difficulties he faces over three years, while simultaneously painting affectionate yet honest portraits of the Romani youth who use humour and their own vitality to survive in a world of poverty and prejudice.
A poetic protest against the destructive social and environmental effects of industrialisation in China. Zhao Liang’s visually arresting and meditative film takes us to the heart of the Chinese mining industry, highlighting its toxic impact. Sheep farmers are driven from their pastures to make way for mines; sick miners with ruined lungs lie dying in local hospitals. A mountain paradise becomes an industrial wasteland surrounded by ghost towns of brand-new, deserted apartment blocks. In the Old Testament, the mountains are the domain of a monster named Behemoth; in modern times the vast mining industry has taken this monster’s place. Drawing on Dante’s Inferno, this lyrical yet politically-charged film offers a moving portrait of a modern-day hell.
Marlon Riggs’ final film jumps into the middle of explosive debates over Black identity.
Using his grandmother’s gumbo as a metaphor for the rich diversity of Black identities, his camera follows Black folks young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban, gay and straight, grappling with the paradox of numerous, often contested definitions of Blackness.
Riggs’ own urgent quest for self-definition and community, as a Black gay man dying from AIDS, ties the multiple perspectives together. Hooked up to an IV in his hospital bed, Riggs takes strength for his struggle against AIDS from the continual resilience of the African Americans in the face of overwhelming oppression. As his death nears, he conjures up the image of a Black community nurturing and celebrating the difference and creativity in each one of us.
This screening will be introduced by activist and performer Twiggy Pucci Garçon.
From the director of Document 2015’s 9999, CATCH-19to25 is a personal reflection about the relation between a man and his peculiar life and work circumstances. The film focuses on details, like the protagonist, and gives insight in a major problem of society: the temporal housing of victims of war.
Photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie is widely acknowledged as the most consistent chronicler of the Glasgow’s recent history, which has seen the skyline of the city radically transformed as high rise tower blocks have been blown down and bulldozed. 30% of the city’s high rise flats have disappeared since 2006. With the regeneration of the Commonwealth Games, does this disappearing Glasgow herald a renaissance in the city?
On Wednesday night, Chris will give an illustrated talk for Document on the human impact of these profound changes.Featuring several of his short films,Chris will finish his talk with a chance to see his latest film (Re)Imagining Glasgow, chroniclingGlasgow’s regeneration over the past forty years. The film playfully reworks Oscar Marzaroli’s 1970 film Glasgow 1980 and uses previously unseen footage shot by Marzaroli for an uncompleted follow-up film, Glasgow’s Progress, alongside new footage of Glasgow today.
Seventeen years ago, multiple award-winning photographer Maya Goded started a photo book about the prostitutes of La Merced, a district of Mexico City. She became close friends with Carmen and Letty, a relationship that would bloom into her first feature film project.
Shot over a period of four years, Plaza de la Soledad follows a wider family of women negotiating the darkness of their pasts and the precariousness of their future on the unforgiving streets. The film is one of great warmth and humour despite the violence that permeates their lives. They overflow with the energy and bravado of youth and, as they have grown older together, they have learned how to give each other the strength to continue. Premiered at the renowned Sundance Film Festival, the film is a masterful portrait of extraordinary people and a powerful case for female autonomy.
“My intention has always been to encourage viewers to confront their own prejudices about prostitution, sex and ageing, to reflect on the complexity and the different forms that love – and loneliness – can assume.” Maya Goded.
After fleeing his native country of Afghanistan at just 15, Wasiullah has spent his adolescent years in Denmark, relishing in teenage antics but also nervously awaiting acceptance for permanent residency. Denmark provides support for unaccompanied child refugees such as Wasi and his friends, but only until they reach 18. Then, they are on their own. Michael Graversen’s eye-opening film investigates what happens to the many refugee children who disappear from asylum centers year after year when their application for asylum is rejected. It provides brutally honest depictions of the transience, isolation and frightening uncertainty they face.
A curriculum for the dance floor bringing together music, spoken word and moving image. This iteration of the work previews a new radio play This Catalogue of Poses, which follows four figures at a spectral house club night and is framed by the histories of queer nightlife in the local area. This hybrid performance/lecture/DJ set is part of Ifekoya’s ongoing project A Score, A Groove, A Phantom which investigates archives of blackness, sociality and inheritance as they diffract through queer nightlife and trauma in the present moment.
