Echoes of Dissent (Vol. 1)

2 JUNE, 2023 – 3 JUNE, 2023

Sound of Politics, Politics of Sound: conversations and sonic entanglements

This is the first iteration of a series of gatherings gravitating around the question: How to think of the sonic as a site of dissent?

This two-day program proposes to think and experience the sonic as a site of refusal, insurgency and world-making. How could a poetics of the undercommons sound like? How to make it re-sound? How can we shape modes of fugitive listening and forms of attunement attending to sonic practices that refuse the call to order? How can we organize collective discursive spaces where we can share and expand the emancipatory operations performed by sound and music?

The Listening Sessions, modeled on the practice of Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective, take Stephen Henderson’s overlooked 1972 book, Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References, as a basis for jam-like conversations around “the form of things unknown”. We will imagine and discuss the political charge of the audial and the aural; of hearing and listening.

Throughout the program, sound takes on different shapes, from embodied soundings (Hannah Catherine Jones) to sonic autobiographies (Ain Bailey). We will explore how the secret life of sonic forms circulates within khuaya-rings (Simnikiwe Buhlungu) and how it reverberates in Trevor Mathison’s work for the Black Audio Film Collective (Kodwo Eshun).

Listening sessions, performance, workshop, DJ-sets and film installation with Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective (Dhanveer Brar Singh, Louis Moreno, Paul Rekret, Edward George), Ain Bailey, Hannah Catherine Jones, Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun (The Otolith Group), Bhavisha Panchia, Rokia Bamba and Simnikiwe Buhlungu.

Partners: Argos, Auguste Orts, Courtisane
In the context of the research project Echoes of Dissent (Stoffel Debuysere, KASK & Conservatory / School of Arts Ghent)


13:00 – 13:30 Slow arrival
13:30 – 15:30 Listening Session 1 (golden space +2)
16:00 – 18:00 Listening Session 2 (golden space +2)
18:30 – 19:30 lecture by Kodwo Eshun on the aesthetic of Black Industrialism in the work of Trevor Mathison (golden space +2)
22:00 – 3:00 Out Loud x Echoes of Dissent: performative set by Foxy Moron (Hannah Catherine Jones) & DJ sets by Ain Bailey & OJOO GYAL (rooftop +5)

13:00 – 13:00 Slow arrival
13:30 – 15:30 Sonic Stories, workshop by Ain Bailey (beurscafé 0)
16:00 – 17:30 Listening Session 3 (golden space +2)
18:00 – 19:30 Listening Session 4 (golden space +2)
20:30 – 21:30 Embodied Listening Session by Hannah Catherine Jones (beurscafé 0)
22:00 – 3:00 Out Loud x Momsnightout: DJ sets by Clara!, Tatyana Jane, NMSS, Illsyll & Fatoosan (rooftop +5)

FR 2.06 & SA 3.06
without reservation
Through sonic and discursive contributions, the listening sessions engage with a text entitled “the form of things unknown,” which is the introduction to Stephen Henderson’s anthology Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References. Drawing inspiration from Henderson’s portrayal of “the other side of the tradition” of black poetry, the sessions propose to collectively draw out our own “unwritten songs, rhythms and speech”. Rokia Bamba, Bhavisha Panchia, Kodwo Eshun and Hannah Catherine Jones join the listening sessions facilitated by Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective (Dhanveer Brar Singh, Louis Moreno, Paul Rekret, Edward George).

SA 3.06 13:30 – 15:30
reserve your spot >>
Ain Bailey invites visitors to participate in a “sonic autobiography” workshop, which explores the role of music in the formation and mobilization of memory. The interactive session will focus on collaborative listening to individually collected sound elements. Bailey, thus, opens up a space of sensory resonance in which forms of communication and exchange about experiences are explored beyond the predominant realm of spoken language. Please bring a small selection of music that carries personal meaning. If you do not have a USB stick, a list of music titles should be supplied in advance, and we will endeavour to source them.

SA 3.06 20:30 – 21:30
without reservation
Hannah Catherine Jones will present a triangular dialogue between the resonating chambers of our bodies, singing bowls tuned to 432 Hz, and a carefully selected playlist of healing sounds also tuned to 432 Hz, creating an embodied experience of HCJ’s research into the physiological healing potentials of tuning down.

13h – 23h CINEMA The Khuaya by Simnikiwe Buhlungu (2022, 6 min 16)
We’re dropped mid-conversation of friends discussing a recent neighbourhood story that’s been going around, of holes that have been dug into which neighbours have been tripping and falling.
Woven into this is a context where the thoughts/commands/questions/replies and voices of the sun, plants, water etc. are taken in equal measure and seriousness as the four friends.
This is a chapter in a larger project which looks at the ways in which we come to know (other chapters include a puddle, a lost wallet, a library and honey bees). The Khuaya here (rethinking how ‘choir’ is spelled and situated) functions not as a noun (i.e. a khuaya of people singing) but rather a verb (i.e. khuaya-ring; a gesture of gathering to share/disseminate and store knowledges through the form of useful gossip, inconsistent stories, trivia, daily news, announcements, things to remember by storing them, through which, song/sound becomes a welcome byproduct), but also as a space where listening takes place. As a backbone to this happening is a clear historical and cultural lineage of singing-to-store and the resilience of languages being passed on transgenerationally.


Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective, named after a bar in Pittsburgh where the collective first gathered , comes together irregularly to play music publicly, and to talk about that music. The work of the Collective is based on an idea that music can be studied together as an embodied form of theorizing, and as an insurgent tradition of social and aesthetic communication. The collective features Fred Moten, Stefano Harney, Dhanveer Brar Singh, Fumi Okiji, Ronald Rose-Antoinette, Louis Moreno, Paul Rekret and Edward George. Four members of the collective will participate in Echoes of Dissent (Vol. 1).

The research of Dhanveer Singh Brar focuses on histories of black diasporic culture and politics from the mid-twentieth century onwards. His work approaches the histories of black diasporic culture through modes of artistic experimentation with sound and the politics of intellectual production, paying attention to the relationships between popular and experimental music, art practice, cinema, publishing and political organisation. To this effect, he has published two books: Beefy’s Tune (Dean Blunt Edit) (The 87 Press, 2020) and Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski: The Sonic Ecologies of Black Music in the Early Twenty-First Century (Goldsmiths Press / MIT Press, 2021). He is currently a Lecturer in Black British History at the University of Leeds.

Louis Moreno’s research explores the spatial, historical and cultural modes of financial capitalism with a particular focus on architecture, urbanism and music. Louis is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures and the Center for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University of London, London. He is a member of the collectives freethought, Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective and Unspecified Enemies.

In order to understand the global politics of contemporary cultures, Paul Rekret’s work embraces cultural and political theory and global political economy to interrogate changing relationships between mind and body, thought and world, broadly conceived. This involves exploring questions such as how changing experiences of work might be expressed in art and popular cultures or be experienced in the culture industries themselves. His latest book, Take This Hammer: Work, Song, and Crisis (Goldsmiths/MIT Press), investigates changing representations of labour and leisure in an epoch of economic and environmental crisis. From May 2023 he teaches in the School of Social Sciences at Liverpool Hope University.

Edward George is a writer and broadcaster. A founding member of Black Audio Film Collective, he wrote and presented the ground-breaking science fiction documentary Last Angel of History (1996), an examination of the hitherto unexplored relationships between Pan-African culture, science fiction, intergalactic travel, and rapidly progressing digital technology. In his acclaimed series The Strangeness of Dub on Morley Radio, George dives into reggae, dub, versions and versioning, drawing on critical theory, social history, and a deep and wide cross-genre musical selection. He is the host of Kuduro – Electronic Music of Angola, for Counterflows and NTS. George was also a member of the electronic music group Hallucinator, which released a series of influential 12″s and the album Landlocked on Basic Channel’s Chain Reaction label.

Ain Bailey is a London-based artist, composer and DJ. Her practice explores sonic autobiographies and the constellation of sounds that form individual and community identities. Her compositions encompass field recordings and found sounds and are often inspired by reflections on silence and absence, feminist activism and architectural acoustics, particularly of urban spaces. She has developed numerous collaborations with performance, sonic and visual artists, creating multi-channel and mixed media installations and soundtracks for moving images, live performance and dance.

Rokia Bamba is a Brussels-based sound creator, explorer and curator, a radio host, the voice and words of the podcast Sororités, Conversations with my Sistas, an actress, a director and an ARTivist. Bamba started as a radio host, at the age of twelve, for Radio Campus where she, later, co-founded one of the first Hip-Hop radio shows in Belgium: Full Mix ! She realized only belatedly that she wasn’t only a good radio DJ but that she could also make people dance. Bamba is not DJ-ing in just any circle, but picks out the activist circles. Her sound exploration has also deepened through art and theater.

