[title on white background, black text]
Co-scripted by Basma al-Sharif and Jumana Manna
INT. KITCHEN – NIGHT
Camera on tripod, wide shot
A woman in her 40s stands at her kitchen counter wearing a training suit, barefoot. She takes out a large fish from the fridge and washes it thoroughly in the sink with both hands. Close ups of her opening its belly, rinsing the flesh, brushing her hands over the scales. She puts it in a glass tray, and begins to stuff it with garlic and herbs as a voice over begins:
Our basketball team was in a winter training camp in Croatia, which meant intensive morning and afternoon training, a lot of food, sleep and hanging in the spa in the early evenings. It was the first time we went on a retreat like that and we were feeling more intimate with one another than usual. I had a crush on the coach, and I wasn’t the only one. Everyone on the team knew, the more attention we got from him, the better we played.
Fish preparation continues, hands, lemons, olive oil, salt, pepper, turning on the stove etc. Voice over continues:
I recall those umbrella fountains in the thermal baths creating a semi-transparent circular curtain of water; how we moved between them, and other sources of water pressure that relaxed our muscles to a near point of sleep. It was towards early evening. Most of my teammates made their way to the showers in time for dinner. Coach and I were still in the water. I swam under the murky waters pinching his butt trying to get away, but each time he’d grab my leg in time, pulling me towards him, tapping my ass, telling me off. A teammate turned around and looked at us as he walked out of view. I hid in one of those umbrella waterfalls, coach slowly crawled my way . I closed my eyes and dipped under water, moving my hair out of my face. The sound of the waterfall was strong and steam covered the surface of the water, I couldn’t see him anymore. I felt a hand going under my bikini bottom and a thumb stroking my cunt. My heart was racing, heat ran through my body. I got hard and wet, a thicker wet than the water we were in. He kept stroking me, as I turned around to look at him. With a straight face he instructed me to keep quiet, moved my bottoms more forcefully to the side, ducked under water, placed his lips on my vagina and lapped me up with his tongue.. Coming up for a breath he whispered – ‘Is this ok?’ I nodded with wilted eyes and a half open mouth, utterly intoxicated. I wondered if he’d kiss my mouth too, but he just dipped back under. I tried my best to stifle my moans, letting out restrained deep breaths as I came intensely shaking all throughout my body. It all felt quick and incredibly powerful. With a small smile, he held my ass and instructed me out with a tilt of his head.
Fish goes in the oven.
I arrived at the dining hall. My face felt hot and my body soft. I felt transformed and was sure everyone could see. I must have looked different, I wasn’t walking the same. Fluids were still leaking out of my cunt, staining my synthetic green shorts. But no one said a thing.
Camera on tripod in the corridor. Woman exits the kitchen.
Close up interior: bare feet move quickly up and down as they bounce their legs anxiously until stopping abruptly to extend a foot out of the frame that cuts to toes curling around the far left soft pedal of a black upright Steinway & Sons piano. Pressing the pedal firmly towards the cement floor, the camera travels up the piano keys towards the person’s hands as they warm their fingers to Czerny piano studies for the Left Hand. The soft pedal is held throughout so that the exercise sounds slightly muffled despite the quickening pace at which the person carries on with the finger exercises. The camera, steadicam, moves backwards and away from the piano. We never see the person’s face. There is no sheet music. The exercises produce a kind of rhythmic melody that the person’s body is slowly swaying back-and-forth to.
SLOW CROSS FADE INTO SCENE 2
INT. BEDROOM – LATE MORNING
Medium wide steadicam
Beginning with a bird’s eye view on hands flipping through a magazine on a bed, sun rays fall across the pages of an academic journal on archaeology. In the background Vladimir Horowitz is playing Schumann’s “Träumerei”, there is a light buzzing sound, persistent, like a drone.
Initially we don’t see the person’s face, the shot is tight on the hands, flipping through the journal. We see: small coins, fragments of a temple, animal figurines, masks. The captions are barely visible, the objects prehistoric, but everything is geographically hard to place. The character’s fingers pause to caress a limestone statue and we hear the sound of a woman as she begins to moan softly, not clear whether with pleasure or ennui. Her voice grows louder as the camera moves down her body slowly, as though filming a landscape.
Simultaneously, the drone-like sound increases, as the camera continues to pan down the woman’s back, laying on her stomach, she is revealed to be naked from the waist down. The sound of the pages of the magazine pages flipping takes on a dramatic and sensuous quality, like waves slowly crashing against the shore in unison with the woman’s moaning. The camera continues downwards to find the woman’s legs are spread and a large flesh colored dildo, half inserted into her vagina is the source of the drone sound, POV shot. Without her hands the lips of her pussy envelope and release the dildo faster and faster until she orgasms loudly and gets up, leaving a cum stain on a yellow bedspread with the magazine open on the centerfold image of an excavation site. The camera stays on the cum stain.
