The Non-Aligned Film Archives is an ongoing project curated by researchers and archivists Léa Morin and Annabelle Aventurin in collaboration with Open City Documentary Film Festival. The project aims to create a space to share films that have been marginalised from dominant cinematic narratives. Each session revolves around a single lost work that is instead invoked through other films that have survived.
“The inspiration of this third programme is a censored documentary by Algérian filmmaker Farouk Beloufa : Insurrectionnelle (1972). For this essay film, which would never be completed, Farouk Beloufa (1947-2018) gathered hundreds of hours of footage documenting the Algerian War of Independence. His intention was to reveal some of the less visible dynamics that shaped the Algerian liberation, and to bring to light the struggles taking place throughout what was then the Third World. However, his vision for film and its Marxist position clashed with official views of a nascent Algerian state anxious to establish its legitimacy. The authorities assigned another team to re-edit the film which became credited as a “collective work” and renamed “The War of Liberation”. Beloufa would only complete one feature film, Nahla (1979), one of the most beautiful works in African cinema.
The films in this programme act together as an invocation and a reconstruction of Beloufa’s unfinished work. Concerned with speaking out against colonial and/or capitalist violence, Santiago Alvarez, Ahmed Bouanani, Assia Djebar and Nadir Bouhmouch attempt to reappropriate identities and narratives in opposition to an exoticising gaze. They share a commitment to speaking from the people’s perspective. This desire to establish a popular narrative, in opposition to official histories, exposed their work to censorship, marginalisation and even erasure. These experimental essay films act as poetic and political audio-visual pamphlets that utilise the weapons of cinema to fight against colonialist and authoritarian regimes seeking to impose a unified narrative, and the resulting social injustices. In the face of this violence, the filmmakers present a cinema of evocations, sensations and audio-visual experiences that summon the traces of a silent popular memory and the breath of a possible insurrection.”
This screening will be introduced by Ali Essafi.
In partnership with the Essay Film Festival.
Tickets available here.
Santiago Alvarez, Cuba, 1965, 5 min
A powerful musical film collage that charts the struggle for racial justice through found documents, archives and magazines. Alvarez was a committed filmmaker and talented editor, who worked for many years with Cuban newsreels and whose films express the struggle against imperialism, solidarity with oppressed peoples and a militant support for the Cuban revolution.
Ahmed Bouanani, Morocco, 1971, 24 min
Mémoire 14 is an anti-colonial essay film by the Moroccan filmmaker, writer and poet Ahmed Bouanani (1938-2011), based on his 1967 poem of the same name. Constructed from repurposed archive footage from the Moroccan Cinema Centre, the film is an account of the French Protectorate in Morocco as seen through the eyes of those living under colonial rule. Bouanani was prevented from making the film as he had intended, suffering heavy censorship from the Moroccan authorities.
La Zerda and the Songs of Forgetting
Assia Djebar, Algeria, 1982, 60 min
A poem in four songs produced from recycled French newsreels, this essay film by Assia Djebar sets out to deconstruct the image of the colonial Maghreb. The soundtrack attempts to (re)give a voice to the Maghrebins through a collage of collected or re-imagined music and multivocal chants. Assia Djebar (1936–2015) was one of the most prominent figures in North African literature (and cinema), highlighting the role of women in their dual struggle against colonialism and patriarchy.
Nadir Bouhmouch, Morocco, 2021, 5 min
Apartheid Casablanca is a found footage essay film made over 48 hours in response to promotional video advertising Casablanca. Nadir Bouhmouch is a radical Moroccan filmmaker whose films evoke the strength of poetic resistance and other forms of militant strategies deployed in workers’ struggles in Morocco. This cinematographic collage is in dialogue with the experiments of Santiago Alvarez.
Ali Essafi is a Moroccan Filmmaker and co-founder of the Bouanani Archives in Rabat (a space dedicated to the reactivation of the archives of filmmaker Ahmed Bouanani and his family). He has just published Widen the Circle: An Obscure Experimentation in North African Avant-Garde Cinema where he traces the colonial history present in North African cinema. He will share with the audience his research, methodology, tools (as a filmmaker but also a researcher and a film curator) and work for the valorisation of these forgotten cinematographic archives and avant-garde cinema.
Non Aligned Film Archives
“Through screenings, interventions and meetings, we will try to consider possible tools, methodologies, alliances and actions for a movement of non-aligned film archives.
With international allies (venues, filmmakers, platforms) we will share a reflection and actions in favour of the preservation and circulation of a cinema in struggle against authoritarian narratives and models (colonial, state, capitalist, patriarchal, etc.), a cinema that struggles (or has struggled) to exist, and still struggles to be preserved, and not to be pushed to the margins of dominant histories.
Given our incomplete histories of cinema, what place can be accorded to unfinished, lost or non-existent films, to the fractured cinematographic journeys and the orphaned traces of a potential cinema that have been neglected by these dominant narratives? How can we approach and restore the desire for revolution carried by cinemas in struggle, when these images do not reach us?
Each session within this series will be an attempt to reconstruct, through screening programmes and our imaginations, some of the films that are absent from our histories of cinema. Documents will be shared to make this desired yet prevented cinema exist, so that we can take care of these torn and shattered narratives together by giving them a place. Collectives and archivists will be invited to talk about their work of political, aesthetic and cinematographic reconfiguration for the circulation of this marginalized cinema”.
– Léa Morin and Annabelle Aventurin
* In reference to the non-aligned political movement, a transnational and decolonial political project born in 1961 in Belgrade, a coalition of countries struggling against systems of economic, political and cultural domination.