Simnikiwe Buhlungu is a multidisciplinary artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. She is currently based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where she was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (2020 – 2022). She nurtures an interest in knowledge[s] production[s] — how it is produced, by whom and how it is disseminated. Buhlungu locates sociohistorical and everyday phenomena by meandering through these questions and their inexhaustible potential answers. The use of sound, text, installation and print-based media (in their respective non-linear forms) serve as the ‘other ways’ in which epistemological presences and everyday phenomena manifest and exist. Through this, she maps points of cognisance; i.e. how do we come to know?, by positing various layers of awareness as an ecology — one which is syncopated and reverberated. Lately, she has been listening to some modular synthesis and has been thinking about apiaries.

Hannah Catherine Jones (aka Foxy Moron) is a London-based artist, scholar, multi-instrumentalist, broadcaster and DJ (BBC Radio/TV, NTS – The Opera Show), composer, conductor, founder of Peckham Chamber Orchestra – a community project established in 2013 and founder of Chiron Choir – a queer diasporic choir established in 2022. Jones completed her AHRC DPhil scholarship at Oxford University for which the ongoing body of work The Oweds was presented as a series of live and recorded, broadcast, audio-visual episode-compositions, using disruptive sound as a methodology of institutional decolonisation and was awarded with no corrections in 2021. Dr. Jones was a recipient of the BBC Radiophonic Oram Award for innovation in music (2018) and was nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Award composer award (2014).

The Otolith Group was founded by artists and theorists Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun in 2002. They work by seeing in the key of listening across media, observing a research based methodology that studies events, archives, movements, compositions, materials, performance, vocality, and space-time in moving and non-moving images, sounds, musics and texts, often departing from the existing works of composers, musicians, poets, and artists, such as Julius Eastman, Codona, Drexciya and Rabindranath Tagore. They have co-edited The Ghosts of Songs: The Film Art of the Black Audio Film Collective (Liverpool University Press, 2007), while Kodwo is author of such works as Dan Graham: Rock My Religion (Afterall, 2012) and More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (Quartet Books, 1998). The Otolith Group’s work has been exhibited worldwide.

Bhavisha Panchia is a curator and researcher of visual and audio culture. Her work engages with artistic and cultural practices under shifting global conditions, focusing on anti/postcolonial discourses, imperial histories, and networks of production and circulation of media. A significant part of her practice centres on auditory media’s relationship to geopolitical paradigms, particularly with respect to the social and ideological signification of sound and music in contemporary culture. She is the founder of Nothing to Commit Records, a label and publishing platform committed to the production and expansion of knowledge related to the intersection of contemporary art, literature and music within and across the global South.

The Murmur of the World

In the context of Courtisane Festival 2023 (Gent, 29 March – 2 April 2023). Curated by Stoffel Debuysere.

The title of this programme, The Murmur of the World, is taken from a piece of writing that critic Serge Daney devoted to Robert Kramer’s Route One/USA (1989). In this film fleuve, Kramer, together with companion and alter-ego Doc, makes a journey from the beginning of Route 1 in Maine to its end in Florida. Along the way, numerous spaces and encounters unfold, combining to form a previously unseen and unheard of picture of the US. In many ways, it is both a sequel to and counter-image of a film Kramer made more than a decade earlier: Milestones (1975). In this vast mosaic of a movie, he took stock of the political radicalism that had spread from the late 1960s onwards in the US and far beyond. With this film, he closed a period whose portrait he had drawn like no other. A disillusioned Kramer then headed to Europe where he found a new base. One need not be a Freudian to see that sooner or later he would return to his starting point.

Route One/USA,” he said, “comes from a conscious decision to return to the scene of the crime. The interesting thing about this film is that in Milestones, we crossed the entire country without ever talking to anyone who was not part of our crew. Route One/USA was the exact opposite: we were there just to talk, listen and learn.” Serge Daney continued on that élan in his piece: what does a doctor traveling across the hinterland do, he asked. He uses his eyes and takes from his briefcase that old emblem, the stethoscope. He measures up the state of the populations, he takes their pulse. From the people he meets and listens to, along Route One, he expects no truth: he simply follows them through a phase of their existence. He diverts them slightly from their route, as if offering them a free consultation. He does not dramatise the road (it is the opposite of a road movie in that sense), nor the encounter: these people are always there and have other things to do. He feasts his eyes but doesn’t expect anything from them – and that’s exceptional – a voyeuristic added value. Above all, he puts his ear to the ground. Here, cinema par excellence functions as a social and political stethoscope that measures the pulsation of hearts and ideas and lets the murmur of the world, in all its diversity, be heard.

Twenty years later, another filmmaker, Tariq Teguia, measured up the state of his native land. In Gabbla (Inland, 2008), the main character is not a doctor but a topographer returning to the Algerian interior. This choice is no accident: the work of the surveyor – going into the field, looking through a lens, drawing lines – is reminiscent of that of a filmmaker. It also evokes a certain philosophical practice: in a famous text, Gilles Deleuze described Michel Foucault’s work as that of a novel cartographer. Teguia, whose film practice is indeed that of a cartographer, once wrote a master’s thesis on Foucault. Moreover, he devoted a PhD to Robert Frank – whose photo collection The Americans could be seen as a precursor to Route One/USA – under the title Fictions cartographiques. Fiction implies a certain idea of displacement, and it is indeed displacement that the film Gabbla applies to a territory – that of Algeria – which consists in undoing its dominant configuration and confronting, through image and sound, a multiplicity of Algerians. Beyond the official scenarios about the ‘Third World’ and ‘growth countries’, about neo-colonialism, Islamism, liberalism and globalisation, the film, through a form of aesthetic hospitality, inventories and collects different possibilities of life that give new visibility and audibility to the community.

This programme offers a selection of cartographic fictions in which a concatenation of recordings and encounters does not reveal an ultimate truth, but constitutes a possible constellation, as an exercise in togetherness in difference. Fictions that accommodate a multiplicity of voices, languages, geographical and sonic territories, and, as one of the characters in Gabbla suggests, make different islands into an archipelago, taking all the possibilities of life inherent in each to their utmost eloquence.

Thanks to Nina Devroome, Kristofer Woods, Elizabeth Dexter, Céline Paini (Les Films D’Ici), Noshka van der Lely, Leenke Ripmeester (EYE), Helke Misselwitz, Mirko Wiermann (DEFA-Filmverleih), Céline Brouwez (CINEMATEK), Louise Richars (mk2), Tariq Teguia, Annabel Thomas (ECLECTIC).

Cues taken from Serge Daney, La Rumeur du monde (1989) and Jacques Rancière, Inland (2011). This selection of cartographic fictions is, of course, not exhaustive. One could also think of Gallivant (Andrew Kötting, 1996), Vers la mer (Annik Leroy, 1999), Rostov-Luanda (Abderrahmane Sissak, 1998), Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (Agnès Varda, 2000) or Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan’s Route 181 (2003), to name a few.

With the support of KASK & Conservatory / School of Arts, in the context of the research project Echoes of Dissent


Route One/USA
Robert Kramer, UK, FR, IT, 1989, DCP, 255′

English spoken
Digitized and restored by Les Film D’Ici with the support of the Centre National du Cinema (CNC)

In September 1987, Robert Kramer returned to the US after a decade of self-imposed exile, where he spent five months filming along Route One, which connects Canada to Key West in Florida. In 1936, it was the most travelled route in the world, meanwhile it runs alongside superhighways and through suburbs – a thin strip of tarmac that cuts through all the old dreams of a nation. Together with fellow traveller Doc (Paul McIsaac), Kramer enters a succession of private worlds that steadily reveal themselves to the camera: from a Native American reservation in Maine to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, from a Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter to a sermon at an evangelical church. The grittiness of Kramer’s earlier militant work has given way to a casual mise en scène, with a fluid camera moving amidst ever-changing characters. Rarely did a filmmaker so fearlessly tread the fault lines between documentary and fiction, between inside and outside, to the point where the film almost breaks in half.