EXT. DEAD SEA AREA – JORDAN VALLEY – EARLY EVENING
Tripod, wide shot:car driving through a desert landscape.
An extremely hot day, two characters arrive at the Dead Sea as a mesh of pink, yellow, and blue hues are ushering in the sunset. Wide landscape shots of the hazy silver waters and desert mountains. Frontal camera filming through the windshield, windows down, they roll their car slowly towards an army checkpoint with 3 eighteen year olds holding M16s. The girl in the driver’s seat, leans out the window and casually asks if they wouldn’t mind if they parked their car beside their stand post. The first soldier looks at her amused, shrugging an ‘I guess’, he points his finger at a spot to their left.
Cut to medium shots of them floating naked in the metallic waters.
“My mother taught me not to open my legs too wide so I wouldn’t get salt in my vagina. I’d hold my pussy tight as I swam and only do straight kicks so that my legs would stay shut.”
She turns on her stomach, and asks:
“How hard can a cock get in warm salty water?”
Camera follows the dialogue with body close ups:
He grins, touches her ass as it bobs in and out of the surface of the lake. She laughs and makes a sudden movement trying to get away from his tease. A small splash of water gets into her eye causing it to burn, “ayyy”. She stops to rest her feet on the hard seabed blinking fast trying to get the salt out.
Camera follows his neck from behind, as he makes his way towards her, holds her shoulders and says – “Relax … close your eyes”. Camera turns to a profile shot, slight tilt up. He brings his tongue to the edge of her eye, and licks it gently from one side to the next. He swallows, and repeats the movement, running his tongue gently between the crevice of her two eyelids, from left to right, and right to left.
“Sir Edmund,” She chuckles.
“Yes Simone,” he looks at her with a smile.
Sequence of shot/counter shot, alternating between their necks and mouths in dialogue.
“Would you do that again Sir Edmund?” He smiles and repeats, licking the edge of her eyelid, with the tip of his tongue.
“I shall do anything you like.”
“What does the word urinate remind you of?”
“That I can’t pee in here or it’ll make my vagina burn.”
“No”. He pauses, looks at her, eyes still blinking from the salt. “Simone, what does the word urinate remind you of?”
This time she pauses, and begins reciting again.
“Terminate, the eyes, with a razor, something red, the sun! An egg? A calf’s eye, because of the colour of the head and also because the white of the egg was the white of the eye, and the yolk of the eyeball.”
Camera follows his hands grab her feet as she floats on her back, fondling each toe at a time.
“The eye is egg-shaped …
Medium shot, tilting her head slightly, hair in water, looking up at the sky. He continues:
“Promise me when we go out, to fool those boys, steal their rifles, fling eggs into the sunny air and break them with shots of your gun.”
CUT TO BLACK
INT. VERANDA – LATE NIGHT/EARLY MORNING
Lead-in sound of a window coming open forcefully followed by the sound of a rooster crowing, a hand digging through a plastic bag.
Cut to a close-up handheld shot of tobacco filling a semi-translucent sheet of cigarette paper. Two index fingers and thumbs mechanically roll the paper around the dried leaves until perfectly smooth.
The camera follows as the hands bring the cigarette up to an adolescent girl’s lips as she delicately licks the paper and seals her cigarette.
The camera, medium wide, moves away from the girl who is seen sitting sideways beside an open window as she awkwardly lifts one leg up from a decorative tiled floor onto a windowsill and lights her cigarette, taking slow, sensuous drags, with exaggerated sounds of exhalation.
EXT. KOTTBUSSER TOR, KREUZBERG, BERLIN – NIGHT
Steadicam: Street level, people going in and out of the subway station.
The camera follows two Arab–German girls as they cross the road and make their way into one of the residential highrise buildings on Kottbusser Tor looking for a spot to be alone.
A close up shot tracks the girls’ eye movements as they spot a resident exiting the building. They nod to each other with a smile and sneak into the building before the door closes. Taking the elevator to the 13th floor they exit onto a rooftop balcony. It’s small, filled with cigarette butts and graffiti tags, small emptied bottles of spirits. They open a beer bottle with a lighter and drink in silence avoiding eye-contact with one another as they lean over the balcony watching the scene below.
Fixed street level shots of security personnel lurking underneath the bridge, traffic flow circling the roundabout, bikes, pedestrians. The street is dominated by middle eastern grocers, a jewelry shop, Western Union, people standing outside of convenience shops on their phones, teenagers speeding by on scooters. The arriving and departing trains fill the soundscape, as the U1 continues in parallel height of the balcony, with the onboard passengers in view. Sounds of music from Südblock down below, chatter and laughter of the bar goers.
