This latest instalment of the Intervals programme, which screens recent film work, welcomes the first feature-length film by artist and film-maker Filipa César (Porto, Portugal, 1975). Spell Reel (2017) constitutes a reflection on the political history of West Africa, made from precarious film archives of the colonial emancipation of Guinea-Bissau, giving rise to an open question raised on how to write the history of those who have been driven out of the present and the role bygone remnants can play in shaking up our contemporaneity.
Guinean film-makers Sana na N'Hada, Flora Gomes, José Bolama Cobumba and Josefina Crato, who all studied film-making in Cuba, documented the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence (1963–1974) and the years that followed under a new socialist government. Their mission was supported by Amílcar Cabral, the leader of the liberation movement who was assassinated in 1973 and for whom it was essential that the Guinean people recorded and were aware of their own history. In 1979, the director Chris Marker, committed to the conflict, spent some months working with the above-mentioned film-makers, with this contact later giving rise to the carnival images taken by N'Hada in his film Sans Soleil (1983). Moreover, in her work film-maker Sarah Maldoro, invited by Cabral, would also identify carnival, festivals and ritual with the new nation. The coup d’état that followed, in 1980, meant a large number of these revolutionary films went missing and those that were preserved ran the risk of disappearing, thereby adding to this period of oblivion.
In 2011, the reappearance of an archive of films and sound documents on Guinea-Bissau marked the start of the project presented here. These tapes, almost completely destroyed, bear witness to the birth of Guinean cinema as a pivotal part of Cabral’s decolonising vision. The materials, now part of the Guinea-Bissau International Film Institute (INCA – the National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual), were digitalised in collaboration with Arsenal — the Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin — via an initiative to which Filipa César is closely involved. Due to a mobile nomad and transnational cinema designed by the artist and contributors, the now-digital archive has been screened in different European cities and different Guinean locations, sparking multiple debates, exchanges and memories among viewers.
With the participation of the aforementioned Sana na N 'Hada and Flora Gomes, and many other historical figures and reference points – Cabral and Marker, and contemporaries — Spell Reel is a filmic assemblage of these archive materials and documentation in their different forms of reception, setting forth a journey in which this fragile, precarious material from the past is re-activated and works as a visionary prism through which the present is disrupted. These silent images of a lost, dormant past stealthily become a propitious place for collectively rethinking history and the present-day of the colonial project, in addition to imagining alliances and practices of memory and resistance.
Spell Reel prefaces the series Sarah Maldoror, Négritude Poet and Film-maker — organised by the Museo Reina Sofía — the first retrospective in Spain on the film-maker and visual artist, and her groundbreaking work in the narratives of African cinema rooted in decolonisation and the consideration of black identity through the cultural, political and poetic concept of Négritude.
Artist and film-maker Filipa César explores the fictitious strands of documentary, the porous limits lying between film and its reception, politics and the poetics of the moving image. Her practice appropriates media as a resource with which to expand and expose counter-narratives with historicism. Since 2011, she has worked on the origins of film from the African liberation movement in Guinea-Bissau, employing a laboratory of resistance to dominant epistemologies. Her works have been exhibited and screened at: the 29th São Paulo Biennial, 2010; Manifesta 8, Cartagena, 2010; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2011–2015; Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2012; Kunstwerke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2013; Meeting Points 7, Zagreb et al., 2013–2014; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Berlin, 2014; Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen, 2014; SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, 2014–2015; Futura Gallery O.s., Prague, 2015; Khiasma, Paris, 2011, 2013 and 2015; Tensta konsthall, Spånga, 2015; mumok, Vienna, 2016; Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen; Gasworks, London; and MoMA, New York, 2017.
Sabatini Building, Auditorium - 7pm
Filipa César. Spell Reel
France, Portugal, 2017, colour, original version with Spanish subtitles, 96´
Session 1. Thursday, 25 April, 2019
Session 2. Saturday, 27 April, 2019