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Access Denied


Mieke Bal, Thomas Sykora & Gary Ward

2005|30’|Colour|Sound|DV

Social Documentary

Locations: The Netherlands, Egypt, Palestine


Synopsis

Ihab (31), a Palestinian academic living in Amsterdam, is preparing to travel to visit his family in Gaza for the first time in four years, and do some fieldwork. Gary (28), an Irish artist also living in Amsterdam, intends to accompany Ihab and film the reunion with his family, the interviews with informants, and the progress of Ihab's project: to study the cultural memory in Palestine of al nakba, the catastrophe of 1948. While they prepare for the trip, Ihab and Gary become closer. But, once they arrive in Cairo airport, Ihab's arrest and deportation separates the two.

From here on, the film alternates vistas of the two men's trip. While Ihab conducts his research with determination and commitment, Gary is flooded by his first encounter with Arabic culture. He turns around in circles, having nothing to do but wait until he can fly back to Amsterdam. Ihab, in contrast, works frantically, but cannot leave on the planned date, since Israel has closed the borders.

This film uses the metaphors of travel and failed encounters for a meditative reflection on the intercultural encounter between Arabic and Western individuals eager, but not always able, to understand each other.

Nothing is Missing


Mieke Bal

Edited by Gary Ward with a contribution from Shahram Entekhabi

2005|35’|Colour|Sound|DV

Multiple Screen Video installation (looped)


Synopsis

Visitors are invited to sit in armchairs or on sofas, around them a number of older women speak to someone else. The interlocutors are people close to them, intimates, but the relationship with whom has been interrupted due to the migration of the women's children: a grand-child she didn't see grow up; a child-in-law she didn't choose or approve of; the emigrated child; in one case, three generations. The intimacy, but sometimes a slight uneasiness, is characteristic of the situation. Sometimes you hear the other voice, sometimes not.

Communication unfolds between the older woman and her relative, but due to the installation set-up, also between the women, and between the women and the visitors, all at once. The performative aspect on all these levels brings about a merging of these communications. The armchairs that can be moved or turned, as if one were visiting the women on the screen, concentrating on one or alternating their attention among the women.

The elderly women are filmed in consistent close-up, as portraits. The relentlessly permanent image of their faces provides a modest monument to the women who suffered these profound losses. It also forces viewers to look these women in the face, in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say, in a language that is foreign, using expressions that seem strange, but in a discourse we can all, affectively, relate to.

Colony


2006|33’|Colour|Sound|DV

Mieke Bal, Zen Marie, Thomas Sykora, Gary Ward & Project Director - Michelle Williams

Locations: Canada, Czech Republic, England, India, The Netherlands, Sri Lanka


Synopsis

This film explores multinational shoe company Bata's impact on individual lives and on their surroundings. The film's aesthetic, shifting from site to site and shot to shot, offers pockets as a visual version of the bubble that was the Bata colony itself. The characters are all connected to that past. They guide the viewers through the merging of past and present in memory. The film's coloration also evokes this mixture.

The idyll of living and working together is obsolete. This is a tale of colonization, hierarchy, and the politics surrounding the work of individuals whose lives became entwined in a global vision. Tensions between parties in labor conflicts come to the surface. In a highly globalized world, the paternalistic idea of a company that provides workers with not only the monetary means to support themselves, but also with a “village” that combines housing, education, health care, and leisure facilities, seems positively utopian and quaint.

Surface Tension


Zen Marie & Thomas Sykora

2007|17’|Colour|Sound|DV

2-channel video installation

Locations:The Netherlands


Synopsis

Surface Tension was commissioned by the Zuiderzee Museum in order to link the theme of migration to the area of the Zuiderzee and IJsselmeer. Migration is looked at as internal to Holland and not exclusively as the movement of people between different nations.


The video installation consists of two screens opposite each other. The mixture of the two projections and soundtracks surrounds the viewer with different perspectives, histories and locations. These combinations move from working together harmoniously to conflicting or even contradicting each other. The interaction between the two screens and the position of the viewer allows the installation to be viewed in different ways.


Marie and Sykora recorded striking details of the landscape and people from around the IJsselmeer. These details focus on the movement of people and the changing of traditions. The subject matter ranges from historical accounts of life in the area to contemporary life and practices. The images were captured over a period of three months during the summer of 2007 and are a selection made by the artists as they travelled around the area exploring the theme of migration within the Netherlands.