Steadicam from the perspective of the girls, we see the neighbouring apartment unit, a man sits on his couch watching TV in boxer shorts. The girls look at him, he moves his head but it’s unclear if he sees them too. They take a couple steps back into the shadow, and kiss each other, slowly at first, pulling their crotches towards one another. A strokes B’s ass, with her middle finger pressing slightly along her crack, moving up and down and lower down. Camera on jeans unbuttoning. A strokes B’s pussy and kisses her more intensely. B fondles A’s hair, kisses her neck and ears, opens her shirt, sucks on her breasts. A moans, B crouches down, pulls down A’s pants, and extends her tongue out, quickly and delicately licking around A’s clit.
Camera pans in a circle, over the neighbourhood as seen from above, the elevated train tracks, buildings in the distance and midview. Moaning sounds continue as the pan continues, arriving back at the balcony. One is standing naked from the waist down, the other on her knees licking the inside of her thighs. She cups the standing girl’s swollen cunt with one hand, and waits for a trickle of urine that comes softly, in intervals through her fingers. Dripping from the cupped hand onto the dirty floor.
Black screen, loud sound of train is crossfaded with the sound of a voice screaming in ecstasy that sounds nearly panicked.
INT. LIVING ROOM – DAWN
An orgy scene involving four people plays out in reverse.
Steadicam close up shot on one of the four characters opens the scene: heavy breathing, eyes rolling up, lips widely parted subtly revealed to be going in reverse. The shot slowly opens to a wide angle of Character 1 with a dick in their ass while on top of Character 2, missionary style, while Character 2 is eating out Character 3 who is blowing Character 4. From the peak of Character 1’s orgasm, the other 3 fixate on their body and movements.
We see a sequence of fast cut shots. Kissing in reverse, fingers going out and into various orifices, characters repositioning themselves, climbing onto one another, rocking in reverse. The intensity that leads to Character 1’s orgasm unwinding until all four are dressed and Character 1 walks out of the room brushing their hand across each of the three other characters as they dance slowly together, and the camera follows Character 1 as they walk backwards into a toilet, washes their hands and urinates in reverse.
Character 1 puts on their jacket and walks out of the door, through a city at midnight, along a cobbled path, and onto a train that moves away from the frame in reverse.
We cut to Character 1 arriving at the train station with another person, hand in hand. Now the film is playing forward in time. The two kiss amorously, exchanging words with their faces pressed close to one another. Character 1 enters the train station, looking back several times, and then weaves around the interior of the station in a maze-like trajectory that is nonsensical. Up and down escalators, from one platform to another, sometimes quickening their steps, we get the sense that Character 1 is running away, escaping something, until finally ducking into a train and heading towards the orgy.
(Music plays over credits: ♫ Lorez Alexandria – I’m Wishin‘ ♫)
This loose script is an homage to Chick Strand’s Soft Fiction (1979), which carefully blurs sexual experience, trauma, and fantasy through the voices and bodies of five female filmmakers. With little introduction, Strand’s camera plunges us into a hypnagogic space of close ups and dream-like sequences. Fact and fiction are blurred to create a complicated, nuanced, and impossible to reconcile portrait of female subjectivity. From Strand’s seminal film we drew inspiration as an exercise in imagination, fantasy, memory and the highly subjective experience of sex, situated in our histories, cities and contemporary moment.
Basma al-Sharif is an artist of Palestinian heritage raised between France, the US, and the Gaza Strip who developed her practice nomadically and is currently based in Berlin. Exploring the legacy of colonialism through satire, doubt, and hope, her works span cinema and installation. Major exhibitions include: The Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series for the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, Modern Mondays at MOMA, CCA Glasgow, the Whitney Biennial, les Rencontres d’Arles, les Module at the Palais de Tokyo, Here and Elsewhere at the New Museum, Riwaq Biennial Palestine, The Berlin Documentary Forum, the Sharjah Biennial, Videobrasil and Manifesta 8. Her films have participated in international film festivals in Locarno, the Berlinale, Milano Film Festival, TIFF, BFI London Film Festival, NYFF, RIDM, and Yamagata. Basma is represented by Galerie Imane Farés in Paris, and distributed by Video Data Bank and Arsenal.
Jumana Manna is a visual artist and filmmaker. Her work explores how power is articulated, focusing on the body, land and materiality in relation to colonial inheritances and histories of place. Manna’s solo exhibitions include: Berkeley Art and Film Archives (BAMPFA), 2022; Villa Oppenheim, Berlin, 2021; M HKA Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp, 2021; Tabakalera, San Sebastian, 2019; Henie Onstad Museum, Oslo, 2019; and Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2015. She has participated in numerous biennales and film festivals such as Toronto Biennale 2022, 11th Taipei Biennial (2018); Nordic Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Liverpool Biennial (2016); Marrakech Biennale 6 (2016); Berlinale, Vision du Réel, Viennale, DokuFest Kosovo, CPH:DOX, RIDM, Sheffield Doc, IFFR, Palestine Cinema Days, Cinéma du Réel and Art of the Real. Jumana was raised in Jerusalem and lives in Berlin.