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Non-Aligned Film Archives 04 : Unknown Suriname / Dja Dja Srnaam (LOSON)

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.

This screening is centered around the recently restored 1978 documentary Women of Suriname (Oema foe Sranan). Produced by activist film collective Cineclub Vrijheidsfilms and LOSON (The National Consultation of Surinamese Organisations in the Netherlands) shortly after Suriname gained independence, the film follows four women who, through their personal stories, reveal a history of (neo-)colonialism and imperialism in Suriname and racism in the Netherlands.

The film was made amidst a political struggle as a means of expressing solidarity between Surinamese and Dutch people, and conveying a collective message concerning the socio-political situation in post-independence Suriname. The film presents a fierce critique of a colonial rule that lasted for decades and, through the stories of Sonja, Sylvie, Somai, and Jetty, illustrates various forms of resistance including farmer protests, squatting, the formation of neighborhood theater associations, and political campaigns.

Initially, Cineclub and LOSON had planned to produce a triptych of short films titled Unknown Surinam, comprising Oema foe Sranan, Mariënburg (about a sugar plantation), and Life under the smoke of Biliton (bauxite industry). These three films were intended to raise funds for a feature-length work entitled Djai Djai Sarnaam (meaning ‘long live Suriname’, as in the song featured throughout Oema foe Sranan) but their funding requests were denied and, deeming this to be an act of political censorship, they instead produced the mid-length film, Oema foe Sranan. Although the other two films were never made, interviews were recorded with workers from Mariënburg and Biliton between 1973 and 1976. In 2022, researcher Luna Hupperetz, working with former LOSON members, identified several 16mm materials related to the project but there remains numerous unseen film prints and audio tapes in the Cineclub collection at the International Institute for Social History (IISH).

After the screening Matthew Barrington will be in conversation with researcher and filmmaker Luna Hupperetz and the actress, singer and former member of LOSON, Nadia Tilon.

Tickets available here.


In the Sky’s Wild Noises 
Victor Jara’s Collective, Guyana, 1983, 29 min

In the Sky’s Wild Noises (1983) by Victor Jara’s Collective3 is based around an interview with Walter Rodney, the renowned Guyanese historian, author and political activist, who was assassinated in June 1980. The interview-which was filmed in 1976, when the Victor Jara Collective were shooting their first documentary, The Terror and The Time, is intercut with archival footage, and explores the political, social, and economic conditions of the working class in Guyana in the 1970s. This film shares common themes with Mariëenburg, an unreleased part of the Unknown Suriname triptych, such as the struggles within the labor market and the colonial economy of sugar plantations. Additionally, the film’s collaborative production approach echoes with Oema foe Sranan in demonstrating the power of film as a tool for resisting imperialism.

Strijd op 16mm (A Battle Restored)
Kiki Ho, Ananta Khemradj, Luna Hupperetz, Netherlands, 2022, 17 min

The film Oema foe Sranan was rediscovered in 2019 within the context of an archival research project aimed at disclosing the 16mm film distribution collection of Cineclub Vrijheidsfilms, situated at the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam. Following the restoration of the forgotten Surinamese documentary Oema foe Sranan (1978), the short film Strijd op 16mm (A Battle Restored) tells the stories behind the production and distribution of this militant documentary. 

Oema foe Sranan (Women of Suriname)
At Van Praag (1978, Netherlands & Suriname)

Produced by Cineclub Vrijheidsfilms and LOSON, the film follows four women who, through their personal stories, reveal a history of (neo-)colonialism and imperialism in Suriname and racism in the Netherlands.

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.