A guest program presented by Asian Film Archive (AFA)
Program duration: 90 minutes
with Bahasa Indonesia and English subtitles
Monographs is a series of video and text essays on Asian cinema commissioned by the Asian Film Archive (AFA). Conceived during the outbreak of COVID-19 when physical screenings were disrupted, Monographs offer a critical platform for writers and thinkers to discourse upon the moving image beyond the walls of the cinema. The second edition of Monographs consists of 13 commissioned works—seven video essays and six written essays—produced in consultation with filmmaker/editor Daniel Hui and researcher/curator Matthew Barrington.
Responding to changing geological and socio-political landscapes, Monographs 2023: sinking, shifting, stirring interrogates how the environment, climate, and human and non-human relationships might be re-imagined. Evoking cycles of geological transformation, the anthology explores how cinematic representations of the environment move through cycles of dissolution, transformation and rebirth.
From meditations on a glacial Himalayan town to speculative eco-fictions, the essays uncover how a wide stratum of interpersonal, historical and cultural meanings are grafted onto the multitudinous landscapes of Asia. Through the filmic medium including but not limited to contemporary vlogs, video art, travelogues, silent cinema and state sponsored productions, Monographs 2023 explores the tensions between form and formlessness, sound and silence, as landscapes are continually sinking, shifting, stirring.
FRIDAY, 19 JANUARY 2024, 19:30 – 21:45 WITA
+ with discussion after screening
MASH DENPASAR art-house cinema
Jl. Pulau Madura No. 3 Denpasar
FRIDAY, 26 JANUARY 2024, 19:00 – 20:30 WITA
Rumah Belajar Komunitas Mahima
Jl. Pantai Indah III No. 46 Singaraja
Nazira Karimi / 2023 / 06:00 / Kazakh
In relation to colonisation and the post-colonial condition, Apat integrates the filmmaker’s research into extinction and its results: natural disasters, cultural damage, and the eradication of memory. Combining found footage with images from Karimi’s family archive, Apat tells of the artist’s personal history—a history that is yet to be reclaimed. Karimi’s search for her own narrative mirrors the journey towards independence and coming-of-age of a people and a region.
IN THE FOREST ONE THING CAN LOOK LIKE ANOTHER
Priyanka Chhabra / 2023 / 16:00 / Hindi, English
In The Forest One Thing Can Look Like Another is constructed through the director’s personal experience of living in the remote Himalayan mountain town of Manali, a historically popular destination for shooting Bollywood film songs. The glacial landscape of Manali has become a site where projections of the idyllic countryside are directed—rife with tropes of adventure, eroticism and romance. The work interrogates this thin layer of narrative practices, constructing tableaus of high-altitude mountains as static objects and backdrops for second-hand urban aspirations to happiness, while the precarious reality of living in a highly sensitive ecosystem spins an adventure far removed from most imaginaries.
THE LANDSCAPE OF SANATORIUMS
Radhamohini Prasad / 2023 / 20:00 / Nepali, English
This experimental video essay explores the space and time of a post-colonial hill station set up by the British as a sanatorium for therapeutic recovery from the heat and humidity of India. Invoking the closing sequences of Ritwik Ghatak’s film, Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star) (1960), the film explores how mountains became a metaphor not just for malaise and affliction, but also the human will to survive in the corridors of a creaky healthcare system. Framed through fissures in the dark, derelict walls of a once glorious cinema hall in Darjeeling, the events within turn, hang in liquid suspension. The same landscape becomes a haven for the tourist-turned-environmental-refugee who crawls up the winding mountainside in summer, fleeing the furnace of the Indian plains. But the haven itself is occupied by giant pile drivers pounding steel into the industrial night.
LETTER TO T: IN NUCLEARITY WE ARE CONNECTED
Zimu Zhang / 2023 / 21:00 / Mandarin, Uyghur
With a contemplative letter to a friend as its point of departure, this video essay examines the complex, paradoxical visuality of the atom bomb in China. From 1960s military documentaries to contemporary CGI enhanced fictions, a visual trope of the communal “People’s Bomb” was orchestrated in counterpoint to the evils of imperialism and the untamed wilderness of the Gobi Desert. Amid the ecological crises of the Anthropocene, Letter to T suggests that despite the disenchantment with and the re-politicisation of the image, we might find radical sources of connection and endurance in nuclearity.
Chiemi Shimada / 2023 / 07:00 / Japanese
mmm is an eclectic collection of the clouds captured in Japanese cinema from the 1920s to the present. Drawing inspiration from the 35mm film materials of Japanese physicist and cloud expert Masanao Abe (1891–1966) and scientist Tapio Schneider’s apprehension of a future with cloudless skies, mmm looks at formlessness as an essential actor in the history of cinema.
PRECIOUS. RARE. FOR SALE
Lêna Bùi / 2023 / 13:00 / English, Vietnamese, Êđê
Precious. Rare. For Sale. takes a broad sweep at the presentation of nature in Vietnamese moving images from the 1990s. From being an abode for majestic and magical beasts, to serving as a backdrop for war heroics and social realist tragedies, representations of nature have been shaped by Vietnam’s changing socio-political contexts. Reflecting on how filmmakers have portrayed the environment, Bùi questions the ethics of exploiting nature for the camera. While early ethnographic films shot by the French depicted the Vietnamese jungle as an untouched, primitive landscape, today’s images of razed forests and neatly-partitioned land plots reveal how nature has become a commodity for a rising middle-class. Captured on screen by property developers and thrill-seeking vloggers alike, nature’s images shapeshift constantly, feeding into an endless loop of mediated consumption.
Ian Wang / 2023 / 08:00 / English, Mandarin Chinese
Swimming, Dancing examines audiovisual representations of the Yangtze (1934–present), from silent film to video art to the contemporary vlog. Used by poets and politicians alike for personal or ideological ends, the Yangtze has often been domesticated as a symbol. The river itself, part of a natural world that predates human habitation along its banks, defies such interpretations. Over the last century, it has been transformed beyond recognition by industrialisation and pollution. Inspired by the city symphonies of the 1920s, Swimming, Dancing pieces together a “river symphony”, evoking the images, sounds and contradictions that make up the river’s turbulent history, suggesting that, if the Yangtze represents anything, it is the mercurial relationship between humanity and nature.
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