Artist Cinemas presents
Ibrahim Shaddad, Jagdpartie (Hunting Party) | Take Me Back: Week #4
Saturday, September 12—Friday, September 18, 2020

Ibrahim Shaddad, Jagdpartie (Hunting Party) (still), 1964. Courtesy of Arsenal, Berlin.

Join us on e-flux Video & Film for the online screening of Ibrahim Shaddad’s Jagdpartie (Hunting Party) (1964), on view from Saturday, September 12 through Friday, September 18, 2020.

Ibrahim Shaddad’s graduation film Jagdpartie, which he shot at the Deutsche Hochschule für Filmkunst Potsdam-Babelsberg, is a treatise on racism. Shot in a forest in Brandenburg, it uses the Western genre to portray a black farm worker pursued by a mob of white men. “The film dramatizes working-class solidarity across the color line, signally achieved through shared labor, but culminates in the violent foreclosure of this common horizon.” (Nikolaus Perneczky)

Jagdpartie is the fourth installment of Take Me Back, a program of films, video works, and interviews convened by Jumana Manna, and comprising the third cycle of Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film. It is presented here alongside an interview with the filmmaker by Shahira Issa.

Take Me Back will run for six weeks from August 19 through October 3, 2020, with each film running for one week and featuring an interview with the filmmaker(s) by Manna and other invited guests. 

Ibrahim Shaddad in conversation with Shahira Issa 

Shahira Issa (SI): 
When the two main characters in Jagdpartie first meet, Joe (the character on the run) refers to a “Mr. Wilson’s settlement.” What kind of settlement practice would be taking place in rural GDR at the time of either shooting the film or of the story?  

Ibrahim Shaddad (IS):
The settlement in question is a figment—it does not refer to a specific place or to the real GDR. Historically, it is associated with Western civilization scrambling for colonies, fortunes, and cheap labor. It is a place where social injustice is paramount. Many instances of sight and sound in the film are not particular to the GDR, but rather are typical of the state of racialism in general.

I see. This explains the film’s timelessness. Of course, the language and setting situate the story in a particular place and time, although even that somehow seems transferable. The film lacks any telltale signs of when it might have been made. 

The essence of the story seems to float in time. It happened before, it is happening now, and in view of the state of the world, it will happen tomorrow in different forms and different settings. The story was already a well-worn tale when the film was produced, back in the 1960s. It is a déjà vu anecdote that unfortunately seems to be eternal. To combat this eternity, the film—although fixed in time and place by its dialogue, setting, and accessories—resorts to human relations that recur irrespective of time and place. Even though human relations are mostly conditioned by objective historical realities, they in fact transcend this logic and persist in unlikely times and places. The film does not endorse its construct rationally; it appeals to the spirit, to the emotional in order to agitate the rational. Thus time and place here are secondary—as if the issue exists in spite of all times and all places. 

Could you speak about your choice of black and white film stock for this film, and what inspired it?

One could assume that the film is about black and white. It is and it isn’t. The color theme, though delicate, is definitely lucid. Somehow the contrast between black and white is precise. Absurdly, this precise contrast is what the film tries to wipe out by using black and white stock. In unison, the color of the form and the color of the content are supposed to reveal something that I do not know. Color emits the sense of the natural. The film’s issue is not natural. The world is colorful; a black and white world is not natural. Thus, the color of the film urges for correction. The film cries out for redemption, to be colorful. Nevertheless, I repeat the shout of the marchers: “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL.”

The film opens with a closeup on Joe’s watchful face as he emerges from inside a tree trunk. This imparts a certain intimacy between him and his environment, almost a sort of equality between him and the tree (where he also felt secure). 

The basic idea is to condense Joe’s past life at the beginning of the film. Joe is born, the tree is the womb, and he emerges into a bigger world where he just keeps running for his life. In this context Joe is born of nature and this legitimates his existence.

Throughout your films, there is also a subtle way in which the inanimate and animate play a part in the story, whereby certain hierarchies between human, animal, building, desert, machine, and so on disappear. They are presented according to a different ordering principle.

I would say that most of my people have a certain relationship to nature, to things and animals in particular. But this does not explain why, for example, I have animals’ roles in most of my films. I do not consciously aim to include them, but somehow they keep popping up in my writings. Most of my film titles reflect this recurrence. I can just list a few to give you an idea: Cats and MadmenAnimal ParadiseThe Goat that Refused to Go Back HomeCamelThe RatThe Crocodile Belly

I was particularly attracted to your sparse and concise use of dialogue in the film. The characters rely mostly on an exchange of looks and sometimes gestures to communicate. At the same time, sound plays a prominent (perhaps textural) role. What motivated this decision?