Becoming Vera


Mieke Bal, Alexandra Loumpet-Galitzine & Michelle Williams Gamaker

2004|46’|Colour|Sound|DV

Locations: Cameroon [Fumban], France [Paris] & Russia [Moscow]


Synopsis

Between age three and four, Vera Loumpet-Galitzine traverses many landscapes, exploring where she comes from, to come into her own. We follow her to her school and neighbourhood activities in France, to Cameroon and to Russia.


As Vera dances, sings and runs around these visually engaging landscapes,  seemingly easily integrated into her rich fantasy world, we attempt to imagine what they look like to her. What does she see, think, or imagine? As in all Cinema Suitcase works, the film lets the subject hold the story and her images tell it, and the family explain things, rather than having an authoritative outside voice-over do the telling.

Separations


Mieke Bal & Andréa Séligmann Silva

2009|83’|Colour|DV

Locations: Brazil, The Netherlands


Synopsis

In this autobiographical film, a diasporic Brazilian family is reunited at the parents’ home in São Paolo. All five siblings, at one time or another, have established themselves abroad. Two have returned, the others will stay away.

While exploring the reasons behind this connection to the foreign in her family, Andréa, a filmmaker living in Amsterdam, interviews the members of her family. They all evoke a psychotic crisis their mother had five years ago, when Andréa was about to give birth. Because this painful memory comes up so consistently, Andréa begins to focus her inquiry on what took place then and on the traumatic events of a generation ago.

Edith, Andréa’s Jewish mother, was three years old when her parents escaped from Nazi Germany on the very last boat, in 1939. The question of the migratory now turns both backwards and forwards, and danger becomes as potent a motive as attraction to foreign places

Mère Folle

Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker

2010|141’|Colour|Sound|HDV

Locations: Netherlands, France, Finland, Spain, Switzerland


Synopsis

If your mentally ill patient dies, are you to blame?  For Dr Françoise Davoine, Parisian psychoanalyst, this question becomes disturbingly real as one of her patients, Ariste, dies. Davoine is abducted and put on trial by mediaeval fools and through the course of one hellish night - across several centuries and countries – must argue her case for exoneration.  

As the journey forces Dr Davoine to question her own life, via a mix of fiction, documentary and theory, Mère Folle takes the viewer on a one-of-a-kind journey into the minds of the 'mad' and those designated to cure them.

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Mille et un Jours (1001 Days)

Mieke Bal, Zen Marie, Thomas Sykora, Gary Ward & Michelle Williams

2004|46’|Colour|Sound|DV

Locations: France [Sens, Paris] and Tunisia


Synopsis

'Mille et un jours' celebrates the outcome of an intricate journey of the anguish, struggle, loneliness and financial constraints of a young sans papiers in Paris. Tarek (27) came to Paris from Tunisia in 1999 pursuing an education. Despite the difficulties of his status as 'illegal immigrant', he followed a course of study in computer science and obtained his diploma. As he was pursuing this double life of earning a living and studying, the French authorities tried to expel him. But they didn't succeed.

Like the Arabic tales the film's title references, the film organizes stories around a wedding. With celebrations in full swing, the politics of immigration remains present under the surface. The film's political thrust is to elicit debate by enlisting the viewer to become acquainted with the characters and the ins and outs of their situation; to be guests at the wedding. Rife with bureaucratic violence but also with the characters' vitality, determination, and intelligence in outsmarting 'the system', the film's content and aesthetics mix the contrasting tones of tragedy and comedy, fear and celebration.

Road Movie

Mieke Bal & Shahram Entekhabi

2004|16’|Colour|Sound|DV

Locations: Netherlands


Synopsis

Depending on when one enters the gallery space, the one-shot film looks either like a still photograph, evoking a traditional landscape painting, or like a film. On a four-lane highway, dangerously close to the cars, on the edge of a green median stripe of hollow road, a man is walking. The man in the somewhat shabby, slightly out-of-style, but very proper suit and black shoes just walks away, his back turned to us. He carries two old cardboard suitcases. He walks fast and disappears into the distance, into nothingness.

Then something happens again. Turning from a small speck into a recognizable figure once more, the man returns, thereby relieving the tension created by his absence. Was he sent back at the other end, refused entry or chased away, or did he return because the destination had nothing to offer? Or, alternatively, did he return in belated acknowledgement of the viewer?

 

Glub


2004|30’|Colour|Sound|DV

Mieke Bal, Shahram Entekhabi

 

GLUB is Arabic for “hearts” and “seeds.” In Berlin, the shells of seeds testify to migrant cultures within contemporary European urban centres. These traces of passing gestures are “low” icons of migratory aesthetics.

