Sheep – as far as the eye can see. The anthro­pol­o­gists and film­mak­ers Lucien Cas­taing-Taylor and Ilisa Bar­bash spent three sum­mers doc­u­ment­ing sheep farm­ing at one of the last family-owned ranch­es in the Absaro­ka-Beartooth Moun­tains. A sheep eats, and we see and hear it chew and the tinkle of the bell around its neck. Then it dis­cov­ers the camera and fixes its eyes on us, freez­ing the image. Now all we hear is the wind. Orig­i­nal sound of this kind helps lend pre­ci­sion to every shot. During shear­ing we can actu­al­ly feel the phys­i­cal exer­tion of the shep­herds and the dazed state of the sheep. The order of the gaze in space ana­lyzes the rela­tion­ship of a new­born lamb to the herd, to its mother, and to the shep­herd. Then a thou­sand sheep push through a gate or follow the trail of grass left by a feed­ing machine, and it has the effect of a crowd scene in an epic film. By the time we have reached the top of the moun­tain and the herder calls his mother com­plain­ing of knee pain, our image of the lonely shep­herd has been replaced by that of the cowboy. In scenes like this and in the coarse humor of the ranch­ers as they handle the ani­mals during brand­ing lies the story of free-range sheep farm­ing in the Amer­i­can West, a story that began in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry and is now slowly coming to an end.

Moving is a Blessing

After having lived in the Nether­lands for over 20 years, my par­ents, Gulzar and Shwan, decid­ed to move back to Kur­dis­tan. Escap­ing the Iraqi regime as refugees in the early ‘90s, Iraqi Kur­dis­tan has recent­ly devel­oped into a region­al safe-haven. How­ev­er, with cur­rent ten­sions around the threat of the Islam­ic State (IS), the social and polit­i­cal land­scape is chang­ing dras­ti­cal­ly. In MOVING IS A BLESSING I follow my par­ents’ return to their home­land whilst address­ing notions of belong­ing, transna­tion­al­ism, tem­po­ral­i­ty and (re)imagining future hori­zons.” (Lana Askari)

Iraqi Odyssey

The lives of the mem­bers of Samir’s Iraqi family – pro­tag­o­nists in a ver­i­ta­ble odyssey now living in the dias­po­ra – pro­vide the film­mak­er with an oppor­tu­ni­ty to explore the his­to­ry of the Arab world beyond the clichés. The direc­tor intro­duces us to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions of a sec­u­larised, also reli­gious, but always pro­gres­sive bour­geoisie and reveals a whole Arab uni­verse that would seem to have been for­got­ten. We revis­it the Ottoman era, the years of the British Man­date estab­lished by the League of Nations, the bid for inde­pen­dence, the takeover by the Baath Party and the country’s rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion under Saddam Hus­sein, as well as the West’s shared respon­si­bil­i­ty in the col­lapse of large parts of this world. Samir’s rel­a­tives are scat­tered all over the planet. They miss their home deeply. Samir’s father, who decid­ed to return to Iraq, was killed during the Iran-Iraq War. The film’s direc­tor has devel­oped a crit­i­cal if ambiva­lent regard for Switzer­land where he grew up; he now sees his home as an exam­ple of the more or less tol­er­ant co-exis­tence of very dif­fer­ent people and cul­tures. (Berli­nale)


Films: u.a. MORLOVE -ODE AN HEISENBERG (1986), FILOU (1988), ALWAYS & FOREVER (1991), BABYLON 2 (1993), FORGET BAGHDAD (2002), SNOW WHITE (2005).



İQué viva México!

Sergei Eisen­stein planned to make an opus magnum about Mexico and its cul­ture. He wanted to cap­ture the spirit of Mexico in a film with a pro­logue, four episodes, and an epi­logue, por­tray­ing the dri­ving forces that have shaped its his­to­ry – life vs. death, beauty vs. cor­rup­tion, free­dom vs. oppres­sion, and hea­then cul­tures vs. Chris­tian­i­ty. How­ev­er, he was unable to finish his project due to prob­lems with his Amer­i­can spon­sors, who final­ly stopped pro­duc­tion after Eisen­stein, Grig­ori Alexan­drov and the cam­era­man Eduard Tissé had worked for one year with­out pay.

The already filmed episodes became the basis for many film ver­sions that were later made. Grig­ori Alexan­drov made his own expand­ed and mon­taged ver­sion, which offers “a glimpse of what could have been. Qué viva México! is not a time­less film, it is a movie very much of its time (think Zap­atista). Its title could also be Long Live the Rev­o­lu­tion!”(Film­mu­se­um Wien)

Gbanga Tita

The Baka pyg­mies live in the rain forest of south­ern Cameroon. Lengé is the sto­ry­teller of his tribe. For seven min­utes, the camera films the old man’s slight­ly sway­ing body and face from a per­spec­tive that seems weight­less and main­tains a respect­ful, involved dis­tance. Lengé knows the sto­ries about the world’s begin­ning, the monot­o­nous songs about Tibala the white ele­phant, the leg­endary turtle, and the bird Fofolo, whom he saw chas­ing sun­beams. With his face and voice, Lengé con­jures up the ancient god of the cal­abash­es, Gbanga Tita. At the end of the film, we are told that Lengé died short­ly after film­ing. He was the last sto­ry­teller in this part of the forest.

