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29 May 2018: Notes Towards an African Orestes


Notes Towards an African Orestes
Pier Paolo Pasolini
1970 | 63 min | Colour | Digital
Italian with English subtitles

“While shooting Medea, a film about the subjugation of the ancient world to an alienating modernity, Pasolini developed the idea to make a companion piece about another Greek myth – the story of Orestes. This story would end more happily, with the archaic making way for a different kind of modernity, built not on exploitation but on communalism. Encouraged by emerging socialist governments in post-colonial Africa, Pasolini hoped to shoot his film there, and so he went to Uganda and Tanzania to scout for locations and actors. That footage became the basis for this film, with Pasolini explaining his ideas on the soundtrack. A perfect example of leftist intellectual auto-critique, the film climaxes with Pasolini discussing his plans with a group of African students in Rome. The discussion hovers somewhere between tragedy and farce as one by one, the students calmly and kindly offer numerous reasonable objections to Pasolini’s idea, all of which he seems to take in stride. The Oresteia project was never made. Little-seen and little-discussed, the film is essential viewing for understanding Pasolini’s political thinking and his attachment to myth.” – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our season on Pier Paolo Pasolini