There will be space to listen, space to dance and space to reflect. Come with an open mind.
The Fest of Duty is a religious ceremony designed to instil Islamic beliefs and values in girls when they reach the age of nine. This film follows two adolescent cousins as they transition into adulthood eight years after their official Fest of Duty, and observes the divergent impact of religious doctrine on the public and private lives of two teenage girls who come to symbolize the conflicting cultural values in Iran today.
Director Vladimir Tomic boarded the Flotel Europa in Copenhagen as a teenager in the early 1990s, along with his older brother, mother and 1,000 other refugees from the former Yugoslavia. Through video messages, they recounted their lives in limbo to loved ones back home. Via the refugees’ own home movies, Tomic reflects back in this timely and unusual coming-of-age film.
This screening is presented in association with GRAMNet.
Document is proud to host the latest in a series of masterclasses presented by Scottish Documentary Institute, allowing audiences to learn from world-class filmmakers as they discuss their practice. This year, we’re joined by George Amponsah and Dionne Walker, director and producer of acclaimed British film The Hard Stop – a cinematic, hybrid documentary that explores the complicated intersections of race and class that underpin the still-unresolved killing of Mark Duggan in 2011.
“At least a third of The Hard Stop is shot with a Z1 camcorder that still used tape,” Amponsah explains. “It taught me that all you have to have is a bit of heart and belief in what you’re doing and to just get to it.”
The Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues is a collaboration between David Archibald and Carl Lavery from the School of Culture and Creative Arts at the University of Glasgow. It is an attempt to “perform thinking” in front of a live audience, and mixes Brechtian techniques with a glam rock aesthetic. During the performances, our middle-aged glam rockers channel the spirits of Marc Bolan and Suzi Quatro, Karl Marx and Peter Kropotkin, to approach pressing issues facing the world today. In the Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues, the aim is not to teach but to provoke debate, whilst sporting spandex trousers and feather boas.
Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues: 3 – Commune is a dialogic performance which responds to the issues and themes raised in La Commune (Paris, 1871), a six-hour long film about the Paris Commune. Carl and David, two fading glam rockers trying to get their band back on the road, will explore commune as a theoretical concept, the specificities of the Paris Commune and its lessons and afterlives, the role or radical art and culture, and then think through what communism might mean in a twenty-first century context.
Join us for the calm before the storm as we kick back for a relaxed Southside preview of the festival, including a screening of Michael Graversen’s Dreaming of Denmark – there will be cinema and food aplenty.
In this short performative lecture, BFI Flare programmer and writer Jay Bernard will present on the work of Marlon Riggs and the poetics of black queer politics. Using photos, film stills and audio, the piece will look closely at a world that is heavily influenced by language and ask: in the age of hashtags, memes, online activism, multi-issue protests confronting state violence in all its forms, and a renewed call for genuine structural change, how does language operate? How does it shift and change? And what is its world-making potential? From protest chants, to the poetic power of #blacklivesmatter UK, and from the black British arts movement to the work of Riggs himself, The Sound and the State will be an incisive appreciation of black queer language and culture.
In New York City, LGBTQ youth-of-colour gather out on the Christopher Street Pier, practicing a performance-based artform, Ballroom, made famous in the early 1990s by Madonna’s music video Vogue and the documentary Paris Is Burning. 25 years after these cultural touchstones, a new and very different generation of LGBTQ youth have formed an artistic activist subculture – the Kiki Scene. Kiki follows seven characters from the Kiki community over the course of four years, using their preparations and spectacular performances at events known as Kiki balls as a framing device while delving into their battles with homelessness, illness and prejudice as well as their gains towards political influence and the conquering of affirming gender-expressions.
Document, in association with Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow, presents an extremely rare opportunity to watch this extraordinary six-hour long film about the Paris Commune on the big screen. Director Peter Watkins’ previous work includes War Games, a documentary about the fallout of a nuclear attack, which was banned by the BBC for thirty years. In La Commune (Paris, 1871), Watkins turns his attention to the heroic attempts of Parisian workers to build a revolutionary socialist republic. But this is no mainstream historical drama. Rather, Watkins employs experimental cinematic techniques to link the Communards’ struggles to present-day concerns, and to critique the ideological role played by the film and television industry.
Introduced by David Archibald (University of Glasgow).
There will be a 15-minute interval half-way through the film.
A series of short stories from post-revolution Libya, filmed over three years by local emergent filmmakers. In documenting different facets of life in Libya during this turbulent period, the filmmakers have allowed us the chance to see their country beyond the news reports and headlines. Instead, the films are brief insights into the lives of people trying to find normality in a world of chaos and a testament to the courage and resilience of the filmmakers and the Libyan people as a whole.
Migrating is seldom an easy solution. It is rather a journey, that begins with a journey. After more than eight years of campaigning, the immigrant cleaners outsourced at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London continue to demand being brought in-house. Limpiadores charts the history of their and others’ campaigns – from winning the London Living Wage to the deportation of nine colleagues, and the day-to- day invisible labour of cleaners on our campus.
Festival programmers reveal growing tensions and anxiety associated with their role in fact-checking the truthfulness of the documentary films they select. With the growing diversity of documentary forms of expression, the question becomes ever more urgent: who should have the responsibility of the claims presented as true in documentary films at festivals and how are these aspects negotiated by festivals and their stakeholders? This event will raise questions and invite answers from festival programmers, filmmakers, community/activist organisations and audiences alike in the form of a critical forum that follows the Scottish premiere of the feature documentary A Brilliant Genocide by Ebony Butler.
Affirmations (1990) is an exploration of Black gay male desires and dreams, starting with an affectionate, humorous confessional and moving on to a wish for empowerment and incorporation.
Anthem (1991) is Marlon Riggs’ experimental music video politicizing the homoeroticism of African-American men. With images–sensual, sexual and defiant–and words intended to provoke, Anthem reasserts the “self-evident right” to life and liberty in an era of pervasive anti-gay, anti-Black backlash and hysterical cultural repression.
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret) (1993) features a series of interviews with HIV-positive black men. Through music, poetry and quiet – at times chilling – self-disclosure, five seropositive black, gay men speak of their individual confrontations with AIDS, illuminating the difficult journey African-American men make in coping with the personal and social devastation of the epidemic.
This screening will be introduced by Conal McStravick, a London-based artist with a research interest in AIDS crisis video and video activism.
Activist and The Abominable Crime subject Maurice Tomlinson in conversation with Matthew Waites, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow.
Maurice Tomlinson is a Jamaican lawyer, gay rights activist, and educator. He acts as counsel and/or claimant in cases challenging anti-gay laws before the most senior tribunals in the Caribbean and authors reports to regional and UN agencies on the human rights situation for LGBTI people in this region.
From 2009 to 2011, Maurice taught a variety of law courses at the University of Technology in Jamaica, including discrimination law. He was outed as a gay man in 2011, soon after filing a lawsuit against Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws and was forced to flee his native country for Toronto, Canada where he is now a senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Maurice received the inaugural David Kato Vision and Voice Award, which recognizes individuals who defend human rights and the dignity of LGBTI people around the world.
The conversation will focus particularly on Maurice’s experiences as represented in the film, both personally and as a lawyer, activist and educator. In particular discussion will focus on Maurice’s groundbreaking legal action against Jamaica’s criminalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour. This will be discussed in the context of a recent regionally groundbreaking ruling in Belize, and wider debates over national and transnational strategies for claiming human rights in the context of postcolonial power relations.
Matthew Waites is co-editor, with Corinne Lennox, of the open access volume Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change (School of Advanced Study, 2013), which includes two chapters covering Jamaica that discuss legal and activist strategies in postcolonial contexts (online here). He is a co-founder of Glasgow Human Rights Network and an Associate Director of Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, organisations supporting this event.
When the Greek factory of Vio.me. closes down, a group of workers decides to take radical action. They occupy the factory and attempt to operate it themselves, based on the principles of direct democracy. Their venture inspires activists all around the world, while the ex-owner is astonished to see the family business turn into a symbol for the up-and-coming radical left. For the workers, striving to make ends meet, self-management turns out to be an unprecedented adventure, full of conflicts. They soon realise that in order to succeed, the first thing they have to change is themselves.
“I’m not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” Socrates, as quoted in Plutarch’s Of Banishment, graffiti remarked upon in Xenos (Mahdi Fleifel, 2013)
In 2016, what constitutes being a citizen? What structures do refugees have to navigate to survive? Panellists will discuss the refugee experience in 2016, in the light of Brexit and unprecedented tumult across the continent and beyond, and ask how the west’s imagination of itself clashes with the documented reality. How do we reassert the human rights of non-citizens?
