Q&A with Peggy Ahwesh and Basim Magdy

This program features new works by artists Basim Magdy, whose The Many Colors of the Sky Radiate Forgetfulness is vivid, tactile, and often radiant; Ben Russell, whose Greetings from the Ancestors revisits the themes of utopia, consciousness, and rebirth from his 2013 collaboration with Ben Rivers, A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness; Peggy Ahwesh, whose Kissing Point roams the streets and borders of the West Bank. Finally, the program includes a key work from the late René Vautier, whose Afrique 50 remains one of the most vital and urgent examples of the camera’s power to write—and rewrite—history.

The Many Colors of the Sky Radiate Forgetfulness
Basim Magdy, Egypt, 2014, digital projection, 12m

The latest short from the Cairo-based film and video artist Basim Magdy is, among other things, a hypnotic study of two sharply contrasting subjects: a display in a taxidermy museum and a rain-weathered forest monument. The film, though, is equally interested in textures other than those of fur and stone. Magdy often pickles his strips of film in household chemicals before transferring them to digital video, and the results are—as the title of his new movie suggests—vivid, tactile, and often radiant. North American Premiere

Greetings from the Ancestors
Ben Russell, USA/South Africa/UK, 2015, digital projection, 30m

The co-director of A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness returns to themes of utopia, consciousness, and rebirth, this time in an area between Swaziland and South Africa still experiencing apartheid-era social inequalities. Keenly observing religious rituals and smaller, intimate moments from both sides in vibrant 16mm color film, Russell’s camera drifts through these spaces, never quite passive observer or active argumentor.

Kissing Point
Peggy Ahwesh, USA, 2014, digital projection, 14m

Playing on the sexual implications of the term “kissing point”—the geographical location where two enemy territories touch—this split-screen video pairs footage from inside and around West Bank tunnels with an Israeli bypass road and its environs. Shot during the early hours of the morning, the camera methodically snakes through these aseptic, nearly empty spaces, sometimes forced to stop and double back because of roadblocks or other physical limitations.

Afrique 50
René Vautier, France, 1950, 16mm, 17m
French with English subtitles

René Vautier’s legendary exposé of the ravages of colonialism in French West Africa was made after the 21-year-old filmmaker arrived in the region to direct a marketing short for the French Education League, broke his contract, and fled 600 miles from Bamako, shooting as he went. It was banned in France for 40 years following its completion in 1950. (Vautier, who passed away in January at the age of 87, spent a year in prison after returning to French shores.) The first French film to explicitly denounce colonialism, it remains one of the most vital and urgent examples of the camera’s power to write—and rewrite—history.