“Landscapes of erasure and the cinematic language of Kamal Aljafari”

By Najat Rahman
Submitted to Session P4530 (Examining the role of the auteur in the Arab world, 2016 Annual Meeting
Media Arts
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Kamal Aljafari’s Recollection (Germany 2015) is a poetic visual rumination, a cinematic language textured with other filmic images originally taken from Israeli feature films that have as their backdrop the city of Jaffa. The film then centers on this city that was emptied of its people and relegated to a scenic background in these previous films; It wrestles the city and its past from erasure, focusing visually on the space of the city, a space layered with different temporalities. Countering the erasure of Jaffa's history, he introduces sound and figures from Jaffa and from elsewhere as well as from the present. Aljafari creates a filmic language that lingers, that is both restless and arrested as it hauntingly returns to details of the city and its past. Its fixation on seemingly random details signals irresolution and an open interrogation. The film poses interesting questions about auteur cinema, about subjectivity, cinematic language, and the status of film as "archive." The task of recollection of the filmmaker passes through the imaginary of "others", through a certain politics of effacement. How is the filmmaker able to create his own artistic vision in a landscape of artistic and historic erasure that precedes his work? If his cinematic language is "cathartic" as has been proposed, how is he able to chart a new language that does not repeat a certain traumatic gaze that casts trauma only in the past? Aljafari himself has proposed that the film is a "dream." And like a dream the film creates a new grammar from a violently fragmented history reality to inscribe a memory and a vision, reminding us also of the exigency of auteur filmmaking, for cinema, for history.


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