“I had met someone who told me about Route One, and that it was a good way to cross America. From that conversation, with nothing but a map, I wrote a two or three page proposal about a trip along Route One. Without any idea of what kind of film it might be, just the desire to move. Little by little, the project began to take shape. There was still no concept. I’m not sure I even thought I was going to make the film. There was the idea that we always fall back on: that of living a situation… During five months shooting along this route, I did not have the impression of filming the past, but rather of revealing the present. From the shadows of the interchanges, the town centers of glass and steel stand out against the horizon like studio décors. We were in the present, affronting difficult times.“


De weg naar het zuiden (The Way South)
Johan van der Keuken, NL, 1981, 16mm, 143′

English subtitles
Conservation copy courtesy of EYE

The account of a journey starting in Amsterdam on 30 April 1980 – the coronation of a new queen, the occupation of an office building, a clash with the establishment – and ending up in Egypt via Paris, southern France, the Alps, Rome and Calabria. A “road movie”, says Johan Van der Keuken, “except that the road surface has mostly been rolled up by the wheels of a car or a plane and taken along to the next stop, so that one is moving by fits and starts. Once you are here, then there – and what is between here and there is up to you to fill in: the inner journey, the route you plot out for yourself. In his characteristic intuitive and engaged style, van der Keuken encounters people trying to make a place for themselves: squatters, travellers from country to city, from South to North. An account of outward emigration and inner alienation, but also of resilience and life’s courage. A journey to the South that gradually makes one feel what it means to lose the North.

“It is a story of outer emigration and inner alienation, but also a series of signs of the courage to face life. It is the obsession with rooms, streets, places where people try to communicate their lives to other people and fight their battles against the injustice of the world. The film is long, two hours and twenty-five minutes, but it has to be this long to enable me to record the impressions of a dream voyage and to register changes in perception and style. I had in mind the creation of a composition that would be balanced and yet, at the same time, take shape spontaneously. One often walks on the border of arbitrariness: everyone has something to say.”


Winter Adé (After Winter Comes Spring)
Helke Misselwitz, DE, 1988, DCP, 116′

German spoken, English subtitles
Digitized and restored by DEFA

In 1987, shortly before the collapse of the GDR, Helke Misselwitz travelled by train from her home near Zwickau in the south to the north coast of East Germany. Along the way, she met women of different ages and backgrounds, whom she filmed with rare tenderness and precision. “For almost forty years, the law has established that women are legally and economically equal to men,” Misselwitz said. “But what has happened in those 40 years in people’s behaviour towards one another? That’s what interested me.” Referring to her own biography – she was born in front of a closed railway crossing – the filmmaker explores how women and girls live in “real existing socialism” and “how they want to live”. The women – two young punks, a worker in a briquette factory, a Berlin economist, and an 85-year-old woman celebrating her diamond wedding anniversary – tell of their disappointments, desires and hopes. Never before had anyone in the GDR appeared so openly and at the same time so naturally in front of the camera to talk about their circumstances and dreams. With the programmatic title “Farewell Winter”, the film marked the untenability of the official stance. It pointed to a clear shift in the mood in East Germany, which finally broke out a year later.

“The three structural elements in Winter Adé are the railroad journey, the intensive meetings with women, and the observation of daily life. The only fixed aspects of the film was that it begins with my birthplace in Zwickau and ends on a ferry on the sea. I definitely wanted to tell about myself in the beginning: by acci­dent, I was born on the road, in an ambulance, right in front of a closed railway gate. And this fact leads into the concept of a rail­way journey. Of course, the railroad is a very important means of transportation in the GDR, but its meaning as a poetic symbol is also clear. It points to the existence of closed borders and also to the internal structure [of the country]: there are many tracks in life, but generally you can’t depart from the one you’re on because the switches are operated by someone else.”


D’Est (From the East)
Chantal Akerman, BE, FR, 1993, DCP, 107′

Newly digitized and restored by CINEMATEK

Between 1991 and 1993, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Chantal Akerman travelled through Central and Eastern Europe – to East Germany in the spring, to Poland and Ukraine in the summer, and on to Moscow in the winter. “For already 20 years, I wanted to go to Eastern Europe,” said Akerman, “to work with Slavic languages, which are different but sound quite similar. I wanted to make a work about the changes in voices and languages.” However, the film developed, intuitively, into a completely different form: while the texture of the soundtrack is very important in D’Est, not a single word features in the film. Instead, an audiovisual composition of haunting impressions unfolds, without commentary, dialogue or subtitles. In a succession of long takes, a world in suspension, on the verge of an indefinite future, is revealed. “Without getting too sentimental,” she says, “I would say that there are still faces that offer themselves, occasionally effacing a feeling of loss, of a world poised on the edge of an abyss, which sometimes take hold of you, as you cross “the East” as I have just done.”

“I originally wanted to work with a lot of languages. I had a lot of preconceived ideas, but it was through traveling a lot in those countries and finding things that interested me both in an emotional way and in a cinematic way that the film took shape. We made four trips. We were shooting a bit, but I knew the film was not there yet. So through the traveling I saw these people waiting and waiting and I thought that I should install myself next to them and that would be the film. So the shape was in my mind, but it was still very loose. And then I shot the material and through the editing I started to find the shape. I started to swim. And, in a way, that’s much more interesting than to just follow a story. It’s through cinema that you find the cinema.”


Zendegi va digar hich (And Life Goes On)
Abbas Kiarostami, IR, 1992, DCP, 95′

Persian spoken, English subtitles
Digitized and restored by mk2 films

In June 1990, an earthquake of catastrophic proportions struck Northern Iran, killing tens of thousands of people and causing untold damage. After the disaster, Abbas Kiarostami and his son decided to travel from Tehran to the area around Koker, a village where he made Where Is the Friend’s House? four years earlier, in search of the two child actors who starred in the film. The events of the trip and the story of a young man Kiarostami met along the way, who got married immediately after the disaster, stayed with him, and he decided to return to make a film there. In the fictionalised account of Kiarostami’s journey, as father and son move further into the countryside, the purpose of their mission fades and gives way to a sense of hope amid the rubble. When the locals refused to wear dirty clothes for the re-enactments and instead showed up in their finest attire, Kiarostami replied, “Why not? We are not portraying reality; we are making a film.”

“My concern was to find out the fate of the two young actors who played in the film but I failed to locate them. However, there was so much else to see… I was observing the efforts of people try­ing to rebuild their lives in spite of their material and emotional suffering. The enthusiasm for life that I was witnessing gradually changed my perspective. The tragedy of death and destruc­tion grew paler and paler. Towards the end of the trip, I became less and less obsessed by the two boys. What was certain was this: more than 50,000 people had died, some of whom could have been boys of the same age as the two who acted in my films. Therefore, I needed a stronger motivation to go on with the trip. Finally, I felt that perhaps it was more important to help the survivors who bore no recognizable faces, but were making every effort to start a new life for themselves under very difficult conditions and in the midst of an environment of natural beauty that was going on with its old ways as if nothing had happened. Such is life, it seemed to tell them, go on, seize the days.”


Gabbla (Inland)
Tariq Teguia, DZ, FR, 2008, DCP, 138′

Arab-Algerian spoken, English subtitles

To the challenge of “Algeria documenting itself ”, Tariq Teguia offers an answer in the form of a road movie that turns its back on the city and goes deep into the hinterland. It is the story of a surveyor moving through the steppes of Algeria’s Saïda province, forging new encounters and relations. But it is also an assemblage of lines, colours, rhythms and sounds in which the desert functions not so much as a mythological space, but rather as an intersection of divergent lines of circulation that fleetingly converge only to diverge again: those of the fictional characters, but also those of itinerant workers, those of underground activists, those of illegal immigrants, those of different languages and musical forms. Teguia maps the territory and the different ways it can be inhabited as an amalgamation of intersecting lines, thus testifying to the complexity and heterogeneity that characterises a society. He weaves the lines not to make a pleasing tapestry, but to “see between the stitches”, to reveal the traces of the past and the signs of another possible Algeria.

“My way of proceeding is territorial, spatial, both political and sensorial, and this time I wanted to extend it into the depths of the coun­try, into the heart of the country… This film is in some ways a road movie, but it works at different speeds. Gabbla was born of my intui­tions when I was on location: when I went there, I saw lines, and the film had to reflect these lines. They are lines of circulation, those of the Chinese workers, those of the clandestine activists, those of the illegal immigrants, those of the different languages and musical forms, and those of the fictional characters that I was going to add. I tried, in a plastic and not sociological or journalistic way, to make this intertwining of lines of circulation perceptible.”


Within the framework of ‘The Murmur of The World’ programme, we invited Daniel Deshays to reflect on the sonic dimensions of cartographic fictions. In his work as a sound engineer, researcher, teacher and writer, Deshays has developed an extensive reflection on the mise-en-scene of sound, as a creative object all too often considered subservient to the omnipotence of the image. For four decades he has contributed to the development of sound worlds in theatre, dance and especially cinema. He has collaborated with Robert Kramer, Tariq Teguia and Chantal Akerman, among others, whose work is represented in this year’s programme.

