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A film programme by the Goethe Institute

May 29 - June 12 at arsenal 3

Our streaming area, which shows works from the Arsenal's collection in a changing programme during the closing time of our both cinemas, will open its platform for the next 14 days for the interdisciplinary digital festival by the Goethe-Institut which presents debates and artistic works to the continued effects of colonial structures in the present.

This film programme curated by Karina Griffith answers the decolonial call of Latitude with an affective, visceral response centered on experiences of memory. The antiphonic, visual and sonic melodies of these films dissonante the clear-cut categories of racism, economy and restitution, representing how these issues fold onto each other, pulling at the seams of our desires to make things right. Each film chants a refrain of circulation and repair. They all deal with mobility, transnational experience and movement, and in one creative way or another, the need for not just institutional or economic, but affective reform. The programme’s title, “Camera Memory for Human Forgetfulness,” is taken from the film FORGETTING VIETNAM by Trinh T. Minh-ha. Her meditative exploration of repair through poetic retellings of history binds the films in this series, a collection of subversive works by artists Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Ng’endo Mukii, Christa Joo Hyun D'Angelo, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor and Thirza Cuthand. Each demonstrate an interest in the affective expression of unequal power structures and the labours of unsettling them.

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FORGETTING VIETNAM is a meditative exploration of history in repair. Nation is rendered affectively through the visual interpretations of the national poem of Vietnam. Trinh’s motifs are water and boat as she alludes to various legends of the water ways on the 40th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War . The film boldly asks, “Can one simply place a war into a museum?” and “Can the survivors of war trauma disremember?” two questions that take on special meaning in Germany and its capital of Berlin. Word fragments drop like rain on the images, introduced with slow zooms outwards from interactions with the sea and inwards towards actions in the metropole. The pastel-coloured text moves, slides, fades, and scrolls across the screen. Consisting of quotes, notes on the technical recording devices (video in Hi-8 from 1995 and high definition in 2012) and rhetorical questions, the text is an ever present voice, confident but not above self critique. “Camera memory for human forgetfulness...or is it the other way around?” Trinh’s editing is active in its presence; it calls attention to the construction of the cinematic text. Wipes, picture in picture, slides, cross fades and retro iris box transitions weave this moving image journal together. Reversals and repetition dissuade a chronological understanding of time in this video essay about leaving and returning.

Restitution comes in the form of European medical treatment for Lillian, a refugee turned activist in Christa Joo D’Angelo’s empathic portrait PROTEST AND DESIRE. Lillian patiently allays assumptions about living as a migrant in Germany with HIV and teases out the experience of “Europe as therapy.” D’Angelo’s pastel palette creates an atmosphere of harmony and tranquility, while Lillian’s bold and and assured statements leave an unforgettable impression, strong enough to collapse stereotypes. A moving story about how migration saves lives and how courageous migrants work everyday to change patterns of neocolonial thinking.

Patterns play a different role in the animations PORTRAIT OF MARIELLE FRANCO and HOMMAGE TO WANGARI MAATHAI. These ecclectic, hand-painted transatlantic portraits were made collectively and collaboratively during workshops in Nairobi and Salvador de Bahia respectively. One is a colourful and invigorating celebration of late Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist who in in the late 1960s conducted doctoral research at the University of Giessen and the University of Munich in Germany, returned to Nairobi to found the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and later serve as a member of parliament. The film celebrates her Nobel Prize honour. The second film is a similarly hand-drawn tribute to Brazilian activist Marielle Franco, a politician and activist who was murdered in 2018. A city councillor of the Municipal Chamber of Rio de Janeiro, Franco fought for reproductive rights and end to gender violence. Director Ng’endo Mukii mixes footage of people protesting Franco’s assignation with shots of Franco walking the favelas, a combination that combusts time and animates a living memory. The two short animations celebrate women from the global south and affectively portray the energies in circulation through sharing stories about Black women and resistance.

LA JAVANAISE patiently portrays the circulation of goods and the affective relationship of fashion to nationality. The Dutch fabric maker Vlisco has been producing fabric for the West African market since the 1830s. Known colloquially as Java Holland Wax, the patterns and process for making the prints developed from attempts to imitate Indonesian batik, which ended up finding customers in West Africa. On a leisurely walk through the former Colonial Museum in Amsterdam, fashion model Sonja Wanda and artist Charl Landvreugd (also a former model) engage with the space while they speak about the experiences of working for Dutch fabric company that produces African prints. Strolling the museum, the two enter the private spaces of the museum and expose the fetishes of the archive. The voice of theorist David Dibosa to the conversation to contextualize the relationship to Javanese Batiks, while Landvreugd and Wanda exchange stories about the subversiveness of messages in patterns and particular ways of sharing signs by wearing cloth.

Land bears the signs of home in the queer, indigenous road movie HOMELANDS. Thirza Cuthand takes us to the places where her grandparents, of Cree and Irish decent, called home. Cuthand’s tender, DIY attention to video documentation and archival footage along with her wry wit accompany the stories of her elders. Cuthand’s great great grandfather was wounded while fighting the Canadian government in the 1885 North West rebellion, along with other First Nations Cree and Assiniboine of the District of Saskatchewan. Cuthand’s great grandmother came to Canada in a wartime convoy from Scotland in 1916. The film weaves stories of survival through homemovies and interviews to portray the endurance of amily and memory.

Memory is tactile in Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor’s gentle film MUTTERERDE. The German title can be translated to mean “mother earth”, but is also a term for the rich, fertile topsoil essential for plant life. The film plays with this double meaning as it interweaves the narratives of transnational Black femmes and their mothers. The film is a fecund safer space of feminist tellings of stories of resistance and an hommage to womxns gardens. Across experiences spanning five countries, the womxn trace the matriarchal knowledge of their families, acknowledge the interruptions in their cultural archiving caused by trauma and neo-colonial structures and celebrate the womxn who made them great.

The idea of mother as “home” continues in the MOTHER, I AM SUFFOCATING. THIS IS MY LAST FILM ABOUT YOU. Black and white, pensive and passionate in its expression of sorrow, the essay film by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese is an intimate farewell letter painstakingly written, but never sent. How can you say goodbye to your homeland? Citing European films and their cinematic goodbyes, the distracted voice shares snippets of intimate memories with pop culture references. The echoing and crackling lament of the voiced letter feels thrice removed, a sonic representation of memories recalled in exile. Drenched in perspiration and dragging a wooden cross, Mosese’s barefoot protagonist crosses contemporary Lesotho, occasionally returning our gaze and those of the unimpressed onlookers in the street. They are accompanied by another figure, a beautiful fairy with translucent wings who dances and smiles at the camera. These two characters, one laden and one light, lead us through the city. The film speaks in images of empty markets, bare landscapes and intimate gazes; portraits that resonate when juxtaposed with the elegiac voiceover. Camera memory is captured in sumptuous long takes, occasional hand-held camera shots, vivid freeze-frames and pointed extreme close-ups. Mosese’s Lesotho is modern, picturesque and complex.

The human forgetfulness recollected by this selection of journal films each have their own syntax of scrapbook storytelling; their personal and tender approaches get under your skin and harken to memories connected to our senses. Soft and sensitive in their mediation of testimonies, the films go beyond discussion of political, social and economic inequalities to ask how moving image can capture the affective debt of atrocities past and present.
(Karina Griffith)

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media