The laundry room

In a Lau­sanne hous­ing block with 80 ten­ants who have multi-lin­gual names that the mail­man will never be able to remem­ber, the renters from many dif­fer­ent nations share four wash­ing machines and dryers. Each hous­ing unit is allowed to do laun­dry once a week for two hours. This may sound simple, but it does not work well. Despite the sched­ule on the wall, the new wash­ing woman Clau­d­i­na is con­tin­u­ous­ly bom­bard­ed with all sorts of com­plaints, and not only regard­ing the laun­dry. As the machines whirl and spin, people’s frus­tra­tions boil over.

Vir­tu­al­ly the entire film, the camera stays in the narrow hall­way, where the minis­cule wash­room is wedged between the entrance and the ele­va­tor (not in the base­ment, as one would expect, because that is where sev­er­al pros­ti­tutes live). It is right in the middle of con­stant coming and going. This tight space becomes the stage where ten­sions build up. The film team is also drawn into the drama. The key to the wash­room may not be the key to the world, but it unlocks the door to a highly top­i­cal film about every­day life in Europe, not just on society’s margins.

Frédéric Florey and Flo­ri­ane Devi­gne take us on a static jour­ney of dis­cov­ery into a rarely seen world inside Switzer­land: the world of the social­ly exclud­ed people. It is a rather black comedy set inside the laun­dry room of a Lau­sanne apart­ment block. The foun­da­tions of soci­ety itself are sketched out or per­ceived in this micro­cosm where dirty laun­dry is almost aired in public.” (www.visionsdureel.ch)

Scent of revolution

Four people recount­ing their expe­ri­ences in Egypt: The owner of the largest col­lec­tion of photo neg­a­tives in the coun­try, a Coptic polit­i­cal activist, an elder­ly social­ist writer, and a younger cyber­space design­er. The first two have been living in Luxor for decades. They talk about how cor­rup­tion has destroyed the city little by little, leav­ing it a domi­cile with no space for its actual people. The other two live in Cairo – but the writer is a man living in a dif­fer­ent time, and the design­er a woman living in anoth­er world. Back in the 1980s, he wrote about his dis­en­chant­ment with the 1952 rev­o­lu­tion, com­par­ing past and present. She has devel­oped a space of vir­tu­al pos­si­bil­i­ty in Second Life, where she invites a Salafist to meet her as an avatar at Tahrir Square. The scent of rev­o­lu­tion is bewitch­ing and can be found all over the place, it is intan­gi­ble and ephemer­al. A fresh scent can remind you of some­thing from the past. A rev­o­lu­tion is usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with a place and a year, yet it is pre­cise­ly this sort of restric­tion that usu­al­ly brings about it its fail­ure. ARIJ gen­er­ates space and time in all direc­tions, thus giving the rev­o­lu­tion room to breathe.

Soote Payan

Niki Karimi plays a doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er, who in order to make ends meet, also makes com­mer­cial TV series. During the course of her latest project she and her hus­band Saman dis­cov­er that a young actress they employ is living a night­mare. She tries to sell a kidney because her mother is charged with murder and sen­tenced to hang; she can’t afford the blood money that would free her under sharia law. Sahar is des­per­ate to help, but the men in her life are reluc­tant at best - and dis­tract­ed by fol­low­ing the World Cup on TV. Karimi poignant­ly con­trasts the arti­fice of the film busi­ness with real-life adver­si­ty; the roving hand­held camera skill­ful­ly frames the grim story against the colour­ful, bustling streets of Tehran. FINAL WHISTLE tack­les a few con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects of Iran­ian soci­ety all crammed into one film.

The Virgin, the Copts and Me

Namir’s mother is a Coptic Chris­t­ian. She is con­vinced that she can see an appari­tion of the Virgin Mary on a video tape orig­i­nat­ing from her home in Egypt. Her son, who has been raised in a sec­u­lar envi­ron­ment in France, decides to make a film about the phe­nom­e­non and trav­els to Egypt to visit his rel­a­tives. Hoping to under­stand the con­nec­tion between appear­ances of the Virgin to the Copt minor­i­ty and recent events in Egypt­ian his­to­ry he soon dis­cov­ers plenty of obsta­cles. First­ly there are his par­ents who inter­fere in the film and crit­i­cise his ideas; then there’s his French pro­duc­er who wants to change the film every few weeks and final­ly, the inhab­i­tants of his family’s Coptic vil­lage. Des­per­ate, Namir decides to create his own ver­sion of the Virgin Mary’s appear­ance. To realise his plan he will need to enlist the aid of the vil­lagers and his mother; the latter soon joins him in Egypt and proves to be remark­ably capable.

A humor­ous fic­tion­al doc­u­men­tary and family-drama-cum-cul­ture-clash about reli­gion in the dias­po­ra, the art of cinema and the bound­less cre­ativ­i­ty of the film­mak­ers. Making good use of his mother as the film’s won­der­ful main pro­tag­o­nist, this direc­to­r­i­al debut charm­ing­ly and wit­ti­ly expos­es the manip­u­la­tive aspects of doc­u­men­tary filmmaking.