Not Sorry #3: Home (NYC)

Not Sorry #3: Home – May 12, 2019
Anthology Film Archives
New York, New York

Program Notes:
Stories of political and social upheaval are often accompanied by typical media images of suffering or violence. But the resulting displacement, whether physical or psychological, can be an experience both individual and collective. People carry tradition and ritual across borders and time, but also within their own daily realities. How can such traumas, expressions of longing for a place that may not really exist, or even celebratory moments of finding home, be represented? This third program pursues the general theme of home and how the female voice may call to it, reject it, or endure it. Included is Basma Alsharif’s HOME MOVIES GAZA, a view from a domestic space in one of the most contested territories in modern politics; Barbara McCullough’s WATER RITUAL #1, a film set in a demolished area of Watts that through performance expresses Black women’s ongoing struggle for spiritual and psychological space; and Yau Ching’s in-camera edited VIDEO LETTERS 1-3, which served as the nomadic Hong Kong video artist’s preferred mode of communication to the people she missed.

Basma Alsharif HOME MOVIES GAZA (France/Palestine, 2013, 24 min, )
Avoiding stereotypical representations of suffering Palestinians seen in the Western media, Alsharif instead appropriates military technologies of surveillance and attack to shoot her “home movies.”

Banal images of turkeys, peacocks and horses in a yard become infused with violence through the use of military targeting technologies: a timer runs on the screen and signs of life are marked for death through their transformation into blue targets. The technology avoids representations of violence while signifying an ongoing suspended violence through the medium of vision itself. Alsharif asks how the occupied territories are made to appear and under what conditions.  Appropriating the technologies of military vision reveals the ways they circumscribe and render impossible a normal daily life in Gaza, ending with a reverse track through a Gazan yard shot in night vision, turning a scene of civilization into a jungle mission evoking colonial ideas of dark and savage continents.

The exposure of Gaza as a space circumscribed by the necropolitical is compounded by the film’s soundtrack, which is composed of military drones, helicopters and other omnipresent acoustic reminders of the Israeli military’s dominance over the area.

I was born in Kuwait, a place none of my parents have any connection to and where I haven’t been to outside of my birth. From there, we moved to France, and eight years hence, to the States, where we kept moving as well. As a child, there wasn’t a single place I could call home. The area most familiar to me because my ancestors lived there is Palestine—more specifically, the Gaza strip— which ironically has deteriorated over the years and so, I am left with no place I truly belong to. I am homeless. —Basma Alsharif

Barbara McCullough WATER RITUAL #1: AN URBAN RITE OF PURIFICATION (U.S., 1979, 5 min, 35mm)
Out of UCLA in the late 1960s and in the aftermath of the Watts Uprising, the LA Rebellion was formed: a group of African and African-American filmmakers who “collectively imagined and created a Black cinema against the conventions of Hollywood and blaxploitation film” (Zeinabu irene Davis). Like many of her fellow artists in the group, Barbara McCullough often sought out “collaborative practices to create other selves, communities, histories, and futures despite political and art historical marginalization” (Rebecca Peabody), incorporating other art forms such as performance and dance into her (?) moving-image work. WATER RITUAL #1: AN URBAN RITE OF PURIFICATION, “a work explicitly about the healing potential of finding one’s own ritual” (Peabody), features performance artist Yolanda Vidato as Milanda, interacting with the space and soil of a desolate urban landscape seemingly out of time and place, but which was actually an area in Watts that had initially been cleared to make way for the I-5 freeway and then abandoned. “This layering of locations and temporalities continues to the film’s striking conclusion, in which a now nude Milanda squats and urinates inside an urban ruin.  By making “water,” Milanda evokes the numerous female water-based figures in African-Diaspora cosmology as she attempts to expel the putrefaction she has absorbed from her physical environment, while symbolically cleansing the environment itself” (Jacqueline Stewart).

“The major achievement of the film lies in its celebration of the female body as a force of nature unencumbered by the constraints of civilization.” —Ntongela Masilela

Mounira al Solh NOW EAT MY SCRIPT (Lebanon, 2014, 25 min, digital)
Mounira al Solh’s NOW EAT MY SCRIPT takes as one of its themes the lives of refugee populations in Lebanon. Her narrator silently (through titles) describes herself observing refugees from her window as she sits, pregnant and trying to write, distracted by hunger, a desire for sex, and memory. Al Solh raises questions about trauma and the capacity to represent it for others and for the self in images and in writing. Al Solh offers the viewer graphic details of certain objects, while refusing to show typical media images of suffering or violence in the region. Instead she questions the banality of these images and their abstraction from the complex reality of everyday life for refugees and citizens (many of whom are former refugees, like the narrator) in Beirut, from which she writes. In this way she refuses a tokenizing Western gaze on her region, while asserting the humanity—from hunger to horniness to distractedness—of people living their daily reality in the midst of great political and social upheavals.

Pola Weiss Álvarez CIUDAD, MUJER, CIUDAD (Mexico, 1985, 15 min, video)
A video art pioneer in Mexico, Pola Weiss was deeply engaged with television in an art context and staged performances, dance, and music for video while also exploring the limits of the format through technological experimentation. CIUDAD, MUJER, CIUDAD, which translates from Spanish to City, Woman, City, is just that, a poetic visual interplay between woman and city. An early example of her more expressionistic works, she uses video synthesizers to create image feedback and loops that manipulate the shape, tone, and landscape of the female body. Intercut with scenes and architecture of the urban environment, it is an attempt to deconstruct and reconceptualize those relationships between the female body and the city. While her technique has direct influence from video artists Shigeko Kubota and Nam June Paik, Weiss brings a sensitivity to the subjects and themes of her work: personal identity, cultural roots, and daily life in Mexico.

Yau Ching VIDEO LETTERS 1-3 (Hong Kong, 1993, 11 min, digital)
Hong Kong artist Yau Ching deconstructs the diary film in her series of three “letters.” The films are letters without a clear recipient or a coherent message; often even the image is difficult to fully comprehend (as a frequent traveler, she uses whatever technology is most accessible to her, from Fisher Price Pixelvision to Super-8). The video letters speak to Ching’s border-crossing transnational experience as an artist and Hong Kong citizen and deny the viewer a vision of the filmmaker as unified expressive subjectivity. Ching’s insistence on the accessibility of formats like Super-8 is also true of the diary form itself: a personal genre of filmmaking, it has been, and continues to be, a way that women and feminists make private worlds public.

This program is co-curated by Mia Ferm (Northwest Film Center and Cinema Project) and Kristin Lené Hole, professor in Film Studies at Portland State University.