THE ARCHIVAL INVESTIGATIONS
OF FILIPA CÉSAR
Cacheu (2012, Portugal, 10min, Digital)
Conakry (2012, Portugal, 11 min, Digital)
Transmission from the Liberated Zones (2015, Portugal/France/Germany/Sweden, 30min, Digital)
Porto, 1975 (2010, Portugal, 10min, Digital)
For over a decade Filipa César has been producing a rich body of video and installation works responding to Portugal’s geopolitical history. By turns works of historical intervention, media archeology, and hybrid performance, the films in this program respond to and activate their archival sources through performances equally dense and dazzling.
The first three films, Cacheu, Conakry, and Transmission from the Liberated Zones—César’s most recent work, which debuted at the Berlin Film Festival— are taken from the artist's interdisciplinary Luta ca caba inca (The Struggle is Not Over Yet) project, informed by research in the Guinea-Bissau audiovisual archive. In these films César connects archival findings and personal testimonials to broader legacies of (moving) images and anti-colonial struggle. Porto, 1975, the program’s final film, is no less choreographed but sees César moving from a contained studio space to the Bouça housing complex in an effort to trace political volatility in Portugal itself, an examination of history impressed in architecture.
Tuesday 17 January
Doors and Coffee: 6:30pm
Image Arts Building (IMA 307), Ryerson University
Films courtesy Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art.
Co-presented by Goethe-Institut Toronto.
Filipa César is an artist and filmmaker interested in the fictional aspects of the documentary praxis, the porous borders between cinema and its reception, and the politics and poetics inherent to moving image. Her work takes re-animation of media and its materiality as a means to elaborate on counter narratives to historical violence. Since 2011, César has been looking into the origins of cinema in Guinea-Bissau as part of the African Liberation Movement, its imaginaries and cognitive potencies, developing that research into the long term collective project Luta ca caba inda (the struggle is not over yet). She was a participant of the research projects Living Archive (2011-13) and Visionary Archive (2013-15) both organised by the Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin. Selected Film Festivals include Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen; Curtas Vila do Conde; Forum Expanded, Berlinale; IFFR, Rotterdam; Doc Lisboa. Selected exhibitions: Manifesta 8, Cartagena 2010, HKW, Berlin 2011; Jeu de Paume, Paris 2012 and 2016; KW, Berlin 2013; NBK, Berlin 2014; Hordaland Art Center, Bergen 2014; SAAVY, Berlin 2014, Futura, Prague 2015; Khiasma, Paris 2015; Tensta konsthall, Spånga 2015; Mumok, Vienna 2016; Contour 8, Mechelen (forthcoming).
Zoë Heyn-Jones is a Toronto-based researcher and artist who grew up on Saugeen Ojibway land in Ontario and on Tz’utujil Maya land in Guatemala. Zoë’s participatory and lens-based research projects have been shown locally and internationally in galleries, cinemas, alternative and public spaces. Zoë is a PhD candidate in Visual Arts at York University where she is researching the ‘performance’ of human rights and solidarity activism in Guatemala. Zoë is concurrently pursuing a graduate diploma in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at CERLAC (the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean, York University) where she holds the Paavo and Aino Lukkari Human Rights Fellowship. Zoë also holds a Graduate Fellowship at the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security at Osgoode Hall Law School (York University). She studied cinema and anthropology at the University of Toronto, and holds an MA in Film Studies from Concordia University and an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University.
Filipa César: Projectiles
by Zoë Heyn-Jones
“History throws its empty bottles out the window”
Chris Marker, Sans soleil
“The archive is irrelevant”
Head of archives at the Portuguese Cinematheque, on the archive of the Institute of Cinema in Guinea Bissau
“Wasn’t that emptiness for history what fullness was for the subjects out of history?”
Filipa César, “A Grin without Marker”
Filipa César’s moving images jump with the empty bottles. Kinaesthetically shifting in space and time, César’s videos present a canted viewpoint on European colonialism, and refocus our gaze on decolonial liberation struggles. César's experimental films focus on Portugal’s geopolitical histories and the production of knowledge through embodied and layered performances. Since 2011, César has been researching the cinema of liberation and nation-building in Guinea-Bissau, developing the collective project Luta ca caba inda (the struggle is not over yet).
The ‘irrelevant’ archive is potently activated in Conakry (2013). A mobile 16mm tracking shot drifts through the halls of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, César’s camera shifting between performances to revisit a reel from the Guinean film archive that documents an exhibition curated by liberation leader Amílcar Cabral at Conakry’s “Palais du Peuple” in 1972, commentary on the state of the war against Portuguese rule.