They help constitute an aesthetic because they mark the look of the city that, through these shells and the sociability of the people who left them, has donned a visible aspect of diversity.

One migrant said they eat them to pass the endless time of unemployment. It became a habit, then a tradition, literally incorporating a sense of family and community. The habit has now become characteristic of young migrants in European cities. The sight even became more pervasive when European youngsters began to imitate the cool-looking habit. Identity dissolves, while contact is being established within the “look” of culture.

 

Elizabitch


Michelle Williams Gamaker & Gary Ward

2004|58’|Colour|Sound|DV

Location: Netherlands


Synopsis

A mix of love, sorrow, mysticism and black humour, Elizabitch is a portrait of Elisabeth van Engelen (1946-2009), a mother living in the aftermath of her son’s suicide. Housebound due to asthma, she struggles for breath and life itself as she unravels her story in a lyrical monologue.  Are these the ramblings of a drunk or the words of a self-confessed modern-day prophet?

Her undeniable claim that “coincidence does not exist” reinforces the fatefulness she attributes to the people and events in her life. She positions herself as archetypal mother, playing with magic, perception and association. Filmed over a seven-month period, she effectively adopts the filmmakers, banishing the anonymity of the camera as she invites them to record her evocative testimony. 

This is an intimate look at the loneliness of the ageing process, and the resilience of a woman to continue living with the acceptance that a broken heart can never be healed.

State of Suspension


Mieke Bal & Benny Brunner

2008|82’|Colour|DV

Locations: Israel


Synopsis

State of Suspension is a drama of fragments in nine chapters; an unusual and provocative look at Israel, sixty years after independence.

Posing as “Patriotism Inspectors”, Israeli comedians Yossi and Itamar interrogate passers-by to check if they have served in the army; masquerading as officials shooting a Foreign Ministry video, they ask Jewish and Arab Israelis to apologize for the harming of innocent civilians. The hilarious interaction of these daring comedians with Israeli society, revealing aspects of its deep psyche, forms the film’s backbone, complemented by unique archival material, compelling interviews and dramatic situations.

Exhibition: 2Move Belfast/Oslo

Bringing together the work of international artists from different generations and origins, 2move explores the connections between video, mobility, migratory culture and our contemporary world.

Today, the encounter with the traces of migration gives way to a plurality of sensory experiences which both transform and modify our everyday life, experiences that are themselves ‘aesthetic'.

The medium of video not only records these experiences, but also contribute to both imagine and construct them.

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Exhibition: Cinema Suitcase Unpacked

Held between February 23 and March 23, 2005 at the College of Staten Island Art Gallery in New York, Cinema Suitcase Unpacked featured works by all five members of the group.

The works together formed part of a video and photographic installation.

 

Lost in Space


Mieke Bal & Shahram Entekhabi

2005|17’|Colour|Sound|DV

Location: France


Synopsis

When asked in English what he missed most about being away from home, an Iranian long-term asylum seeker burst into his native Farsi and said that, of all the things he sorely missed, the primary thing was his language. This remark triggered the aesthetic of this experimental film.

The film tears apart the different manifestations of language. First, in an extensive credit sequence, all speakers are shown saying what they say in the film. But only their mouths and hands speak; no voice is heard, only street noise. When the film proper begins, we hear the voices and see, in yet a different manifestation of speech, the translated utterances in screen-filling typescript.

The images represent failed attempts to insure home and security. The discrepancy between what we see, read, and hear addresses the problem of language in the contemporary world of displacement. Like that world, language is out of sync.


Un Trabajo Limpio (A Clean Job)


Mieke Bal & Gary Ward

2007|30’|Colour|Sound|DV

Location: Murcia, Spain


Synopsis

Murcia, in the South of Spain, is one of those cities where many immigrants arrive, sometimes to move on, sometimes to stay. This city is the setting of Un trabajo limpio (A Clean Job), a looped video of twenty minutes. Wherever you enter the video, someone will be talking: about school and the point of studying; sports and other hobbies; boyfriends and girlfriends; language and work; residence permits and places to stay; Spain and the country of origin. And, of course, about migration.

Each speaker says something brief but incisive, then, loosely associated, the next statement comes in. The resulting fabric is not a narrative. Rather, as a dialogue fabricated by montage, or an alternation of different view points, the video is best seen as a poem. The loop gives form to the non-linearity and non-hierarchy of the situation presented. It also diffuses the notion that a single idea concerning migratory culture can meaningfully be proposed.