BUNKERS (Anne-Claire Adet | France/Switzerland | 2016 | 14m)
A Sudanese journalist has found himself living in cramped dorms with dozens of people, three floors underground. Cockroaches crawl the yellow walls and oxygen is sparse. Switzerland is putting refugees in bunkers. Through the story of Mohammad and images taken by refugees using their mobile phone, live a sensorial immersion into the suffocating life of an underground shelter where asylum-seekers are crammed into upon their arrival in Geneva.
Stateless on Lesvos (Guy Smallman | UK | 2015 | 26m)
Shot over three days on the Greek island now famous for receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees from Turkey. Filmmaker Guy Smallman concentrated not on the refugees themselves but on the incredible dedication and humanity of the Greek and international volunteers assisting the most vulnerable people on the planet as they attempt to reach a place of safety.
Transit Zone (Frederik Subei | UK | 2015 | 32m)
After spending three months living with the refugees in ‘the jungle’, the makeshift camps of Calais, Frederik Subei presents us with the story of Teefa, A Sudanese refugee looking to cross to UK. Life is not easy with limited access to water, food and shelter, especially during the winter. Nevertheless the sense of community is remarkable. Teefa is determined to fulfil his dream and start a new life in England. But sneaking onto a lorry is difficult and only a few people are lucky enough to succeed. Teefa has been stuck in the jungle for almost six months and is tired of this life. As all camps are evicted by the police, he starts to question the greatness of Britain and thinks about applying for asylum in France.
Cuberto Ortíz Ramos has been missing since September 26, 2014. Together with 42 other young students, he was kidnapped in the town of Ayotzinapan. In his rural village, his absence is acutely felt by family, friends and the local band in which he played the trombone.
We open this year’s festival with a haunting and lyrical gem from Mexican director Betzabé García.
The construction of a dam turned the Mexican village of San Marcos into a waterlogged ghost town, but three families refuse to surrender their home to the flood. Even the constant, lurking threat of armed gangs roving the countryside and the loneliness of living amid ruins can’t deter them from their routines. They keep the tortillería open, weed the pavement in the town square, and rove the inundated streets in boats or on horseback. García’s observational approach brings out the humour and eerie beauty of their singular situation.
As protagonist Pani remarks, “In life there are no handles…we are floating in the universe.” Kings of Nowhere is the story of how a town of 300 families became three and how ordinary people survive and respond to the rising tide of fear.
Nine men gather for a workshop on a rooftop. There they perform confrontations of everyday life, with the police and at the workplace. In the process, the actors engage a space between the theatrical and the real. This is not a film about workers. The factory is a microcosm, a miniature Egypt.
With supporting material, this group session aims to tackle the influence of Western privilege on desire and the power dynamics of love relationships – particularly those involving partners of different ethnicities and social backgrounds. An opportunity to ask if love/desire can evade exclusion and in turn offer the possibility to re-engineer our conflicting selves by generating (new) (messier) narratives…
In the form of an open forum, participants will be invited to share experiences and discuss desire through the lens of identity politics to question what makes Western privilege attractive.
Please note the workshop will centre on QTIPOC perspectives.
With respect to their personal experiences, participants must be aware that some of the content and questions raised during the session may be triggering for them.
Tehran, June 2013. Iranians are preparing to elect the new President of the Islamic Republic. Massed in front of their TV, they comment on the presidential campaign broadcast by national channels. The jokes that accompany the parade of candidates betray the spectator’s disappointment. After the 2009 riots, do the Iranian people still believe in politics? In the privacy of their homes, facing the images relayed by satellite feed, state propaganda, images of the West, Egypt or Syria, women and men freely talk about their hopes, their anger and their fears.
In October 2008, Iceland was hit with one of the biggest financial disasters any nation in the world had experienced. In response, citizens took to the streets creating what is now known as the “Pots and Pans Revolution”. Following widespread media silence and a growing global trend towards people-led movements, this documentary explores how and why the people of Iceland resisted the measures imposed by their government following the crisis of 2008 and how they forced their government to resign in an attempt to forge a new political path.
We will be joined after the screening for a Q&A with director Danny Mitchell.
