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hold on to her

Film still from Robin Vanbesien’s film “hold on to her”. Two people lean towards a microphone that stands between them. A blurry unlit face can be seen on the left side of the frame.
© Visualantics, Timely
  • Director

    Robin Vanbesien

  • Belgium / 2024
    80 min. / Original version with English subtitles

  • Original language

    Kurdish, Dutch, French, English

hold on to her traces a lived social infrastructure of care, solidarity, and struggle, addressing a recent case of police and state violence in Belgium. Mawda Shawri, two years old in 2018, sister of Hama, daughter of Phrast and Shamden, was shot dead by a Belgian police officer during a migration border control. In 2023, over 40 people, both undocumented and documented resident activists, assembled before the camera at La Voix des Sans Papiers in Brussels to stage a collective hearing of documents from and reactions to Mawda’s case. During this gathering, the speakers acknowledge a ghostly haunting, caused by the impunity of the police and the lack of accountability of the state. It is in their refusal of such a lack of truth and human rights that they feel the need to explore beyond the official narratives. They produce the forensic counter evidence of this deadly crossing, and they practice justice as a sensuous social space for collective mourning and healing. Faced with the inability to proceed within the dominant frameworks, this hearing challenges what is visible and audible, supported by Vanbesien’s audiovisual grammar, which foregrounds the opaque and the poetic.

As a visual artist and filmmaker, Robin Vanbesien explores modes of embodied knowledge and collective imagination engaged in social and political struggles. His recent films, the wasp and the weather (2019) and Under These Words (Solidarity Athens 2016) (2017), offer insights into the everyday poetics of social networks and movements. In 2020, Vanbesien co-founded The Post Film Collective, which explores cinema as a form of speculative rehearsal and communal assembly, with Rerooting (2023) as its first film.

Production Steven Dhoedt. Production companies Visualantics (Brüssel, Belgium), timely (Brüssel, Belgium). Director Robin Vanbesien. Screenplay Robin Vanbesien. Cinematography Robin Vanbesien, Diren Agbaba. Editing Robin Vanbesien. Music The Murmur of Wonder Collective. Sound design Boris Debackere. Sound Thomas Ferrando, Laurens De Smet, Gedeon Depauw, Kwinten Van Laethem. Executive producer Steven Dhoedt. Co-producer Robin Vanbesien. With Henriette Essami-Khaullot, Aïsta Bah, Thierno Dia, Ahmed Rzgar, Mirra Markhaeva, Marcus Bergner, Lazara Rosell Albear, Khaled Zead, Naomi van Kleef.

Films: 2017: Under These Words (Solidarity Athens 2016) (52 min.). 2019: the wasp and the weather (19 min.). 2024: hold on to her.

Bonus Material

Program Schedule

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur