Part One: Disrupted ViewsPart Two: Interrupted Legacies

Part One: Disrupted Views (11–21 March 2021)

Beijing SpringTalking About TreesWhat We Left Unfinished

Beijing Spring
Andy Cohen, Gaylen Ross (co-director)|102 min|2021|USA|English and Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles

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In the late 1970s, a group of painters, sculptors, poets, photographers, and publishers in China took part in a movement for artistic freedom and social reform. Beijing Spring is a documentary that recounts the movement’s activities from the participants’ perspectives. It centres around the Stars Group, a collective including Ai Weiwei, Huang Rui, Li Shuang, Ma Desheng, and Wang Keping, who explored the possibilities of art beyond conventional modes of expression at the time. In an ad hoc, unsanctioned event organised by the group in September 1979, works were hung from fences near the China Arts Gallery (now the National Art Museum) in the country’s capital. Featuring photographer Chi Xiaoning’s never-before-seen excerpts, Beijing Spring documents the forced closure of the now landmark Stars Art Exhibition, the subsequent street demonstrations, and the relocation of the show, offering a close look at a groundbreaking moment in the development of contemporary Chinese art.

Andy Cohen (born 1965 in the USA) is an independent filmmaker, journalist, and the founder of AC Films. Seeking to affect social change, his works often deal with human rights issues. He is the executive producer of several documentaries, including Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012), Hooligan Sparrow (2016), and Human Flow (2017). He is also a contributing editor at ArtAsiaPacific, where he wrote and directed a series of videos on Chinese contemporary artists.


Talking About Trees
Suhaib Gasmelbari|93 min|2019|France, Sudan, Germany, Chad, Qatar|Arabic with Chinese and English subtitles

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A tender tribute to friendship, solidarity, determination, and shared histories, Talking About Trees is a luminous portrait of four brave men who, with wit and endless patience, tackle all manner of power outages, technical difficulties, and bureaucracy as they try to reopen an old derelict cinema in Khartoum. Memories of cinema-going and filmmaking in Sudan have been fading amidst several periods of sociopolitical turbulence, especially since the 1989 military coup, when cinemas were forced to shutter. That year also saw the establishment of the Sudanese Film Group, an independent collective founded by four filmmakers who had all studied abroad and had made critically acclaimed films independently in the 1970s and 1980s. Nearly three decades later, the elderly friends reunite in hopes of reviving a love for the country’s cinema culture.

Suhaib Gasmelbari (born 1979 in Sudan) studied cinema at the Université Paris 8 in France and has worked for Al Qarra, Al Jazeera, and France 24 as a cinematographer and editor. Director and writer of short narrative and documentary films, Gasmelbari is also a researcher of audiovisual archives and has participated in local and international projects to preserve and digitise Sudanese films that were previously thought lost. Talking About Trees is his first feature film.


What We Left Unfinished
Mariam Ghani|71 min|2019|USA, Afghanistan, Qatar|Dari and English with Chinese and English subtitles

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As part of Mariam Ghani’s ongoing research, exhibition, and book project, What We Left Unfinished uncovers the stories behind five incomplete feature films produced in Afghanistan during communist rule from 1978 to 1991. Ghani presents extensive interviews with filmmakers, actors, and other participants who, despite challenging circumstances at the time, continued to pursue their cinematic visions. The interviewees share first-hand experiences of making these fictional films, which involved re-enactments by real military personnel using real bullets and tanks, instead of props. Pairing recently rediscovered or restored excerpts with present-day scenes shot in the same locations by some of the same filmmakers, Ghani traces the boundaries between storytelling and real life, crafting an intricate narrative about the shifting nature of filmmaking, history, and artistic vision.

Mariam Ghani (born 1978 in the USA) is a visual artist, writer, filmmaker, and teacher based in New York, whose research-based practice spans video, installation, photography, performance, and text. Her work has been exhibited in transmediale in Berlin, the Liverpool and Sharjah biennials, dOCUMENTA 13 in Kabul and Kassel, and Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ghani’s recent curatorial projects include the international symposium 'Radical Archives’; the video and performance series ‘Performed Places’; the experimental archive in collaboration with Chitra Ganesh, the ‘Index of the Disappeared’; and the Afghan Films online archive at Pad.ma. What We Left Unfinished is Ghani’s first feature film.