An intimate portrait of the day-to-day life of a dynamic popular resistance leader from Palestine who left her full-time job with the UN to return to her home village of al-Walaja and fight for its survival. Shot on location over a four-year-period, ‘Shireen of al-Walaja’ examines the philosophical and psychological drivers behind tireless resistance, providing a refreshingly candid and inspiring insight into just what it is that motivates someone to become a full-time activist.
With the ardor of his 25 years, Alexei Lungu lives life to the fullest, even if his village is under Soviet occupation. On the night of June 12th 1941, he will be the witness of a deportation orchestrated by the political police and the Red Army. 55 years later, all that is left is the memory of that summer night recounted to his grandson.
A profound, emotional journey, Tempestad weaves together the stories of two women enmeshed in a Kafka-esque spiral of corruption and injustice. The film is a meditation on the notion of “impunidad,” the impunity or unaccountability of those in power, whether the Mexican government or the country’s dense network of drug cartels. Tatiana Huezo’s poetic rendering of Mexico’s invisible war is a work of tremendous cinematic force, reminiscent of the work of Chantal Akerman, touching as it does on the power of familial bonds and the legacy of trauma; a film steeped in loss and pain, but also love, dignity and resistance.
Tempestad will be introduced by artist and filmmaker Carla Novi.
The Abominable Crime is the story Simone, a young lesbian single mother who survives a brutal anti-gay shooting and Maurice, Jamaica’s leading human-rights activist, who is outed shortly after filing a lawsuit challenging his country’s anti-sodomy law. Simone must choose between hiding with her daughter in Jamaica in constant fear for their lives or escaping alone to seek safety and asylum abroad. Maurice, meanwhile, escapes to Canada, and then risks everything to return to continue his activism.
A documentary that reflects on the 2011 killing of Mark Duggan, a young, black, British man, at the hands of London’s Metropolitan Police. Duggan was pulled over by police early one morning, and minutes later, was shot dead. This event sparked the now-infamous Tottenham riots and made headlines around the globe, but, as so often happens, the issue soon dropped from the news reports. Picking up the story where the media left off, George Amponsah’s documentary The Hard Stop brings it back to its roots in Duggan’s neighbourhood, following his friends Marcus and Kurtis as they fight for justice and search for meaning, while struggling against ongoing discrimination in their daily lives.
We will be joined after the screening for a Q&A with director George Amponsah and producer Dionne Walker.
By turns tender and disturbing, the new film from Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini is a powerful docu-fiction hybrid that profiles drug addicts and militia members living on the fringes of society. Throughout, Minervini coaxes his subjects to reveal themselves with a disarming directness, through a mix of direct observation, collaborative dramaturgy and dexterous cinematic technique. The Other Side is a hypnotic, raw and often provocative paean to the American B-side and to complex notions of freedom and security.
When protest fails, what’s left? A hypnotic and unsettling blend of archival footage and music, Then Then Then offers a stark glimpse into the moral struggles of a generation coming to terms with its own inability to affect social change. Lesser-known acts of protest spotlight dissenters’ turn to more radicalized acts of protest against those in power and the machinery designed to stifle their opposition. This meditation on civil disobedience is a timely reminder of the lengths some have gone to in order to have their voices heard.
The seminal documentary on Black gay life, Marlon Riggs’ self-proclaimed “coming out” film uses poetry, personal testimony, rap and performance (featuring poet Essex Hemphill and others), to describe the homophobia and racism that confront Black gay men.
The film weaves together stories of homophobia and racism: a man refused entry to a gay bar because of his colour; a college student left bleeding on the sidewalk after a gay-bashing; the loneliness and isolation of the drag queen. Yet they also affirm the black gay male experience: protest marches, smoky bars, “snap diva”, humorous “musicology” and Vogue dancers.
Tongues Untied will be introduced by writer and director Topher Campbell.
A modern, dizzying, science fiction-like odyssey into the heart of Africa. At the moment when the Sudan, the continent’s biggest country, is being divided into two nations, an old ‘civilizing’ pathology re-emerges – that of colonialism, clash of empires, and renewed episodes of bloody (and holy) wars over land and resources. The director of Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) takes us on this voyage in his tiny, self-made flying machine of tin and canvas, leading us into people’s thoughts and dreams, in both stunning and heartbreaking ways. Adopting a vérité style inflected with elements of surrealism, Sauper pieces together the strange relationships between Chinese oil workers, UN peacekeepers, Sudanese warlords, and American evangelists.
