Film Programme: Speaking / Thinking Nearby

Trinh T. Minh-ha, Naked Spaces—Living is Round, 1985, film still. Courtesy the artist.
Film Programme: Speaking / Thinking Nearby
17 Oct 2020 - 28 Feb 2021

Trinh T. Minh-ha’s approach to film has addressed a wide field of discussions – reaching from the ethics of representation in ethnographic film, to aspects of migration, debates on global socio-political developments, and different layers of feminist discourse. Her films are investigations into the question of the voice as well as into the relationship between the visible and audible. This programme will present a selection of films that echo some of these discussions negotiated by Trinh in her filmic works as well as in her writings, and create a dialogue with other filmmakers and scholars.

Co-curated by Dr Marc Glöde, Assistant Professor, NTU ADM, and Dr Ella Raidel, Assistant Professor, NTU ADM and WKWSCI.

17 – 30 October 2020  
the time is now. (I+II), Heidrun Holzfeind, 2019
Colour, sound, 48 min
Rating: PG

Holzfeind is interested in architectural and social utopias that create an alternative living. She documents the shamanistic rituals of the Japanese improvisation/noise duo IRO, Toshio and Shizuko Orimo, in what they call “Punk Kagura”—in reference to Kagura, a ritual dance tradition and music for the gods. Holzfeind uses a visual language that adapts their mystical rituals: breaks in image; as well as the colour and narrative corresponding with the soundscape, the modernist architecture of Takamasa Yosizaka, and the surrounding nature in which the duo performs a choreography for healing our damaged planet. The urgency is underlined in the title the time is now

Heidrun Holzfeind (Austria/Sweden), an artist and filmmaker, explores the interrelations between history and identity, individual histories and political narratives of the present.

31 October – 13 November 2020
Heaven’s Crossroad, Kimi Takesue, 2002
Video, colour, sound, 35 min
Rating: G

What does it mean to “look” cross-culturally? This film follows up on this question by creating a visual journey through Vietnam. Instead of following the established patterns of the classic documentary, Takesue creates an experimental experience that challenges the audience and invites us to reflect on what it means to “truly see another culture”. Within this beautiful visual travelogue, questions of desire, projection, and communication begin to appear that are embedded in this idea of the cross-cultural encounter.

Kimi Takesue (United States) is an award-winning filmmaker and recipient of the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships in Film. www.kimitakesue.com

14 – 27 November 2020
Naked Spaces—Living is RoundTrinh T. Minh-ha, 1985
16mm transferred to digital file, colour, sound, 135 min
Rating: PG13 (This film features tribal ways of life that depict some nudity)

Six West African countries (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Senegal) stand in the centre of this film. The work explores the life in the rural environments of these counties by taking a closer look at the everyday. With its nonlinear structure, the film steps away from the classical traditions of the documentary/ethnography tradition and offers a sensuous approach. It is a poetic journey to the African continent in which the interaction of the encountered people or the spaces in which they are living becomes relevant.

28 November – 11 December 2020
A Song of Ceylon, Laleen Jayamanne, 1985
16mm film, colour, sound, 51 min
Rating: PG13 (This film contains mature content and some nudity)

This film is an intense study of the body, gender and the multiple aspects of colonialism. The film addresses theatrical conventions by recreating classic film stills and presenting the body in striking tableaux. A remarkable film on which Trinh T Minh-Ha, in Discourse (1989), commented: “The anthropological text is performed both like a musical score and a theatrical ritual….The film engages the viewer in the cinematic body as spectacle…”.

Laleen Jayamanne (Sri Lanka/Australia) is a filmmaker and Professor of Cinema Studies at the Power Department of Fine Arts at the University of Sydney, Australia.

12 – 25 December 2020
Surname Viet Given Name Nam, Trinh T. Minh-ha, 1989
16mm film transferred to digital, colour, sound, 108 min
Rating: PG13 (This film contains some disturbing scenes from the archival footage of the Vietnam War)

This film is Trinh’s complex deep dive into the difficulties of translation, as well as themes of exile or dislocation. By using historic material, dance, printed texts, folk poetry and combining it with anecdotal narratives, she is examining the status of Vietnamese women since the Vietnam War, as well as the status of images as evidence. It is a complex approach that invites the audience to reflect on the modes of perception and encourages a profound critique of audio-visual strategies.

26 December 2020 – 15 January 2021
Nervous Translation, Shireen Seno, 2018
Colour, sound, 90 min
Rating: PG

This film follows the inner voice and play of an eight-year-old girl who cooks perfect miniature dishes, mimicking the world of the adults. The perception of the child is translated through fragmentation and sounds that are written into words, such as the ring of the telephone, and the sound of the aircon, all forming together, an orchestra of the everyday. Waiting, boredom, and dead time pave the temporality of imagination of the girl, while she is listening to cassette tapes recorded by her father, a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia. The personal phantasmagoric vision encounters the political dimension echoing in the times of the People Power Revolution in the Philippines.

Shireen Seno (Japan/Philippines) studied architecture and cinema at the University of Toronto and taught in Japan before relocating to Manila. Her work addresses memory, history and image-making, often in relation to the idea of home.


16 – 29 January 2021
Reassemblage, Trinh T. Minh-ha, 1982
16mm film transferred to digital, colour, sound, 40 min
Rating: PG13 (This film features tribal ways of life that depict some nudity)

With her remarkable and widely discussed first film, Trinh brings the conventions of the documentary to our attention and asks how films in the field of documentary and ethnographic tradition have consecutively established a power to manipulate the way in which we perceive different cultures. By gathering filmic means and techniques that reject the traditional narrative forms, Trinh constantly alerts us of our own process of perception, furthermore reminding us that watching a movie is not a passive but an active process.

30 January – 14 February 2021
The Human Pyramid, Jean Rouch, 1961
DCP, colour, sound, 93 min
Rating: NC16 (This film contains mature themes)

At the Lycée Français of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Rouch worked with students there who willingly enacted a story about the arrival of a new white girl, Nadine, and her effect on the interactions of and interracial relationships between the white colonial French and Black African classmates, all non-actors. Fomenting a dramatic situation instead of repeating one, Rouch extended the experiments he had undertaken in Chronicle of a Summer, including having on-camera student participants view rushes of the film midway through the story. The docu-drama shows how working together to make the film changes their attitude towards each other.—Icarus Films

Jean Rouch (France), ethnographer-turned-filmmaker, was the father of modern cinéma vérité, together his collaborator, Edgar Morin. Their work has had great influence on French New Wave filmmakers.

15 – 28 February 2021
95 and 6 to Go, Kimi Takesue, 2016
Digital, colour, sound, 85 min
Rating: G

While visiting her grandfather in Hawai’I, Takesue begins to encounter this recent widower in his 90s, who is following his everyday routines. When he shows interest in a stalled romantic screenplay by Takesue, an interesting discussion about the granddaughter’s work, family, memories, and identity unfolds. Shot over six years, this film shows how personal aspects intertwine with a critical reflection of the documentary genre.

Image: Trinh T. Minh-ha, Reassemblage, 1982, film still. Courtesy the artist.

NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (NTU CCA Singapore)
Research Centre & Office Block 6 Lock Road Singapore 108934

NTU CCA Singapore Research Centre and Office
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