Close Up

10 September 2022: What Rules the Invisible


What Rules the Invisible
Tiffany Sia, 2022, 10 min

Artist Tiffany Sia reworks a body of archival travelogue shot by amateurs in Hong Kong across the 20th century to create a portrait of a place as seen by outsiders. Patterns and tropes recur to reveal the idealised views seen by the tourist: the mountain, the dense urban skyline, junks sailing in the bay. This visual material is set against text intertitles in which the filmmakers mother describes an experience of life in Hong Kong that is absent from the images onscreen. The fragments of text reveal the mundane as well as moments of fear and squalor: colonial police, excrement, and hauntings in Kowloon in the post-war era. Sia combines image and text to explore the space between an idealised vision of Hong Kong and a lived reality.   

Maxime Jean-Baptiste, 2022, 17 min
French with English subtitles

Largely made using archival material shot on a VHS camcorder in 1990s French Guiana, this film allows for the reworking and reclaiming of a specific moment – a celebration after the screening of the film Jean Galmot, aventurier (Alain Maline, 1990). Maxime Jean-Baptiste’s father, and many other locals appeared in the film, co-opted into a narrative that served French discourse around their colonial presence in South America. The footage originates from a contemporaneous documentary as the director reflects on the context of the making of Maline’s film. Images are slowed down and the glitch in the pixelated VHS material becomes more visible, allowing for new questions to arise from the archival material. The original moment is reconsidered through a post-colonial lens.  

Wiame Haddad, 2021, 4 min

This silent 4-minute short film is filmed entirely on Super 8 stock and describes the details that build a life. All the shots take place within a quiet domestic setting that we are led to believe is an October evening in Paris, 1961. The clock and a crumpled newspaper reveal the context of this particular moment, a poster on the wall calls people to join a pacifist march for Algerian Independence. A man re-enacts his departure from the room, leaving the safe space of his attic to join the protest, a witness to history. The scene is revealed as a fabrication as the film shifts from colour to black and white, past and present, the imagined and the real. This is the reconstruction of a historical moment through carefully composed and observed details.  

Silence Along the River
Sherko Abbas, 2021, 7 min
Kurdish with English subtitles

This film consists of a single sequence drawn from the personal archives of the filmmaker’s father Abbas Abdulraza, a Kurdish freedom fighter and cameraman. In 1985, he accompanied a group of fellow soldiers to document an attack mission on a military camp in northern Iraq. Abdulraza gathered a vast quantity of material relating to this conflict, and here his son Sherko Abbas uses the material as found. The footage captures the men as they navigate a small raft along the Sirwan River, through a perilous region then controlled by the Iraqi army. Abdulraza records from the boat on a VHS camcorder as they row in silence, and when the soldiers arrive at the bank they break into song. The resulting film is a remarkable vignette of war and resistance, a quietly radical act in recontextualising found footage.

Oraib Toukan, 2021, 28 min
Arabic with English subtitles

“Sound is the biggest weapon”, says Palestinian artist and father Salman Nawati at the beginning of Oraib Toukan’s short film Offing. Recorded online in the aftermath of the 2021 war in Gaza, Nawati’s testimony describes his attempts to protect his daughters from seeing the war unfolding around them. He turns off the television and encourages them into a virtual world of video games, yet it’s impossible to remove the sonic violence that enters their apartment as Israeli missiles detonate outside. Against Nawati’s words, Toukan places diaristic images collected outside of Gaza over the same period; these range from the mundane to the sublime, and from the domestic to the overtly political. Voice and image act in dialogue with each other telling two experiences of the war interwoven through the film.

I'll Be Back!
Hope Strickland, 2022, 10 min

This film begins and ends with the story of the rebel slave François Mackandal. In 1758, Mackandal was condemned to be burned at the stake, not only for his crimes but also for his radical powers of metamorphosis. Filmed in archives and museums across the UK, I’ll Be Back! explores a series of collections containing objects of colonial violence. Amongst these is a book containing a diagram of a slave ship, a key document in the abolitionist movement widely published for its shocking nature, and a collection of insects gathered in Sierra Leone by a colonial topographer mapping borders and defining British and French territory in West Africa. Shifting across digital, 16mm and archival formats, the film interrogates institutional collecting practices and reconsiders the artifacts of a colonial past.

Morgan Quaintance, 2022

The “Miniatures” are an ongoing series of compact films Morgan Quaintance is continually producing. These short shorts are all under four minutes long and allow Quaintance to explore a single formal or conceptual idea. The process of realisation can either be loose and improvisatory or time intensive and heavily edited. Each of the films uses either archival material, or footage Quaintance has shot using a DV of High 8 video camera. Using these mediums, instead of 16mm, allows for quicker production and a more intuitive approach.

Followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers

Screening as part of the Open City Documentary Festival