In 2016 Sub-Saharan Africa finds itself at the epicentre of a global conflict between neo-imperial superpowers, with the flows of globalised capitalism converging to inflict environmental degradation and human exploitation on a grotesque scale. Panellists will discuss the central re-formulation of old colonial pathologies and how their representation in cinema might help shape our understanding of a complex and devastating form of 21st century conflict.
We Were Rebels tells the story of Agel, a former child soldier who returns to South Sudan to help build up his country. The film accompanies him over a period of two years – from South Sudan gaining its independence in 2011 to the renewed outbreak of civil war in December 2013. As a child soldier, Agel had to kill and also lost almost all of his male relatives. Later he managed to flee via Kenya to Australia, where he became a professional basketball player and returned to South Sudan a free man. Today, just two years after gaining its independence, the world’s youngest nation is once again teetering on the edge of a precipice: More than half a million people are fleeing the country, and Agel is fighting as a soldier once again.
Director: Katharina von Schroeder / Florian Schewe
A young freedom fighter and a KGB officer both grew up in the Soviet era, and yet made life-changing decisions. Today they are contemplating their past. A dissident’s wife, after many years waiting for her husband to return from a psychiatric prison, tries to fill the abyss of his memory by helping him to tell their story. A writer in the underground press, after being sentenced to seven years of Siberian exile, decides to meet his former interrogator for a cup of coffee. A collector of antiques was arrested in a hotel in Vilnius and kept in isolation for nine months. Thirty years later, he comes back to the same hotel to look for answers. When We Talk About KGB consists of heart-breaking stories, shadowed by grief of Soviet crimes and euphoria over the victory of Lithuanian freedom.
“He belongs to that fraction of humanity which for centuries has made other fractions the objects of contempt and exploitation, then, when it saw the handwriting on the wall, set about to give them back their humanity.”
Trinh T Minh-ha is a filmmaker, writer and composer. Her practice centres around intersection of gender and colonialism. Her film work exposes the processes of othering and the politics of representation. She is Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.
Women, Native, Other at the Pipe Factory will present two of Trinh T Minh-ha’s early film works in series. Poignant and at times disorientating, these early films not only demonstrate the beauty of film but also demand the viewer to question oneself, as spectator.
Reassemblage (7-10 October)
1982 | 40m (loop)
Women are the focus but not the object of Trinh T Minh-ha’s influential first film, a complex visual study of the women of rural Senegal. Through a complicity of interaction between film and spectator, REASSEMBLAGE reflects on documentary filmmaking and the ethnographic representation of cultures.
“With uncanny eloquence, REASSEMBLAGE distills sounds and images of Senegalese villagers and their surroundings to reconsider the premises and methods of ethnographic filmmaking. By disjunctive editing and a probing narration this ‘documentary’ strikingly counterpoints the authoritative stance typical of the National Geographic approach.” — Laura Thielan
Surname Viet, Given Name Nam (8-15 October)
1989 | 1hr 48m (loop)
Of marriage and loyalty: “Daughter, she obeys her father/ Wife, she obeys her husband/ Widow, she obeys her son.”
This profoundly personal documentary explores the role of Vietnamese women historically and in contemporary society. Using dance, printed texts, folk poetry and the words and experiences of Vietnamese women in Vietnam—from both North and South—and the United States, Trinh’s film challenges official culture with the voices of women. A theoretically and formally complex work, SURNAME VIET GIVEN NAME NAM explores the difficulty of translation, and themes of dislocation and exile, critiquing both traditional society and life since the war.
In 2010, Abu Eyad and other young Palestinian men from the Ain el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon travelled with smugglers through Syria and Turkey into Greece. Like so many other migrants, they came looking for a way into Europe but found themselves trapped in a country undergoing economic, political, and social collapse. Xenos (2013) is a short documentary blending footage shot on visits to Athens in 2011 with phone conversations recorded during Abu Eyad’s time there. It tells of his day-to-day struggle for survival and enduring sense of exile in a land of hope that has become a nightmare.
In A Man Returned (2016), Reda is 26 years old. His dreams of escaping the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain El-Helweh ended in failure after three years trapped in Greece. He returned with a heroin addiction to life in a camp being torn apart by internal strife and the encroachment of war from Syria. Against all odds, he decides to marry his childhood sweetheart; a love story, bittersweet as the camp itself.