I am not good at writing dialogue. I am afraid of words, their connotations that go beyond the target. A simple practical dialogue seems unwarranted. A sophisticated dialogue seems affected. It is very difficult to nail the just-right dialogue. I love the moving image, and silent films, although they seem unnatural. Art is not natural. Painting does away with sound, music does away with words, but when film does away with words it is now considered an aesthetic choice. Because I am apprehensive of words I use them sparsely or dismiss them altogether.  

Yes, in later films you seem to do away with dialogue entirely. In Al Habil (The Rope) (1985) for example, as two blind men led by a donkey, try to find their way back to their path, they don’t seem to need words to communicate with each other. 

Irrespective of the quality of my images, I do believe that the moving image is whole and a complete entity by itself. Often sound and other attributes lessen the impact of the naked moving image and derail its density unknowingly to enhance other objectives that maintain the flow of the narrative. The potency of the moving image is demonstrated by its inherent simplicity of expression, which alas, is often overlooked and obscured by layers of other elements. A thoughtful appreciation of the moving image diminishes the need for enhancing elements and renders the image independent, liberated to display its potential. Surely, all this needs to be properly tested—but the market has no tolerance for such whimsical reflections.

And what attracted you to the melodic or perhaps idyllic music for the theme of the film?

I wonder how my composer friend understood my balderdash trying to explain to him what I wanted through a totally unmusical jargon. I remember some things: I wanted the minimum number of instruments. I asked him to stay away from anything that sounded typical. I told him that the film’s gestalt merits a rhythmical theme, but that I would like to impose a simple melodic theme, something that sounded naïve and distant. He wanted me to explain the film to him, which I couldn’t do, so I kept nudging him to explain the film to me. Anyway, I sat through the musicians’ first rehearsals but eventually left, because I couldn’t understand the musical jokes they sometimes played and laughed about.

As I watched your films, I sensed certain connections to some Soviet and Nouvelle Vague filmmakers. I personally relate very intimately with the forms through which some of those films see and construct the world. Seeing your work, I wondered for the first time if there is something about the language of those earlier films that feels immediate, or is attractive to, filmmakers and artists who lived through societies… how to say… where dysfunctional institutions laid bare how ludicrous any claims to representation could be. I often feel there is a faith in representation lurking in more functional societies that, at least to me, seems to distort one’s relationship to one’s own story, or one’s understanding of the world. I am wondering if you think there is something to this film language that might strike necessary or truthful, when representation fails?

I think societies, functional or dysfunctional, impact sensibilities in general and especially those of filmmakers. The similarity of the impact of either society on different spaces induces relative modes of expression, and relative but varied understandings of the world. As the problem of representation lies in the relationship between the objective reality and the subjective sensibility, representation becomes a hazard. A certain film language is a sort of representation very much envisioned by circumstances. The stability of functional societies might lead to over-faith and thus jeopardize the notion of a true representation. 

How did you come upon filmmaking?

After the Second World War the world was having a dream: communism, human rights, the black movement in the US, the struggle of African and other countries for independence and freedom from colonization, the emergence of a vibrant cultural scene (music, theatre, cinema, etc.), and the youth endeavor to change the world. Filmmaking then seemed to me to be the making of dreams come true. Those twenty-four frames per second flickering in the dark have a mesmerizing hold on the subconscious. Beyond this momentary trance, something remains and manifests itself in positive temperaments and humane attitudes. I used to believe that the power of art can move rocks. It seems, at present, that either the rocks are heavier or art is less powerful.

And, are you currently working on a film?

I have been working on three shorts, dealing with the subject of detainment and torture. I have also been developing a feature titled The Crocodile Belly. Set in a distant village on the Nile, the film depicts the actions and fates of certain characters when a crocodile appears on the village’s shore.

Ibrahim Shaddad, born in Halfa, Sudan in 1945, studied at the Konrad Wolf Film University of Babelsberg in Germany. He has written and directed many films and some plays. Practically all of his films and plays in Sudan were discontinued by producers or banned by governments. He is a founding member of the Sudanese Film Group and a member of the editorial board of the magazine Cinema. His extensive filmography includes the acclaimed Jamal (A Camel) (1981), Al Habil (The Rope) (1984), and Insan (Human Being) (1994).

Shahira Issa is an artist whose work is contained in a single ongoing project titled figures of accidental loves.It takes as its point of departure the difficulties or paradoxes that sometimes emerge when a correlation is drawn between thought, action, and conviction.

For more information, contact program [​at​]

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