Open City Documentary Festival

24th–30th
April 2024
across London

Salvador Amores on Configurations

ratio

Salvador Amores writes on recent films by Rhea Storr, James Edmonds, Margaret Rorison, Eva Giolo and Marcy Saude, which screen together at the festival in the combined programme: Configurations.

Spatial concerns underpin the films of this combined programme. This stems initially from a shared fascination towards surface and scale (appearing on screen as monuments, buildings, streets, living or working spaces) only to slip past the evident and emerge as an open, porous proposition that encompasses the natural and mystical as well as the cultural and historical.

Space is formed through relationships (dependent to a significant degree on a subject, or a people, and their actions) that have been established in it throughout time. The films of Rhea Storr, James Edmonds, Margaret Rorison, Eva Giolo and Marcy Saude seem to derive from this elusive yet tangible proposition to expand upon it in different directions. Histories of colonial suppression, racial and gender discrimination in London are expressed through the experience of particular bodies in Storr’s Through A Shimmering Prism, We Made A Way. This is set alongside Saude’s Come On Pilgrim as the origins of British colonialism in Plymouth are explored through a collage of situations both reenacted and improvised. Adventures of light upon texture as seen on the old, worn façades in Rorison’s study of Baltimore, USA play along the emotional sways of Edmonds’ individual psyche in Configurations. In Edmonds’ film, personal turmoil and displacements are embodied as seasonal patterns whilst Giolo’s The Demands of Ordinary Devotion reveals the rhythms and geometries of manual and maternal labor.

These become premises from which to spring potential diversions, to reimagine what can be understood as “architectural”. The structure that each film draws upon is characterised by a precise organisation of images and sounds which plainly exhibits its own design: firm scaffolds resting upon repetition (Storr), accumulation (Giolo), association (Rorison, Edmonds) or collision (Saude). Such conceptual and compositional foundations nevertheless allow for explicitly intimate dimensions to emerge as indelibly present. A share of anger, anxiety, nostalgia, or melancholy, expressed in the first-person singular lies at the core of every one of these explorations. It is not about simply advocating the familiar affirmation that the personal is political, rather the acceptance of this as an unavoidable condition of possibility and, above all, the ensuing search for that fact’s concrete consequences in the realm of the cinematic. Accordingly, these are five films that ultimately elaborate, directly or otherwise, on identity, a vital notion that is often turned into a vapid term, susceptible as it is to reduction or caricature by the threadbare political debates of today’s world. Through the rigorous, carefully edified inquiries on form by which they do so, Friedrich Hölderlin’s enigmatic dictum resonates with potency and grace: “to live is to defend a form.”


Salvador Amores is a film programmer and writer based in Mexico City. He currently works for FICUNAM as a curator of its section devoted to avant-garde film, Umbrales. Prior to that he ran a year-long, bi-weekly film series for the Institut Français. Alongside his programming work, he oversees FICUNAM’s Foro de la crítica permanente, a yearly series of activities on and around film criticism and has written on film for publications such as MUBI Notebook, La furia umana, Variety, La vida útil, Revista de la Universidad de México and the Locarno Film Festival, where he participated in its 2019 Critics Academy. Salvador recently co-founded El Cine Probablemente, a print-only magazine for which he is one of the editors-in-chief. He has also worked as a screenwriter and editor for the feature films Ruinas tu reino (2016) and Toda la luz que podemos ver (2020).