Joana Pimenta's The Figures Carved Into the Knife By the Sap of the Banana Trees presents an archive of postcards sent between the island of Madeira and the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique, circulating between a fictional colonial memory and science fiction. The film screens as part of Projections Program 7.
FilmLinc Daily: Your film creates a fictive memory of the island of Madeira and the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique. What drew you to this exploring this topic?
Joana Pimenta: My family moved from Madeira to Mozambique in the late 1960s, at a time when it was a Portuguese colony. I became interested in this history particularly because of the self-censored way in which it was normally narrated, and by the veiled violence in most of the institutional ways it had been passed on to me. I went to Madeira and wanted to work only with materials (images, sounds, postcards, photographs, text) that I found there, or that I encountered or remade in the space of the island, but that were reminiscent of an elsewhere, of needing to travel but always wanting to leave the place of arrival, of finding a home here and there, of building or imposing one’s landscape and architecture in a land that was not one’s own, and where it could (or should) never entirely settle.
FL: You describe Figures… as between “fictional colonial memory and science fiction” and have said previously that you are interested in the films of Chris Marker, who also explores these themes. Would you say he's had an influence on your work?
JP: Although most of the things I think about when I am working normally exist in a space outside of cinema—they’re mostly paintings, objects, videos, photographs, texts—in this film it was important for me to find a way of bringing together text, image, and sound, but allow the space for each one to exist in tension or contradiction, without determining, or overdetermining, one another. What has stayed with me the most is the way Marker works through different materials—and for me the word material here is really important, since I am the most drawn to how he moves elements together in the space of his film, almost like if you were assembling an object.
I am taken by the way uses of image, sound, and text to create a geography, a landscape where all elements feel displaced, or not entirely at home. Their forms are in tension with one another, and they never settle onto a presumed authority—they both inform and question, they enter into each other’s space, changing the forms and the meaning of things. Do you know that feeling when sometimes you hear a word you heard before maybe every day, but suddenly you hear it again and it becomes so strange it is like you’ve never heard it? That is what I sometimes find in his work, this way of bringing different elements and forms together in a way that they never entirely translate one another, where they become fragile and uncertain, like a language you understand but can’t really place.