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28 April 2024: Grandma’s Grammar: Time Machines


Grandma’s Grammar: Time Machines

Introduced by Elena Gorfinkel

Like Chantal Akerman (D’Est) and Barbara Hammer (My Babushka: Searching Ukrainian Identities) Naomi Uman was drawn to return to the Eastern Europe of her great grandparents, in an act of reverse pilgrimage. Uman moved to Ukraine in 2006 (where she lived on and off for ten years), a place her Jewish ancestors had left a century ago to escape persecution. Her “Ukrainian Time Machine” cycle recounts, in the form of short films and longer diaristic compendiums, Uman’s immersion in the rural and village life, and her tutelage by the adopted babushki she met and who took her in.

Naomi Uman, 2008, 10 min, 16mm

Kalendar as its title suggests, is a filmic calendar that collates a visual catalogue of words through their exemplary or phenomenal imagistic correlates. Uman learns the Ukrainian language through analogy, as seasonal objects, rituals and labours, mark time and its passing.

Unnamed Film
Naomi Uman, 2009, 55 min, 16mm

Unnamed Film, a documentary of her stay in the village of Legedzine, examines the village’s life (pickling, farming, bazaars) and its inhabitants, mostly older women, kerchiefed babushki who toil to stave off poverty and sustain cultural ritual. Their bemused faces, hospitality, lilting songs, and acts of preservative care are mediated by Uman’s inquisitive gaze. Both films consider the multiple “languages of the grandmother” as invitations to kindred belongings.

Presented as part of Open City Documentary Festival