Part Two: Interrupted Legacies (6–16 May 2021)

About Some Meaningless EventsThe Endless FilmFilmfarsiGolden Slumbers

About Some Meaningless Events
Mostafa Derkaoui|76 min|1974|Morocco|Arabic with English subtitles

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Filmed in the aftermath of Morocco’s political upheaval in the mid-1970s, About Some Meaningless Events is a docu-fiction set in a working-class neighbourhood of Casablanca. A group of filmmakers shoot a scene in a bar and conduct interviews in the streets, asking passers-by about their expectations of and hopes for Moroccan cinema. The plot takes an unexpected turn as the filmmakers witness a disgruntled dock worker killing his boss—an event that sparks a heated discussion on how the film should best frame the incident and, to a larger extent, the employment crisis in the country. Independently produced in 1974 by a group of painters, musicians, and poets, About Some Meaningless Events is a remarkable and energetic layering of fiction and gritty reality. At the time of its release, the film was immediately banned by government censors for its portrayal of the heightening sense of civil resistance and discontent. Considered lost for nearly four decades, it remained unseen until a negative print was rediscovered in Spain at the Filmoteca de Catalunya archives in 2016.

Mostafa Derkaoui (born 1944 in Morocco) is a director and screenwriter who was prolific in the 1980s and 1990s. He studied film at Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (now La Fémis) in Paris, then directing at the Łódź Film School in Poland, before returning to Morocco in the early 1970s. Soon after, he co-founded the production company Basma Productions with his brother, Abdelkrim. Derkaoui made several short films, among them Les Quatre Murs (1964) and Amghar (1968), before directing About Some Meaningless Events (1974), his first feature-length film.


The Endless Film
Leandro Listorti|54 min|2018|Argentina|Spanish with English subtitles

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The Endless Film, a multi-layered work by Argentine filmmaker Leandro Listorti, inspires a living, parallel history of cinema from the 1950s to the present. Assembled in the archives of a film museum in Buenos Aires, this work recomposes fragments from unfinished Argentine films to explore how private, public, and collective memories and historiographies have been translated, preserved, and transformed through the cinematic medium. With its meandering sequences and use of evocative elements such as countdown leaders, film print artefacts, and audio outtakes, The Endless Film celebrates the materiality of filmmaking. It is a thoughtful invocation of the ghosts of Argentina's dictatorial past and its recurring histories of erasure.

Leandro Listorti (born 1976 in Argentina) is a filmmaker, producer, programmer, and projectionist. His films have been exhibited at international film festivals such as Edinburgh, Viennale, IDFA, Guadalajara, Rotterdam, and Mar del Plata, among others. He is a co-founder of Regional Amateur Film Archive (ARCA) and, in 2018, was the artist-in-residence at the Living Archive (Arsenal) in Berlin. Listorti has worked at a film museum in Buenos Aires since 2016.


Filmfarsi
Ehsan Khoshbakht|84 min|2019|Iran, United Kingdom|Farsi and English with Chinese and English subtitles

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In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran was home to one of the most prolific film industries in the world, producing and releasing over a thousand films over two decades. Iranian pre-revolutionary popular cinema, known as filmfarsi, cast an image of a country seeking to modernise yet wrestling with its traditional ties and included everything from feminist adaptations of romantic melodramas to low-budget remakes of foreign films. In 1979, the revolution and the ensuing media ban upended this once-thriving industry. Composed of excerpts taken from the VHS tapes of his personal collection, Ehsan Khoshbakht’s essayistic documentary is a fascinating account of this vibrant form of cinema that, in his words, is filled with ‘song and dance, sex and seduction, violence and vengeance’. Offering a rare glimpse into the moving image works of this period, Filmfarsi contemplates the loss and rediscovery of these indelible markers of a nation in flux.

Ehsan Khoshbakht (born 1980 in Iran) is a film and jazz critic based in London, United Kingdom, whose work includes short documentaries on subjects ranging from Duke Ellington in the Middle East to Expressionist architecture and cinema. He is the co-director of Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival in Bologna, Italy, and the editor-in-chief of Underline, an online arts magazine published by the British Council. Filmfarsi is his first feature-length documentary.


Golden Slumbers
Davy Chou|100 min|2011|France, Cambodia|Khmer and French with Chinese and English subtitles

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Golden Slumbers is a tender tribute to the once-flourishing Cambodian film industry, which vanished with the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal purge beginning in 1975. As the country became consumed by war, the industry collapsed, cinemas and films were destroyed, and industry leaders were imprisoned, killed, or exiled. Of the hundreds of films made between 1960 and 1975, only a few dozen have survived the regime and still exist today. Davy Chou, the grandson of one of the most important film producers of this golden age of Cambodian cinema, pieces together the generational memories of a lost period, revisiting some of the now-shuttered spaces and resurrecting their heyday through advertisements, soundtracks, and oral histories.

Davy Chou (born 1983 in France) is a filmmaker of documentaries, shorts, and feature-length films. Director of the award-winning short Cambodia 2099 (2014) and the narrative feature Diamond Island (2016), Chou often focuses on his Cambodian roots and seeks to nurture young Cambodian filmmakers. Along with filmmakers Steve Chen, Kavich Neang, and Park Sungho, he co-founded the Cambodian production company Anti-Archive. Golden Slumbers is Chou’s first feature-length film.