rich in historical complexity. The ‘thug’ in the work’s title references a mythical cult of Indian murderers who became a pretext for predictive policing during the British colonial rule with lasting effects in the contemporary world.
The ‘Exposing Territories’ programme assembled by de Witt deepens and extends re lections of racism, history, archiving and memory. Critic and artist Morgan Quaintance’s Missing Time, 2019, is one of his most convincing and resolved moving-image works, seamlessly fusing a case of alien abduction with issues around Britain’s colonial history in Kenya and the forgetting that engulfs it. Onyeka Igwe’s No Archive Can Restore You offers a glimpse at a rotting ilm archive in Nigeria, with ilm reels lost to mounds of dust and chemical degradation (Pro ile AM439). Miranda Pennell’s Strange Object continues her previous archival-essayistic ilm work, this time exploring the connections between the imaging technologies of aerial photography and the disembodied violence of modern warfare. Here, early RAF images of Somaliland a hundred years ago both document sites of resistance by the forces of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan and map out their destruction from above by the British colonial forces.
Curated by Perks, the ‘Speculative Futures’ programme continues her wider curatorial work on socio-political issues of affect, desire and performance. ‘Speculative Futures’ is described in the online press blurb as consisting of works that ‘have a stake in this planet and demand a request for a better tomorrow’. High ambitions indeed. One focus here is the voices of youth in rethinking the future, notably in Stanya Kahn’s No Go Backs, which centres on the past, present and future ecological crises of California, and Matt Hulse’s Sound for the Future, which explores the ilmmakers’ youthful non-career in The Hippies, the band he formed with his siblings in the late 1970s. The latter is hardly as radical as the rest of the programme aspires to be, but it does hint at gentler forms of performative resistance. Mikhail Karikis’s Ferocious Love centres on a group of young adults in a postapocalyptic future, all ilmed in a style I can best describe as Brechtian BBC, with stilted performances and mise-en-scene that foreground the textual above the dramaturgical. Less successful in the exploration of youth’s destabilising or resistance forces was Down There The Sea Folk Live, Stan Greengrass’ somewhat literal video on transgender performance, and Gaby Sahhar’s atomised urban-noir Truth and Kinship.
Works here were at their utopian best when they pointed away from the irst-person ‘I’ to a collective ‘we’. Rhea Storr’s Here is the Imagination of the Black Radical, for example, points to that rich terrain of the Bakhtinian carnival as a site of resistance in public space, while Jacqueline Lentzou’s The End of Suffering is a sci- i dream in the vein of Chris Marker’s epistolary works: a young woman weeps; she can’t stop; her sobs are answered by a voice from the sky; it is a Martian voice that berates humankind’s search for reasons and narrative cohesion, pointing forward to new global forms of co-existence. Other examples of enmeshed empathy include Adonia Bouchehri’s odd and affecting Jello, a lockdown gem capturing a process of self-othering as a irst-person narrator begins to fantasise about leaving the suffocating con ines of her apartment and joining a pack of rats, running free, and Ann Oren’s Passage, which features a beguiling queer performance in which a naked foley artist transforms into a horse by mimicking the animal’s tail-swish, snorts and hoof clip-clops. Such works point us towards a collective space of solidarity and difference, a place that is captured too loosely by those static nouns ‘cinema’ and ‘art’. Colin Perry is a senior lecturer in Fine Art at Arts University Bournemouth. His forthcoming book is titled Radical Mainstream: Independent Film, Video and Television in Britain, 1974–1990.
Jasmila Žbanić: Quo Vadis, Aida? 8,372. Eight thousand, three hundred and seventy-two. That is the number of fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons, husbands, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbours and lovers Bosnian women lost during the mass murder and genocide at the hands of Ratko Mladić’s Bosnian Serb Army in Srebrenica in July 1995. Jasmila Žbanić’s new feature ilm, Quo Vadis, Aida?, conveys this devastating moment in European history from a feminist perspective, centring the weight of this ethnic cleansing on the shoulders of one female Bosnian protagonist, Aida (Jasna Đuričić), a middle-aged school teacher and mother who serves as an interpreter for the UN forces stationed in Srebrenica. In what seems to be just one or two hectic days illed with incessant cruelties, Aida loses everything, despite beseeching every man in charge to save her sons and husband from execution: UN generals, UN soldiers and a UN doctor, in addition to young Serbian soldiers who were her students before the war and who still respectfully call her ‘teacher’, despite their menacing power over her life. In Žbanić’s ilm, Aida’s feverish yet ultimately futile struggle to save her family exposes the ways in which the Serbian military and the United Nations Protection Force were both run by men who abandoned their sense of humanity. Žbanić’s thesis seems clear: war is gendered and masculinity is its killing force, sparing neither women nor men from its brutality. But the ilm doesn’t settle with this demoralising diagnosis of war. Instead, Žbanić offers up a broken-hearted heroine, whose despondent and traumatised gaze signi ies the courage and perseverance war survival requires of its living victims.
The ilm premiered at the 2020 Venice Film Festival and has since been screened internationally, earning numerous awards, including the UNIMED Award 2020 in Venice, the International Competition at the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival and the El Gouna Star award for best narrative. In addition, it is Bosnia’s
The screening of ‘diverse’ works might merely appease rather than change institutions. The best works at this year’s Festival throw that critical awareness back at the audience, implicating us all.
Art Monthly no. 442, December 2020 – January 2021
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