If irrelevance is non-power, César harnesses the energy of the word as it performs the gesture of tossing history’s empties aside. César’s camera tips the vertical logic of relevance onto its side - instead of re-placing the archival into a similar hierarchy of knowledge, César invited Portuguese writer Grada Kilomba and American radio activist Diana McCarty to perform their reflections on the film material and the materiality of history. Embodying and performing the didactic and poetic facets of documentary, the film’s protagonists enact a ritual desecration of the assumed power of the archive. Their incantations narrate the silent footage, speaking aloud to recontextualize the footage that wrote decolonization in images. The decolonial act of cinema comes on time, and with it the questions whose stories? whose memories? how does revolution imagine itself? McCarty’s voice is for the most part disembodied, the archival images taking precedence; Kilomba however, steps into the frame whenever she speaks, embodying the struggle, the struggle projected onto her body.
Transmission from the Liberated Zones (2015) experiments with performing the document through a low-fidelity feedback channel, and similarly projects itself onto the body of young fugitive/presenter Gi Dias. Documents from several Swedish social actors - diplomats, filmmakers - share their experiences in the Liberated Zones, the areas freed from colonial domination and managed by the guerrillas of the PAIGC in Guinea during the liberation war of 1963-74, which the Swedes visited in the early 1970s. Dias’ body, moonwalking in and out of the frame in loose rehearsal, acts as the screen upon which their fragmented narratives are projected. The lo-fi mise-en-abyme expands the frame, creating infinitely multiple frames and temporalities, allowing us move through time and territory in a crystalline otherworldly ambulation. Walking - endless walking - we are reminded, is foundational for liberation struggle, the pendulum of legs marching preparing the ground for further recurrences, just as recalling past instances of liberation does.
Applying the same strategy of a single shot extending for an entire reel of 16mm, Porto 1975 (2010) tracks smoothly through the Cooperativa das Águas Férreas da Bouça social housing complex. Designed as an integral part of the Ambulatory Service of Social Support (SAAL, 1972–76), its construction was initiated in 1975 though not completed until 2006. Bodies are mostly absent from the frame - laundry is hung out on one in a line of identical front porches, a man loiters in a distant door frame, an older woman leans out her window above her laundry, a woman walks off into the distance. The film does not eschew the human form entirely, it just seems disinterested with it; more a survey of architecture than surveillance of those within it.
Finally the ambulatory camera wanders into an office full of books and orderly desks. An answering machine, out of place in its anachronism, speaks a message from architect Alexandre Alves Costa recounting a newspaper article about Bouça from 1978 about the troubles of constructing these estates in tumultuous post-revolutionary Portugal. César’s camera tracks through the office, glides up the stairs, and into a room, honing in on a bulletin board pinned with various ephemera - post-it notes, photocopied newspaper articles, hand-drawn sketches, black and white photographs. In the right hand corner, white text on a black background reads “Everything in this film is strictly based on the available facts” in a nod to Orson Welles’ F for Fake (1974) and attendant questions of documentary veracity.
The camera slowly zooms into one of the photographs, a black and white image of a crowd of people on a hillside below a train, seemingly protesting and directing their messages towards whoever has stepped out of the train cars, their wooden placards facing away from the camera. The camera rests on the image, pulsating slightly ever closing in on the image while Alves Costa recounts bombs being set off in the SAAL office, his car blown up, and other terrorist attacks orchestrated by the right. Finally, Alves Costa suggests that César “use this article as you see fit.”
At the close of Guinea Bissau’s 1998-99 civil war, the material stored at the Film Institute was thrown out of the window into the streets of the city. The revolutionary filmmakers César introduced us to - Flora Gomes, Sana na N’Hada and Suleimane Biai - were the ones who found and rescued the material. The fragmented and ruinous state of the material allowed the collaborators to treat it as pliable potential rather than as something precious and static. Instead, they “thought of it as a moving body, a projectile that we were able to accompany in its flight – an aeronautic drive, a matter of nomadology, an abdication of history” like “flying empty bottles full of spectres of solidarity, subversive practices and other cocktails.”
 Filipa César, “A Grin without Marker,” Decolonising Archives. L’internationale Online, 2016. 58-72. http://www.internationaleonline.org/media/files/decolonisingarchives_pdf-final.pdf Accessed 3 December 2016
 Ibid 65
 Ibid 66
 Ibid 70