This seminar will be held in French.

ARTIST IN FOCUS: Robert Kramer

In the context of Courtisane Festival 2023 (Gent, 29 March – 2 April 2023). Curated by Stoffel Debuysere.

“For me, at the beginning of every film, there is always virtually nothing. You could carve this on my headstone. That is my conception of political cinema. Something can be done with even the most minuscule fragment of life; an ideal to be reconstruc­ted. This supposes constant movement, an entire existence being on the alert. Staying face to face with the world, head held high, without trembling, no matter what.”

He liked the word ‘trajet’. The connotation of the English ‘trajectory’ was way too mechanical for him – alluding too much to the trajectory of a bullet, for example. For Kramer, the French word, on the other hand, sounded very much in tune with a human scale of movement, with the coming and goings, dwellings and wanderings that define most of our lives’ paths. A word that’s more than apt for a filmmaker who was always on the move. Whether by choice or necessity, he was always the traveller who, seemingly, never fitted anywhere – always looking for ways of living differently, following his taste for adversity and complexity. How could his films, then, be anything but the expression of this restless search?

Growing up, he lived in two worlds. As a doctor’s son, he was set in a comfortable scene. And even then, he was already an outsider. Wherever he looked seemed foreign to him. A mysterious fiction that had to be deciphered at all costs. He could never shed the feeling that a war was raging. “Survival is at stake,” he said, “and our dreams are the first to go.” For a while though, dreams were flaring up like flames. To Robert Kramer, the experience of the 1960s remained the touchstone for his life and work, the moment when his ‘trajet’ really took off: first as a journalist in Latin-America and a community worker in Newark, later as a filmmaker and a member of the Newsreel Collective. Again and again, Kramer sought out the battlegrounds: in Venezuela, Vietnam, Angola, but also closer to home, in the heart of the radical movements challenging the American political structures, which he portrayed so well in Ice (1969). Time and again, he found himself committed to the search for adverse communities, of which he himself depicted the breakdown in Milestones (1975): an unsettling portrait of his ‘lost’ generation.

But filmmaking, for Kramer, remained. Filmmaking as yet another way of creating temporary communities to inhabit, the shelters and campsites that he so greatly needed. After moving to Europe in 1980, cinema would, more than ever, become his true habitat. Working from his base in Paris, he produced more than twenty films, varying in length, genre, medium and degree of achievement. Armed with his camera, Kramer not only kept on exploring the contours and edges of the world, but also of himself, as critical cartographer of a fast changing society, rebounding between private and public, interior and exterior, choice and necessity. The theme of ‘the return’ would become central to his work. The character of Doc, who first appeared in Ice played by Paul McIsaac, returns in both Doc’s Kingdom (1988) and Route One/USA (1989), which marked Kramer’s own return to the US after ten years of absence. Through this character, who is also his alter-ego, Kramer crafted diverging perspectives on his relation to what he left behind him, to that “what you are inevitably a part of and what you are forever outside.” He would also return to another ‘starting place’, the place that he first visited to make the Newsreel Collective’s People’s War (1969): Vietnam. In both Point de départ (1993) and Say Kom Sa (1998), he charts the country’s struggle through an uncertain and daunting past, present, and future. Yet another return would lead him to the city where his father was born, resulting in Berlin 10/90 (1990): an intimate dialogue with all the resonances that ‘Germany’ came to have, both in his family history and in global history.

Finally, the act of returning would also take the form of ‘feedback’, which was the original title of Notre nazi (1984). In this ‘behind the scenes’ film, Kramer ingeniously doubles up and problematizes the mise-en-scène of the film Wundkanal, with which its director, Thomas Harlan, attempted to exorcize a haunting past. But perhaps Kramer’s most personal form of feedback is Dear Doc (1990), a video letter addressed to his dear travel companion, in which he looks back on the creation of Doc’s Kingdom and Route One/USA. Returning, revisiting, going back – not home, but back: here’s the red thread running throughout this homage to a filmmaker whose ‘trajet’ is unlike any other.


Thanks to Keja Ho Kramer, Ricardo Matos Cabo, Céline Paini (Les Films D’Ici), Diana Vidrascu & Pip Chodorov (Re:Voir), Matthieu Grimault (Cinémathèque Française), Hugo Masson (Documentaire sur grand écran)


Route One/USA
Robert Kramer, UK, FR, IT, 1989, DCP, 255′, English spoken

In September 1987, Robert Kramer returned to the US after a decade of self-imposed exile, where he spent five months filming along Route One, which connects Canada to Key West in Florida. In 1936, it was the most travelled route in the world, meanwhile it runs alongside superhighways and through suburbs – a thin strip of tarmac that cuts through all the old dreams of a nation. Together with fellow traveller Doc (Paul McIsaac), Kramer enters a succession of private worlds that steadily reveal themselves to the camera: from a Native American reservation in Maine to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, from a Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter to a sermon at an evangelical church. The grittiness of Kramer’s earlier militant work has given way to a casual mise en scène, with a fluid camera moving amidst ever-changing characters. Rarely did a filmmaker so fearlessly tread the fault lines between documentary and fiction, between inside and outside, to the point where the film almost breaks in half.

“There is a structure that is almost the same for all the films: you arrive in the middle of something, and lots of elements are given to you. It’s fragmentary, chaotic, you get a lot of signs, a lot of little things to work with. As you go along, it starts to fall into place. I think it’s a very accurate reflection of how my mind works. In the beginning, films are like a vast area, a geography. They are populated with people. Places are extremely impor­tant. And I don’t know where I’m going.”


Doc’s Kingdom
Robert Kramer, FR, PT, 1988, 35mm, 90′, English spoken

Twenty years after Doc first appears in Kramer’s film Ice, as the leader of a mythical underground revolutionary organisation played by Paul McIsaac, his character returns here as a disillusioned former activist who practices medicine as a way to stay true to his beliefs. After a stint in Africa, he ended up in Lisbon, where he divides his time between the local hospital and his lonely cottage on the docks. “Go home,” says the local café owner (played by filmmaker João César Monteiro). But Doc no longer knows a home. His past catches up with him when his son (a young Vincent Gallo) visits him from the US. A prelude to Route One/USA that draws inspiration from one of the filmmaker’s favourite books, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, and reverts back to some of Kramer’s main themes: “the US, a home, a homeland, of which you are inevitably a part and of which you are forever outside.”

“I am very attached to the idea of geography. Most often, for me, places come before people. Starting with Doc’s Kingdom, what was an important formal idea was the idea of the trajet, a very beautiful word that doesn’t exist in English. It was this idea of filming bodies moving through spaces that interested me. I never liked travellings, very concretely: I couldn’t stand the idea of placing the rails. It seemed to me that it was an incredible pain to lay fifty meters of rails in order to accompany a character. The question was also: how to move in a space in a reasonable length of time, which does not become unbearable?”

Dear Doc
Robert Kramer, US, FR, 1990, video, 35′, English spoken

A video letter addressed to Kramer’s fellow traveller and accomplice, Paul McIsaac, aka Doc, the main character in Doc’s Kingdom and Route One/USA. This candid letter, written, filmed and composed after the editing of Route One/USA, expresses all the strength and density of a long-term friendship that would last.

“I’ve always been frightened of what you might call the Jonas Mekas syndrome, which means: ‘I totally embrace my subjec­tivity’. I had decided to go to the very end, I was going to say everything. Show everything, for once. And then, there’s every way to not even show what you thought you were going to show. I really wanted to reach another level. I wanted to do this by working twenty­four hours a day. You could also call it the Chris Marker syndrome. I was going to plunge into it com­pletely. I wasn’t going to answer the phone, go home, and I’d see what would happen. What did happen is
Dear Doc.”


Point de départ (Starting Place)
Robert Kramer, FR, 1993, 35mm to digital, 90′, French, English and Vietnamese spoken, English subtitles

More than 20 years after People’s War, which shaped his commitment against US war policy, Kramer returns to his starting point: Vietnam. “This was,” says Kramer, “what I knew, what I was interested in, what I was most invested in, where I had already made another film. I wondered how they could see things there: having paid such a price, being given the chance to participate in the New World Economy at gunpoint on the terms of the New World Order. It was either that, or disappear into oblivion, like Cuba.” Point de départ is an attempt to connect an immutable past with an irrefutable present. In Hanoi, despite economic transformations, the revolutions of the past half century live on in the memories of those who lived through them, people such as Kramer’s former guide from 1969, who has since translated Don Quixote, or a tightrope walker in the national circus who balances away the ghost of lost hope, or a man who took photos of B52s and another who lost his fingers shooting them down. But also activist Linda Evans, who was part of the crew that filmed People’s War and was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1985. “You can see my film as a mourning process for the ideas that put Linda in prison. My ideas are in prison.”

