Ismail Farouk, South Africa
God’s land / 2009 / 2’15
Highlands Hill in Yeoville, a neighborhood of inner city Johannesburg, is an important public space where what are broadly referred to as African indigenous religious practices dominate. This spiritually endowed hill attracts hundreds of worshippers who gather there, in prayer, on a daily basis. Much of the religious activity occurs in contravention of the regulations set out by the city parks utility company that manages the space. City Parks have signposted the hill as a ‘no prayer’ zone and often enforce this regulation by threatening to arrest worshippers for loitering. Much of the hill is earmarked to be redeveloped as housing for inner city residents.
Through camera work that focuses on movement, following the footfalls of a person walking across an expanse of grass, “God’s Land” attempts to bring much needed attention to spatial (in)justice issues experienced by Highlands Hill users/religious practitioners. By altering existing exclusionary signposts on the hill, the filmmaker highlights conflicts between the spiritual needs of the local community vs. the needs of mainstream development.
Ahmed El Shaer, Egypt
Under Examination / 2009 / 3′
Viewers of this film are witnesses to a peculiar scene: a character just arrived from Digitaland is in the process of seeking a visa to enter Planet Earth. A bureaucrat from the host planet, in charge of controlling movement at the border, is compiling information about him. In the background, we hear a voice rehearsing definitions for a series of words: “criteria,” “indicators,” “standards.”
The film is produced with Machinima technology, using images drawn from video games. The result is a startling interaction between a living and a virtual being. The digital traveler is a sci-fi/futurist creature. His features are oddly undefined, adding to the sense of radical alterity he exudes. The only readily recognizable part of his being is a U.S. flag bandana he wears, though why he is wearing it is unclear. Possibly, he means to allay the bureaucrat’s worries as to his suitability to enter Earth. Visa seekers need to put all chances on their sides, these days, especially when what they’re trying to do is negotiate passage from an alien-nation into the “real” world…
Khaled Hafez, Egypt
The A77A Project (on Presidents and Superheroes) 2009, 3’35
This work casts an ironic gaze on social changes experienced by the artist over the course of his lifetime in his home city of Cairo. Two figures drawn from a large-scale canvas by the artist are cast into movement by way of 3D cartoon animation. They morph into the ancient god Anubis. The newly created and possessed Anubis travels the streets of present-day urban Cairo, passing through and by city spaces and their inhabitants.
The film documents current street life in what was once described as “one of the most beautiful downtowns in the world.” The music score for the piece was created from open source digital loops and mixed to incorporate the soundtrack of Egyptian president Nasser’s famous June 1967 resignation speech.
Sammy Baloji, Democratic Republic of Congo
U.M.H.K. / 2008 / 15′
U.M.H.K. stands for Union Minière du Haut Katanga, a Belgian mining company founded in 1906, in Leopold II’s Congo Free State, to exploit the mineral wealth of Katanga. From 1908, U.M.H.K. accounted for a massive percentage of the Belgian Congo’s GDP; after the company was nationalized by Mobutu Sese Seko in 1967, taking on the name Gécamines, this continued to be the case, despite stunning mismanagement and asset stripping. Entire lives were built around the company: the lives of generations of mine workers and their families, at once supported and violently exploited by it.
Today, the company, under a new name and, once again, with a significant European presence, continues to impact, shape and exploit the lives of thousands. Focusing on the intersecting movements of bodies, machines and materials, Baloji’s film casts a simultaneously jarring and poetic gaze on these lives, lived amidst the ruins of a business that made successive colonial and neocolonial regimes extraordinarily wealthy and left the Congolese people destitute.
Goddy Leye, Cameroon
The Voice on the Moon / 2005 / 3′
A man alights on the moon. Neil Armstrong is there. In a steady stream of dance steps, to the sound of Cameroonian music, the man – Leye himself – moves toward the American astronaut. Slowly, Leye merges with Armstrong, becoming one with his body in a short burst of Afrofuturist invasion.
Leye uses a paired down aesthetic to speak, in terms at once questioning, humorous and ironic, to the nature of colonial and neocolonial expansion.
Neïl Beloufa, Algeria / France
Kempinski, 2007 / 14′
Welcome to Kempinski. The inhabitants of this mystical / mythical place – city ? state ? planet ? – explain: “Here, we have a center for the exploration of outer space. Soon, we will be firing rockets into the heavens and placing satellites in orbit; this will allow us to know much more about similar space stations elsewhere and about other planets, beyond.”
Filmed in Mopti (Mali), this “documentary” about movement – here, there and further off – is unscripted. A single rule threads throughout: interviewees imagine the future and, in the act of speaking, bring it into the present.