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Trouble + Scenes of Extraction


Miranda Pennell | 2023 | UK | 33’ | Digital | English spoken  

Trouble is part of a wider investigation by Pennell into the use of photography by British colonial forces in Egypt and Iraq. Now housed in academic archives, these images are catalogued, labelled and watermarked, continuing the attempt to rationalise, capture and control the region they depict. The cruelty of imperialism and the resistance to it take on a supernatural presence, being unsettlingly felt but, within these official documents at least, never clearly seen. Systemic acts of imperial violence become indistinguishable from stories of ancient curses favoured by inter-war tabloids. Confined indoors during the pandemic, Pennell began to notice cracks whilst researching these images – in her walls, in online messages – through which the violent spectres of the early twentieth century have bled into the conflicts of the early twenty-first.

Sahnehaye Estekhraj (Scenes of extraction)

Sanaz Sohrabi I 2023 I Canada, Iran I 43’ I Digital I Farsi spoken, English subtitles

Iranian filmmaker and researcher Sanaz Sohrabi reclaims still and moving images from the British Petroleum archives as a way to trace the extractive processes of British government oil operations in Iran during the early 20th century. Scenes of Extraction is the second in a trilogy of essay films through which Sohrabi considers the problematic relationships between the camera and image as a colonial tool, archival systems, and resource extraction in Iran.

An overarching spoken narrative interweaves visual material including official film surveys made by BP and new CGI maps generated from early geological aerial survey photographs. Materials are reworked through processes of layering and collage as a form of critical archival practice. The resulting film not only develops a careful critique of a British energy complex that spanned across Iran and extended as far as South-East Asia, but also considers how colonial archives might be repurposed to allow new discourses to emerge.

Followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers hosted by Jonathan Ali.