“Many of the ideas that some people died for have been forgotten. It is necessary to read through the pages of recent history. The ‘starting place’ is really after the film. It is now. I could have made this film in another place. The most important thing was not to talk particularly or exclusively about Vietnam, but was, above all, this idea of ‘starting place.’ Because that’s the way things are, we have to start out from a look at what we have experienced over the last thirty years.”

Say Kom Sa
Robert Kramer, FR, 1998, video, 19′, French spoken, English subtitles

In 1997, Kramer visited Vietnam for the third time and shot this film, concluding his ‘Vietnam Trilogy’. His DV camera observes the accelerated transformation of society into the free-market capitalist system and the things that are about to be forgotten and lost in the process. The intimate travel diary turns into a deep meditation on globalisation and the filmmaker’s point of view.

“In the apartment, there are gifts from old friends in Vietnam: reminders of a different history. But the time is now, 1998: The ‘market economy’, that’s our common fate. A construction­site on the edges of ‘West lake’ in Hanoi. This lake in the centre of Hanoi is being gradually walled in by huge modern hotels. The village ist disappearing. Everybody knows: It’s just a matter of money now. Who’s rich and who’s poor, who can and who can’t. That is how it is: ‘C’est comme ça …’ ”


Berlin 10/90
Robert Kramer, US, FR, 1990, video, 64′, English spoken

This film is part of the television series Live, curated by Philippe Grandrieux, conceived as a series of 14 episodes, each consisting of a single 60-minute long take, filmed on Hi8 video, without additional text, sound or post-production. Kramer’s contribution was shot in Berlin, his father’s birthplace, on 25 October 1990. Seated in the bathroom of his flat, he dialogues with images of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Gulf War, and confronts his own hauntings. “Berlin has a lot to do with that idea of returning, going back to my father and a certain idea of the family past,” he says.

“They called this TV series Live, and it was offered up with a lot of old­sounding words what came out of the period of ‘Cinéma Verité’ or ‘Direct Cinema.’ Throughout there was the assumption that a camera running continuously can somehow access ‘the real.’ I don’t think that I realize how much I was moving in another direction or for how long. I was, for better or worse, involved in a very complicated dialogue between myself then­and­there in Berlin, and the many dif­ferent connections that I have, inevitably, with Germany. You could say, a dialogue between myself and the reverberation that ‘Germany’ has become.”

Les yeux l’un de l’autre (I’ll Be Your Eyes, You’ll Be Mine)
Keja Ho Kramer & Stephen Dwoskin, US, FR, 2006, video, 47′, English spoken

A poetic ode that takes on the narrative framework of an afterthought: a detective, Keja Ho K., goes in search of a phantom, Robert Kramer. Together with Stephen Dwoskin, with whom Kramer exchanged video letters for years, Keja Ho creates an imaginary dialogue based on images from Kramer’s archive, fuelled by numerous memories and imbued with everything that would be close to his heart: the act of sharing, and the obligation to think for ourselves and to never betray our dreams.

“Working on I’ll Be Your Eyes, You’ll Be Mine was a way of being with you in the splendor of all the contradictions… it was also my relationship to the world, a reflection on how we work and take a point of view, try to be in the world in our own way. I met a wonderful friend of ours on this trip, Steve Dwoskin. I wanted to tell you how important this sharing with Steve was for me and how amazing it was to enter into the arrangement of ‘parts and pieces’ with him. Feeling this great connection in the work… the world of metaphor and symbolism, sculpting images, working with pixels as pigment, extensions of thought seeping into the computer canvas; amazing minds breaking through boundaries. How can I express how grateful I am to be on this walk, how sweet it has been (and always will be) to have known you and to have benefited so fully from your marvellous gift… Oh, Dad, you gave us so much freedom, and how hard that responsibility is… ”


Notre nazi
Robert Kramer, DE, FR, 1984, video, 114′, English spoken

This gripping portrait was shot during the filming of Thomas Harlan’s Wundkanal, in which Alfred Filbert, a former Gestapo officer, plays an ex-Nazi kidnapped by a terrorist organisation. Kramer observes how Harlan – whose father, Veit Harlan, directed the infamous anti-Semitic propaganda film Jud Süß – gradually adopts the enemy’s methods in an attempt to come to terms with his past. Thus becoming, as it were, his own worst enemy. It is the story of two German generations, and also of an observant outsider, Kramer, who didn’t experience any of that history but said he felt connected to it in an abstract way through his Jewishness. He himself labelled the film “a really alive attempt to get inside an enigma.” With his camera, Kramer approaches and stalks Filbert as an unbreakable and opaque block of history that seethes at the centre of the dark film studio and of everyone’s attention. “My film is perhaps another fiction: the story of a certain T., son of the greatest Nazi filmmaker, and himself a film director. All his life he has tried to undo his past. Today he is shooting a fiction film, he has given the main role to a Nazi war criminal who is more or less the same age. By this act T. releases a whole torrent of unforeseeable energy which sweeps the set and even more than the set.”

“For me, the film is fundamentally about the question of judgment, about the complexity of a situation. On the one hand, we have Veit Harlan’s son, obsessed with his past and having such an understandable need to disassociate himself from that past and confront it within himself. It shakes up this strangely solid and integrated old man, who we know from the start is guilty of the worst we can imagine. And me, once again, an involved observer on camera. The film goes down some paths that lead nowhere. I’m not sure any of them lead anywhere. But they all revolve around the question of judgment: who has the right to judge? What are the right ways to judge?”

ARTIST IN FOCUS: Trinh T. Minh-ha

In the context of the Courtisane festival 2023 (29 March – 2 April). Curated by Stoffel Debuysere.

“Patriarchy and hegemony. Not really two, not one either. My history, my story, is the history of the First World/Third World, dominant/oppressed, man/woman relationship.. When speaking about the Master, I am necessarily speaking about both Him and the West. Patriarchy and hegemony. From orthodox to progressive patriarchy, from direct colonization to indirect, subtly pervasive hegemony, things have been much refined, but the road is still long and the fight still goes on.”

“I do not intend to speak about; just speak nearby.” With these words, spoken in her debut film, Reassemblage (1982), Trinh T. Minh-ha describes the attitude she adopts throughout her oeuvre. An attitude characterized by an aversion to institutional authority and expertise, and instead grounded in embodied experience and self-reflection. A way of positioning herself in relation to the world that expresses itself in all aspects of her films: verbally, musically, visually. For example, in Reassemblage, the first of two films she made in West Africa, she exposes the transformations that inevitably take place when attempting to put the impossible experience of ‘what’ comprises Senegalese culture into cinematic form. That same urge to break down patterns of expectation and challenge the interpretive claims of authoritarian forms is also found in her writing. Her influential book Woman, Native, Other (1989, in French version: Femme, indigène, autre, Paris: B42, 2022 ), for instance, is primarily a questioning of the contradictory imperatives faced by the ‘I’, as a ‘Third World woman’, in creating and critiquing the role of creator and intellectual across literature, anthropology and the arts.

Born in Hanoi, Trinh T. Minh-ha emigrated to the US during the Vietnam War, where she studied music composition, ethnomusicology and French literature. Since the early 1980s, she has been problematising the forms of reductionism and essentialism that influence our self-image and worldview. By her own admission, her films are partly motivated by her experiences in former colonised Vietnam – experiences that she clearly recognised, shared and re-lived in Africa. These life experiences account for her decision to make films that point to the process of the construction of meaning, and to herself as an active element in that process. Her films are grounded in the question: why not approach a country, a people, a culture by starting with what comes with an image or with a name, like ‘Senegal’, but also ‘Vietnam’, ‘China’, or ‘Japan’? What exactly stands for, characterises and speaks to a cultural and political event? How does the medium of cinema allow one to show, tell and receive rather than merely represent? In other words, Trinh considers a given name or a recorded image not as finalities but as points of departure. In Shoot for the Contents (1991) and her latest film, What About China? (2022), she does not search for the ‘true’ face of China but probes beneath and with the surface of the country’s image – an image, determined by the media and other forms of information, that’s taken for granted in our daily relationship to the country.

