O, Persecuted (excerpt) by Basma Alsharif

EPFC | November 10th, 2015

guest curator: Mia Ferm

This week under the theme of “Reconstructing Memory”—where we’re exploring short films that use archival image materials to reexamine in unconventional ways the past and its representations—I’ve selected one of the latest works by filmmaker and artist Basma Alsharif (who is currently based in LA!). The 12 minute “O, Persecuted” takes footage from the 1974 Palestinian militant film called “Our Small Houses” by Kassem Hawal. In a way the film is performed, which I think very much links it to Basma’s other works, as someone (and I’m guessing its Basma herself) paints black paint onto the surface on which the image was projected, but in reverse, and at 2.5 times the speed. What we see then is the black being unpainted from the surface, the images being uncovered, revealed.

A couple of things about the online link and the film itself: first, the link is to an excerpt so you’ll get a good 3.5 minute taste of the film; and second the original film, “Our Small Houses,” had just recently been restored. These two things speak to me about the two intertwining concepts of accessibility and preservation, so I’ll quickly pose a couple of questions. Should we expect everything to be available online? I’m not so sure. A lot of things that I thought about sharing as part of MMM are simply not available (now, ever?). Is restoration what made it possible for this film to be made? Perhaps, though I don’t know. But if it were, one might wonder at all the other images that are waiting to be re-discovered (or hoping not to be). But to fill you in on what you don’t see from this excerpt: The film opens on black with the sound of marching feet and moves quickly into the distorted fluttering or shuttering sound evocative of…motors, machine guns, the quickly flapping wings of a moth, or maybe a film projector. And at the end, a surprising twist in which the film erupts, first via soundtrack, from a woman bellydancing and then her image superimposed onto a contemporary, colorful scene of an MTV-style beach club, techno beats and all. This is how one gets catapulted into a present state. Speaking generally about her work, Basma writes “Information is never objective, documentary is not a representation of a “real” event, and experimental cinema offers various aesthetic structures through which to find alternative ways of delivering information.” This digging through the archive and experimenting with how those images/information is delivered, perhaps its kind of like a radical visual archeology…