September 26, 2020 - Artist Cinemas - Take Me Back: Week #6
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September 26, 2020

Artist Cinemas

Kush Badhwar, Blood Earth (clip), 2013.

Take Me Back: Week #6
Kush Badhwar, Blood Earth

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Join us on e-flux Video & Film for the online screening of Kush Badhwar’s Blood Earth (2013), the sixth and final installment of Take Me Back, on view from Saturday, September 26 through Friday, October 2, 2020, and featuring an interview with the filmmaker by Fawz Kabra.

Take Me Back is a six-part program of films, video works, and interviews put together by Jumana Manna. It is the third program in Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film

If you have missed any of the previous episodes, Take Me Back will wrap with a repeat of all the films, available for 24 hours on the program's last day on Saturday, October 3 from 12am till 11:59pm EST.

Artist Cinemas presents Take Me Back
Week #6: Saturday, September 26—Friday, October 2, 2020
Kush Badhwar, Blood Earth, 2013
35:22 minutes

Kucheipadar, a Khonda tribal village in Odisha, India, is a bauxite-rich block that since India’s economic liberalization has been the subject of violent conflict between the indigenous Adivasi inhabitants and a mining venture. The singing and writing of songs has come to articulate creative forms and political structures that steered a resistance movement from subalternity, through solidarity, into dissolution. Blood Earth interweaves the efforts to record song, farming, village life, and a political meeting to improvise a junction between voice, music, silence, sound, and noise. 

Excerpt from the interview with Kush Badhwar by Fawz Kabra:

Fawz Kabra (FK):
Can you talk about the light in the video and the time of day you were meeting with the individuals in the film? 

Kush Badhwar (KB):
The film is shot mostly in the day because of the availability of light. Often, there was no electricity. Shooting Salu Majhi's song started during the day but given the duration of the song, crossed over into dusk. In the rushes, the song and the footage end on a black frame because the song continued beyond the time that any light was available. This did not make a difference to the visually impaired Salu and I remember thinking, while I was struggling with the availability of light, battery and card space, how much more robust his art form was than mine.

FK:
The tension and chaotic arguments in the scene of the “townhall” meeting unfolds as a reveal of internal betrayals, but also of the troubled self-organization within this struggle. I wonder what that tells us about these struggles that happen on a micro level, yet have universal implications to how people survive and move while their source of life/livelihood is expropriated and made finite by industry. How did you consider this scene in the larger space/context of the film? 

KB:
The meeting reflects some of these tensions and struggles. It represents an organization of actors between the needs and desires of the original occupants of the land and those of the company. Like any meeting, there is a range of perspectives on the matter. At the time it was convened, the company was already fairly established (unfairly established, however). As a result, there are various shades between acceptance and outright rejection, and various and simultaneous types of negotiation regarding the presence of the company and its involvement with, and impact on, people's livelihoods. While some of the content of the meeting is dealing with immediate and pressing issues, what's also apparent is the normality of the practice of meeting itself in the course of protracted conflict and negotiation.

There are different audio presences—voice, music, silence, sound, and noise—and part of the editing process involved considering how different audio material transfer or hit against each other and improvising junctions between them.

Watch the film and read the full interview here.

About the program
In the weeks before we began mourning and raging over the destruction of one of the last few livable cities of the Middle East, the region, like many others, was experiencing new heights of precaution and paranoia with the second wave of Covid-19 cases. We would cross to the other side of the street to avoid germ-carrying humans, and make ourselves smaller amidst supermarket racks—spaces of potential virus transmission that are also a reminder of the world’s ecological imbalance. We planned for the great escape to quieter and greener landscapes, either temporarily (although we don’t quite understand what that means anymore) or, for some, permanently—as a lifestyle change we had been meaning to make but didn’t yet have the time, guts, or excuse to. The city that before signaled pioneering lifestyles and progress appears today as a symbol of danger and defilement, of overconsumption, overpopulation, claustrophobia, and deferred futures. And the countryside and wilderness are projected as the place of safety and liberty, cleanliness and truth: of original happiness where age-old wisdoms were born and aged, only to suffocate into the amnesia of the city. This dichotomy has been set up since early modernity, sustained with each new historical rupture and economic turn, and now gains new optics with the spread of the pandemic. 

In parallel to the urge to “return,” from early cinema till today filmmakers have been going back to the land, to study and draw inspiration from it—its traditions, its music, its cultural behaviors as a place of authenticity—either to critique ideological representations and claims to the countryside, or to perpetuate its imaginary in the name of the Nation. Sometimes, unwillingly doing both. The films compiled in this program are from different localities, not because we are all the same now, but because the impacts of global capitalism, of which the pandemic is mutant, have created uncannily similar forms of violence and resistance.

Take Me Back is a program convened by Jumana Manna as part of the series Artist Cinemas; with films by Omar Amiralay, Kush Badhwar, Caroline Monnet, Ibrahim Shaddad, Deborah Stratman, and Mikhail Lylov and Elke Marhöfer; and interviews with the filmmakers and texts by Shuruq Harb, Shahira Issa, Fawz Kabra, Jumana Manna, Sahar Qawasmi, and Nida Sinnokrot.

About the series
Artist Cinemas is a new e-flux platform focusing on exploring the moving image as understood by people who make film. It is informed by the vulnerability and enchantment of the artistic process—producing non-linear forms of knowledge and expertise that exist outside of academic or institutional frameworks. It will also acknowledge the circles of friendship and mutual inspiration that bind the artistic community. Over time this platform will trace new contours and produce different understandings of the moving image.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

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