The space in which Trinh T. Minh-ha works and creates is where she confronts and leaves behind the world of beaten paths and traffic regulations. She seeks the in-between spaces where established boundaries can be rearranged and shifted, including those of the ‘I’. In each of her films, rather than as a source, the ‘I’ is deployed as an open site where other manifestations of the ‘I’ can take up residence and incongruous elements can converge. In Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), she approaches Vietnamese culture in all its multiplicity without endorsing the legitimized subjectivity of the ‘insider’. Rather than constructing a single homogeneous perspective or an ‘unmediated’ personal account, she portrays culture through popular memory and oral traditions, primarily concerning Vietnamese women, while simultaneously addressing the politics of interviewing and the politics of translation. “Crisscrossing more than one occupied territory at a time,” she writes, “she remains perforce inappropriate/d – both inside and outside her own social positionings… A trajectory across variable praxes of difference, her (un)location is necessarily the shifting and contextual interval between arrested boundaries.”

In contrast to the endless discourse about a virtual boundlessness in a globalised world, Trinh T. Minh-ha unveils and punctures the separations and demarcations that define our place in and relationship to the world. “Reality is delicate,” she says in Reassemblage, and it is that constant, wavering probing of reality, filled with a passion called wonder, averse to claims of authenticity, authority or neutrality, that shows from her work the power to break out of our compartmentalised world.


In the context of this focus on the work of Trinh T. Minh-ha, we invited musician, author and curator David Toop to reflect on the sound work in her films. The resulting publication, titled Breath, rhythm, silence, resonance: listening beyond seeing in the films of Trinh T. Minh­ha, is the first publication in the Echoes of Dissent series, devoted to the politics of the soundtrack. This series is part of the research project of the same name within KASK & Conservatorium School of Arts Ghent.

Thanks to An van. Dienderen, Christophe Piette (CINEMATEK), Angelika Ramlow (Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst), Colleen O’Shea (Women Make Movies)

This program will be followed by a complete retro­spective dedicated to the films of Trinh T. Minh­ha at CINEMATEK in Brussels (


Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen
Trinh T. Minh-ha, US, 1982, 16mm, 40′

Reassemblage is Trinh T. Minh-ha’s first 16mm film, made after a three-year stay (1977-80) in Senegal, where she taught music at the Institut National des Arts in Dakar. It was during this stay that she had become aware of the hegemony of anthropological discourse in any attempt, by both local outsiders and insiders, to identify and capture the observed culture. This film is a response to the urgency she felt to question the anthropological apparatus, its essentialising constructs and colonial ethos. This also implied a questioning of her own position as a “hybrid insider”, as someone who shares a certain experience of colonialism but at the same time is no less considered an outsider than any European. Above all, the film is a response to a desire to “not simply mean”; a desire not to approach Senegalese culture by wrapping it in reductive constructions of meaning. Trinh subverts the conventions of cinematic representation by playing with repetition, non-synchronous sound and unstable camerawork that disrupt temporal and spatial continuity and invite viewers/listeners to assume their own relationship to the world that appears on screen.

“My approach is one which avoids any sure­ness of signification. In most anthropological presentations, the establishing of connections between signs and the deciphering of cultural codes is flattened out by the voice of knowledge, the voice of factual truth. This is reflected, in films, in the omniscience of the cinematography and the editing as well as the commentary and/ or the “talking­head” strategy. The strategies of Reassemblage question the anthropological knowledge of the “other,” the way anthropol­ogists look at and present foreign cultures through media, here film… The critical work in Reassemblage […] is not simply aimed at the anthropologist, but also at the missionary, the Peace Corps volunteer, the tourist, and last but not least at myself as onlooker.”

Surname Viet Given Name Nam
Trinh T. Minh-ha, US, 1989, 16mm, 108′

“A Vietnamese woman making a film on Vietnamese women: What could sound more familiar and correct in today’s context of cultural diversity and liberal pluralism?” And yet, says Trinh T. Minh-ha, self-representation and representation is a responsibility one cannot afford to merely reject. In order to break away from that kind of authorized subjectivity, she chose for a number of itineraries that would allow her to show “the culture” without endorsing the insider’s authority. This was largely done by avoiding the so-called factual historical information that one easily gets in history books on Vietnam, and by working with the more slippery realms of oral tradition and popular memory: the songs, sayings, proverbs that expose women’s condition; the stories that people remember of the historical heroines of Vietnam; and the life stories of contemporary Vietnamese women. In parallel, Trinh T. Minh-ha also emphasises the politics of the interview by drawing on a series of interviews that had been conducted in Vietnam by another woman of the Vietnamese diaspora (Mai Thu Van), translated and published in French, re-translated into English by herself, and then re-enacted in the film. In this way, both the role of translation in film and the role of film as a form of translation are problematised.

“It’s not a return in a physical sense, but a return in the sense that I made my two previous films in Africa before making Surname Viet – a film in which I have finally been able to come to terms with Vietnam or with a national identity; a film focusing on Vietnamese women or on female identity and difference. That’s why it was extremely important for me not to approach it from a legitimized “insider’s” point of view, but rather from a number of spaces locating me somewhere between an insider and an outsider. Spaces manifested, for example, in the acknowledgment of the media­tor’s role; in the multiplicity of translation, of the “you” referred to by the interviewees, and of first­person narratives; and in the exposing of the politics of interviews involved.”

Shoot for the Contents
Trinh T. Minh-ha, US, 1991, 16mm, 102′

This film by Trinh T. Minh-ha, whose title partly refers to a Chinese guessing game, reflects on Mao’s famous statement: “Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend.” It offers simultaneously an excursion into the maze of allegorical designations and narratives in China and a reflection on questions of power and change, politics and culture, as reflected by the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Contrary to conventional expectations of “authenticity”, Trinh T. Minh-ha offers to the viewer a wide range of what one can call “border people”, who are right at the edge of being an outsider and an insider to the culture. Testimonies of artists, philosophers and cultural workers are interwoven with female voices, Chinese popular songs and classical music, and sayings of Mao and Confucius. Video images emulate the gestures of calligraphy and contrast with film footage of rural China and stylized interviews. Like traditional Chinese opera, Trinh’s film unfolds through “bold omissions and minute depictions” to render “the real in the illusory and the illusory in the real.” Exploring color, rhythm and the changing relationship between ear and eye, this meditative documentary realizes on screen the shifts of interpretation in contemporary Chinese culture and politics.

“Every work I realized, has been realized to transform my own consciousness. If I went to Africa to dive into a culture that was mostly unknown to me then, I went to China mainly because I was curious as to how I could depart from what I knew of Her. The prejudices that the Vietnamese carry vis­-a-­vis the Chinese are certainly historical and political. The past domination of Vietnam by China and the antagonistic relationship nurtured between the two nations have been weighing so heavily on the Vietnamese psyche that very often Vietnamese identity would be defined in counteraction to everything thought to be Chinese. And yet it suffices to look a bit harder at the Vietnamese culture – at its music, to mention a most explicit example – to realize how much it has inherited from both China and India.”

What About China?
Trinh T. Minh-ha, US, CN, 2022, DCP, 135′

In her newest film, the sonically striking What About China?, Hi8 footage shot in rural China from 1993-1994 is reframed thirty years later: first against China’s contradicting representation, histories, and futures, and second through the process of conversion from video to digital, where the transformation of low-res images creates ghostly animations on a canvas of multi-generational change. Pulsing against the surface of this inquiry is a theory of harmonics that takes the Hakka Roundhouse – a circular multi-family dwelling connected by common areas in the center – as its nexus. Trinh finds in this architecture, in the materials she uses to compose her film, and in the footage converted from video to digital a network of passageways: between society and nature, self and other, landscape and innerscape. The viewer is invited to steep themselves in these harmonics, both material and metaphor, to find associative flights from the polyrhythmic interaction of ideas, instruments, songs, text, moving and still images. We journey through these haunted, infinite scales, guided by voiceover readings by Xiaolu Guo, Xiao Yue Shang, Yi Zhong, and Trinh herself. Each offers a different entryway into the film’s polyvocal network of thought. One asks: “What exactly is disappearing? And why?” (Kim-Anh Schreiber)

“The notion of “speaking nearby” put forth in
Reassemblage has been realized differently with each film of mine. It’s a challenge for me every time I put it into practice. How do you speak nearby? It is in What About China? where this practice of speaking in proximity, rather than merely speaking for and about, is most comprehensive. Being closely related to China – China is an ancestral culture of Vietnam, where I was born – does not qualify me to speak about Her. Of greater fascination is how the film is positioned in relation to China, or how the Self is extended through a relationship with the Other.”

A conversation with Trinh T. Minh-ha

How can we think and speak about the notion of “speaking nearby,” which is a fundamental guiding principle throughout Trinh T. Minh-ha’s work? How does it relate to gestures of respect, wonder, love? How does it translate into the art form called cinema, verbally, musically, visually? These questions are the starting point for an extended conversation with Trinh T. Minh-ha.

