Radical Closure is a five-part video program curated by esteemed Lebanese video artist Akram Zaatari, and originally presented by the premier short film festival Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen. The program features film and video works produced in response to situations of physical or ideological closure resulting from war and territorial conflicts. The programs look at West Asia, also known as the Middle East, and how the moving image has functioned throughout its history, charged with division, political tension, and mobilisation.
Radical Closure features stories and parables about captivity; different approaches to looking at war and using images of war; works inspired by the context of divisions and border control; and works that focus on personal narratives, whose traces defy memory and become alternative memories.
QAGOMA acknowledges all the archives, filmmakers and distributors who have generously provided screening materials for this program. Program curated by José Da Silva, Australian Cinémathèque.
Program 1: The Captives
This first program deals with stories of captivity. To start, Hostage: The Bachar Tapes by Walid Raad presents us with an imagined hostage presumably held in custody along with the American hostages in Lebanon during the 1980s. Raad's work reflects on the invention and communication of stories about abduction, insisting on the families' unity in the face of threats, and reads through the fears and sexual fantasies of the kidnapped Americans who are held in the same cell with a Lebanese man. The next piece is a personal documentary by Namir Abdel Messeeh, in which he talks to his father, trying to understand the complex situation that led to him being a political prisoner in Egypt. In Winter at Last, Nurit Sharett looks at herself as a captive in a state that separates her from her friends, going in extreme directions: a Swiss woman who leaves by choice, and a Palestinian friend who can no longer cross into Israel. Finally a parable about captivity, a prisoner of domestic life: Guy Ben-Ner in House Hold.
Hostage: The Bachar Tapes 2000
Toi Waguih (You, Waguih) 2005
Winter at Last 2005
House Hold 2001
Program 2: War/The Visible Signs
This program presents different approaches to looking at war, and to using images of war. My Friend Imad and the Taxi is an unfinished work from two amateur filmmakers, both passionate about film, who lived in Beirut in the eighties when the city looked like the set from a war film. Samir's work looks at the intersection between (H)istory and (h)is story as lived at home. While Farocki's piece looks subversively at war from the point of view of the industrial machinery used to collect images-–almost a scientific approach--Salhab's video presents us with a poetic portrait of a people and a city full of scars.
Mon ami Imad et le taxi (My Friend Imad and the Taxi) 1985/2006
(It Was) Just a Job 1992
Eye/Machine III 2003
(Posthume) (Posthumous) 2007
Program 3: At the Border
Border situations have inspired writers, artists and filmmakers, particularly within the context of divisions and border control within the Middle East. Who draws the borders? What are the effects of imposing them, of imposing checkpoints? This program looks at border situations. In the works presented here, we take a close look at the lines of demarcation, observing what happens on borders in divided Lefkosia (Nicosia), the occupied territories in Palestine, and at the excavation of the site of a former border in Lebanon which no longer exists.
Grossraum (Borders of Europe): Lefkosia 2005
Chic Point: Fashion for Israeli Checkpoints 2003
In This House 2005
Program 4: Intensive Care
Named after Hatice Güleryüz's haunting short film, with its disturbing yet iconic images, this program presents unsettling situations narrated with both considerable emotional investment and critical distance. In her work Intensive Care, Güleryüz films a boy's circumcision, then tilt's up to the boy's silent, angelic face. In another work, The First Ones, she films a group of school children singing the national anthem; a take on nationalism made with so much love. Marwa Arsanios' I've Heard Stories reconstructs an incident that happened, or maybe didn't, in the mythical Hotel Carlton. Mahmoud Hojeij takes a humorous look at the few hours he and his Lebanese friend spent with two Israeli men in Paris, evoking years of wars, occupation and division between the two countries. I, Soldier presents a poetic portrait of a soldier, while at the same time embodying a silent critique of nationalism, patriotism, and defence. Finally, Elia Suleiman looks at the role film has played in the Arab/Israeli conflict, and evokes the futility of rising nationalist and religious identities in a war situation.
Intensive Care 2001
The First Ones 2000
I've Heard Stories 1 2008
we will win 2006
Ben Askerim (I, Soldier) 2005
Homage by Assassination 1992
Program 5: The Trace that Remains
How useful is personal testimony to History? The most abstract of all the works that focus on personal narrative in this program is certainly Lisa Steele's Birthday Suit with scars and defects, in which the artist gently caresses every scar on her body, names it, dates it, and describes the circumstances in which the scar was inscribed. These are traces that defy memory, and that indeed become an alternative memory. Steele's video presents us with an abstraction of oneself, almost a schema of the body as it becomes a register of violence. Ziad Antar's work looks at the sounds of war that he considers safe, as they occur while detonating unexploded Israeli missiles right after the ceasefire in the summer of 2006. Mona Hatoum's Measures of Distance uses images of her mother's body to evoke both the matter of distance, and the question of possession of a woman's body. By showing the images of her naked mother, and reading the letters she has received from her in Beirut, Hatoum inscribes on that body a story of separation and of her own exile. Also revealed is an intimacy and bonding with a body, the image of which is often perceived in Middle Eastern societies as the "husband's" property. Mroué's work Face A/Face B also evokes distance through time. Mroué revisits old audio tapes his family recorded for his brother while he lived and studied in the Soviet Union in the eighties. While contemplating his own voice singing militant songs twenty years earlier, it is as if the artist is hearing a different person. Julia Meltzer and David Thorne's work observes an unfinished building that has become a monument for an obvious urban/bureaucratic malfunction in the city of Damascus.