“To keep the relation of language to vision open, one would have to take the difference between them as the very line of departure for speech and writing, rather than as an unfor­tunate obstacle to be overcome. The interval, creatively maintained, allows words to set in motion dormant energies and to offer, with the impasse, a passage from one space (visual, musical, verbal, mental, physical) to another. To prevent the passage from closing itself off and to preserve the infinity of the task of speaking nearby, a number of conversations developed around specific books and films and are further assembled in an interrelational space of detour. Just as the form a film takes in the creating process can acutely materialize what it says in content, the way a film is talked about can, when circum­stances allow in the encounter between interviewer(s) and interviewee, be keenly tuned to the way it is made.”

In the context of the research project Echoes of Dissent (KASK & Conservatory School of Arts)


In the context of Courtisane Festival 2022 (Gent, 30 March – 3 April 2022). Curated by Stoffel Debuysere with Ricardo Matos Cabo.

Diz-se que na morte se vem sempre de longe
ao encontro de alguma coisa.
Reencarnamos no reconhecimento de uma voz,
e qualquer voz longínqua nos traz a certeza familiar
de não termos estado nunca sozinhos.
Porque nos reconhecemos nos bancos de jardim
onde nunca estivemos sentados.
Porque a lembrança que se extingue
é na memória que perdura.
Que mistério de memória é essa,
a da vida que, rasurando,
escreve de novo o que não deixa de sentir?

They say that in death one comes from afar
to encounter something.
We find reincarnation in the recognition of a voice,
and some far-off voice brings us that familiar certainty
that we have never been alone.
For we find familiarity on a park bench
where we have never been seated.
Because a recollection that fades
lives on in our memory.
What mystery of memory is this?
That of life, which rubs things out,
then rewrites what it continues to feel?

– Sérgio Godinho, original poem from Encontros

Encounters were at the heart of the life and work of Pierre-Marie Goulet (1950-2021). His filmmaking consisted of a process of searching and accumulating elements that then needed to be forgotten, to be reborn in ways that he himself could not have anticipated. What interested him the most were those small miracles that would emerge almost by chance. “I need to impregnate myself in an obsessive way with a universe that will then give me back the film,” he said. This process of finding and connecting unsuspected threads, geographical, cultural, or cinematographic, was nowhere as pronounced as in Encontros (2006), a film that revealed itself at the crosspoint of different paths and times based around the polyphonic songs from southern Portugal’s Alentejo region. The film grew out of the desire to extend the adventure of a previous film, Polifonias (1998), and to “circumscribe the presence of a sonorous, musical, poetic, human tribe, an analogical and surprising tribe whose territory does not correspond to any geographically known territory”, but it developed into a form entirely of its own, as a resonance chamber where a multiplicity of invocations resound.

Invocations such as that of young poet António Reis, not yet a filmmaker at the time, who became mesmerized by the songs of Peroguarda villagers and decided to visit the village in 1957, where he recorded poems recited by inhabitants, amongst whom the extraordinary Virgínia Maria Dias… Of Corsican ethnomusicologist Michel Giacometti who moved to Portugal two years later, where he would dedicate the rest of his life studying and recording popular oral traditions which were being lost or forgotten. It was Reis who sent Giacometti to Peroguarda where he would return periodically, and where, according to his wish, he was buried… Of poet Manuel Antonio Pina who, accompanied by other aspiring poets, chose to follow in the footsteps of António Reis in the mid 1960s… Of filmmaker Paulo Rocha, who shot his second film, Mudar de Vida (1966), in the village of Furadouro, setting the story among the fishermen who had fascinated him during his childhood. It was again Reis, having already worked alongside Rocha as assistant director of Manoel de Oliveira’s Acto da Primavera (1963), who wrote the film’s dialogues… From these intertwining invocations Pierre-Marie Goulet has crafted a tender meditation on the persistence of memory, sharing with us the echoes of a time that has passed, of a culture that is at risk of being erased. Not as a lament of what has been lost, but to make room for all that is alive.

Encontros acts as a guiding thread for this program, which brings together works by Pierre-Marie Goulet, Margarida Cordeiro and António Reis, Paulo Rocha, and Manoel de Oliveira; but also of Jean-Daniel Pollet, close friend and collaborator of Pierre-Marie Goulet, with whom he shared a profound love for the spaces, the rites, the memory and culture of the Mediterranean; as well as of Sumiko Haneda, who worked with Paulo Rocha on two of his films, and whose Ode to Mt. Hayachine (1982) provides another echo of traditions whose vital force continues to reverberate in the present.


In the presence of filmmaker and educator Teresa Garcia, who collaborated on the films of Pierre-Marie Goulet and with whom she developed Os Filhos de Lumière, a remarkable film education movement in Portugal.

Thanks to Teresa Garcia, Paulo Trancoso (Costa do Castelo), Martine Barbé (Image et Création), Sara Moreira (Cinemateca Portuguesa), Manuel-Casimiro de Oliveira, Sumiko Haneda, Tokue Sato (Kanatasha), Takeshi Yoshida (Japan Foundation), Christophe Piette (CINEMATEK), Matteo Boscarol, Rita Morais.


Pierre-Marie Goulet, PT, 2006, HD, 105′

Portuguese spoken, English subtitles

Mesmerized by the songs of Peroguarda villagers in southern Portugal’s Alentejo region, young Portuguese modern poet António Reis, Corsican researcher of Portuguese folk music Michel Giacometti, and film director Paulo Rocha visited the village one after another in the late 1950s. Encontros aims at circumscribing a tribe made of sounds, music, poetry and people; an analogical and outstanding tribe that doesn’t belong to any geographically known territory. The film intertwines different present and past gatherings between people and memories. Through that intertwining, one is made to wonder about what one is made of and how memory, the way others view us and the act of sharing enriches our lives.

“After finishing Polifonias, a film dedicated to Michel Giacometti, the desire was born not to lose everything that had been offered to me throughout the shooting and that I had not used in the final editing: songs, narratives, poems that were recorded and whose memory risked being lost if they were not integrated in a new project. There was also the desire to follow some of the paths that had been indicated to me during this time: that of the visit of António Reis, then still a poet, to the village of Peroguarda in Alentejo, the very same place in which Michel Giacometti wished to be buried, and others I wished to visit for my own reasons, such as, for example, to approach Paulo Rocha’s film Mudar de Vida, which fascinated me particularly by the interaction between the narrated story and the end of the fishing communities of Furadouro. Little by little it became clear what, beneath the surface, constituted in my mind one of the faces of Encontros: the echo of the past, of a time gone by, of a culture which had died out, but an echo one hears in the present and which resounds in its appeals. It thus became a question not of deploring what has disappeared, not of making a nostalgic return to the past, or bringing fragments of the past into the present, but of letting go of memory to make way for the living.” (Pierre-Marie Goulet)


Polifonias – Paci è Saluta, Michel Giacometti
Pierre-Marie Goulet, FR, PT, 1998, 35mm, 82′

Portuguese spoken, English subtitles
35mm print courtesy of Cinemateca Portuguesa

Michel Giacometti, “The Corsican who loved Portugal” was born in Ajaccio. In 1959, he arrived in Portugal and never left. For thirty years, he collected music, tales, stories and poetry, sayings and adages, recipes for popular medicine, giving back to men and women the pride of their culture. This Corsican reinvented himself an island in Portugal, saving the roots of others to discover his own. By saving the memory of a people, he pursued a quest, that of the sometimes-mythical roots that we all carry deep within ourselves. It is on this terrain that Polifonias crosses the traces of his journey, questions the living memory of the elders, and shows the ever-present vivacity of traditional music in Portugal and Corsica.

“I made the Giacometti film with Antoine Bonfanti, a sound engineer who had always worked with me since 1978. He was the great engineer of direct sound. Chris Marker, Godard, Marguerite Duras, André Delvaux, Resnais… Bonfanti, who was a Corsican, before arriving in Portugal heard about Giacometti, who was also a Corsican. They struck up a friendship and thanks to that we developed, the three of us, a project that was to be filmed. But Giacometti died before we could start the film. Five years later Antoine and I still wanted to make the film and we finally decided to make
Polifonias, which took up Giacometti’s desire to bring together the Corsican and Alentejan cultures. I added to the film a tribute to Michel Giacometti’s own path.” (Pierre-Marie Goulet)


Acto da Primavera (Rite of Spring)
Manoel de Oliveira, PT, 1963, 35mm, 94′

Portuguese spoken, English subtitles
Restored 35mm print courtesy of Cinemateca Portuguesa

While location shooting for another film, Oliveira stumbled upon the subject for Rite of Spring, the annual passion play enacted in a village in the same remote northern region of Portugal (Trás-os-Montes) that would inspire Antonio Reis’s most important work. Intrigued by the ritualistic and incantatory qualities of the vernacular production, Oliveira returned with Reis and set about directing the villagers in a re-enactment of the passion play, adding a rich performative layer to the film. A fascinating meta-ethnographic study of local tradition and history that folds in on itself, Rite of Spring climaxes unexpectedly in a furious Bruce Conner style apocalyptic montage that links Christ’s death to the violent lunacy of the Vietnam era. (Harvard Film Archive)

“There was stubbornness in his consciousness, that of a solitary man who, through his camera, reacted to what he saw by trying to perceive where the good was and where the evil was, what were the forces of things which he saw. You could clearly feel the hesitation. And in the midst of the struggle, of the hesitation, suddenly, a decision: this angle, that frame. And such a formal decision did not come from any model, it was like a visceral, instantaneous reaction, without a parachute, taking the risk… What struck me most was this intimate exercise in the rough and tumble of perceiving the world, the camera’s gaze, if you like, but how the perceived matter resists our will, which is good. The camera shakes because it cannot properly perceive what it is seeing. He has never been greater than in these moments, and never has he been more inimitable. This side of him is like an X-ray of emotion, of conscience, of doubt, and there are few equivalents in world cinema.” (Paulo Rocha)


Mudar de Vida (Change of Life)
Paulo Rocha, PT, 1966, DCP, 94′

Portuguese spoken, English subtitles
Restored version courtesy of Cinemateca Portuguesa

The second and arguably most important film by Paulo Rocha, one of the central figures of the Novo Cinema, Mudar de Vida is a direct response to Oliveira’s Rite of Spring and an important precursor to the radical documentary shaped fiction of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro. Captivated by the remote Portuguese fishing village of Furadouro, Rocha chose not to make a traditional documentary but rather to engage the specificities of the people and place through fiction, crafting a melancholy story about a soldier’s return to a changing world. Inspired by his experience working with Oliveira on Rite of Spring, Rocha “cast” the local villagers as themselves, interspersed with experienced actors led by the great Isabel Ruth, who would go on to become an Oliveira regular. The poetry of the local vernacular is captured in the textured dialogue written by António Reis, who met Rocha through Oliveira. Despite the steadily building critical acclaim that followed the release of Mudar de Vida — and despite its controversial depiction of a disillusioned Angola War veteran — Rocha effectively ceased filmmaking until the 1980s. (Harvard Film Archive)

“António gave me a great lesson. He worked on the dialogues for six months, scratching and throwing them away. Every day thinner, always in a cold sweat, searching for the comma, the pause, the secret and expressive assonance. The dialogues, dragged out in irons, arrived at the filming at the last minute, and there was no time to reflect on them. It was only years later, when Mudar de Vida had its premiere in Tokyo, that I had the opportunity to study them. The work of translating them into Japanese was very slow, and only then could I discover the musical concision, the secret wealth of those phrases written with an infallible ear. How many dialogues in our language can compare to that?” (Paulo Rocha)


António Reis, Margarida Cordeiro, PT, 1976, DCP, 111′

Portuguese spoken, English subtitles
New digitized version courtesy of Cinemateca Portuguesa

For Jean Rouch, “this film reveals a new cinematographic language.” Reis and Cordeiro’s indisputable masterpiece exploded the meaning and possibilities of ethnographic cinema with its lyrical exploration of the still resonant myths and legends embodied in the people and landscapes of Portugal’s remote Trás-Os-Montes region. Evoking a kind of geologically Bergsonian time, with past and present layered upon one another, Trás-os-Montes interweaves evocative recreations of the ancient worlds and encounters with atavistic peasantry, following the pilgrim’s path traced by Reis and Cordeiro as they led their skeletal crew from village to village in search of the poetic essence of the Portuguese language and imagination. Painstakingly researched and shot over the course of one year, Reis and Cordeiro became intimate with every person included in their ambitious film, carefully selecting the different voices, faces, and gestures that would together provide an extraordinary composite, associative, and mythological response to the question of how to define a ‘national cinema’. (Harvard Film Archive)

“António Reis was a kind of visionary scientist. He looked at the world, at the stones, at nature, with the eyes of a sage and a poet. He found in them the magical side and the geological side… António and Margarida’s film was a masterpiece that brought them European fame. When the film premiered in Paris, Le Monde published a terrorist order signed by Joris Ivens and Jean Rouch, the two supreme masters of documentary cinema: ‘Allez voir, toutes affaires cessantes, Trás-os-Montes!’” (Paulo Rocha)


Hayachine no fu (Ode to Mt. Hayachine)
Sumiko Haneda, JP, 1982, 16mm, 186′

Japanese spoken, English subtitles
Print courtesy of Japan Foundation and Kanatasha

Shot in the foothills of Iwate Prefecture’s mystical Mt. Hayachine, the film records a year in the life of the area’s villages and villagers as they prepare for kagura performances, a dance-theater form with origins in religious rituals (now mainly performed for tourists). The film can be enjoyed and processed on many levels: a musicologist’s fascinating glimpse into kagura traditions and performances; an ethnographic portrait of rural life and village hierarchies; and most of all, a study of a key moment in Japanese society, when, even as Haneda filmed, rural lifestyles were exposed to modernity: paved roads, cars, and tv sets. Fittingly, the film’s true beauty comes not through its thesis, but in its attunement to the mountain’s own intricate rhythms. (Pacific Film Archive)

Sumiko Haneda is one of the most prominent documentary filmmakers from Japan and one of the few women working in non-fiction cinema there in the postwar period. Born in 1926, in Dalian, China (then Manchuria), in 1949 Haneda entered Iwanami Shoten, a publishing company producing educational and promotional films, where she would make films about the arts, education, and nature. In 1976 she directed her first independent film, Usuzumi no sakura (The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms, shown at the Courtisane festival 2021). She continued to direct over 80 short and long films and worked with Paulo Rocha on A Ilha dos Amores (1982).

“What is art for, what is fiction for, what position does the profilmic material occupy in a movie, what position does fiction occupy in art? What about the artist? What happens to the artists filmed? Rarely in the history of cinema have such essential questions been asked in such a direct, simple, generous, and intelligent way. I am a filmmaker, and until now I believed that I would be closer to the truth if I approached it through fiction, but now, after seeing Haneda’s
Ode to Mt. Hayachine, I realize that the idea is an arrogant one, we must take advantage of this opportunity, we must learn to see reality correctly to know the truth. Ode to Mt. Hayachine gave us the best example of this.” (Paulo Rocha)


Trois jours en Grèce (Three days in Greece)
Jean-Daniel Pollet, FR, 1991, DCP, 94′

Greek / French spoken, English subtitles
Restored version courtesy of La Traverse / English subtitles created by Courtisane

Jean-Daniel Pollet used to say that Greece was his “second home”. He encountered it in 1962, at the age of twenty-six, during the journey that preceded the making of Méditerranée (1963). On his return, he spent several months locked up in a cellar looking for the montage, which he found one Easter day. Never before had we seen such a thing: a series of images that return and are arranged in a fugue whose loops replay the circularity of the journey around the Middle Sea. Over the years, Pollet never stopped going back to Greece, filming some of his major films there. In 1991, Three days in Greece closed the series. The filming, three decades after the first trip, would be his last stay in the motherland. The last Greek film, it is also, in accordance with the deep law of Pollet’s cinema, a return to the origin, remake, reworking and relaunching of Méditerranée. Reinvention of its broken circularity, of its syncopated pace, the same vertigo danced above the abyss, but untied, unfolded, lightened or lifted by the grace of a new serenity… Pollet’s cinema, transported by the spirit of dance, reaches in Trois jours en Grèce the amplitude of a cosmogony. (Cyril Neyrat)

“In a classic film, Belmondo gets out of a car, enters a restaurant, goes to the phone. We follow him. It’s not editing, even if there are connections, several shots: we just follow him, from one shot to the next. The ellipsis — you cut a little bit of time and the viewer is supposed to understand what you cut — it’s still not really editing, you have to cut even more — you don’t know why you go from one shot to another. Then you get a certain logic, poetry… For me, this language comes naturally: there, long live the editing and the mechanism of dreams soaked in the unconscious!… long live the editing at night just before going to sleep. An enlightening montage, as with dreams, where there is no other logic than that of the unconscious. A logic which is that of happiness or that of suffering.” (Jean-Daniel Pollet)