Far From Iran (Toronto, 2016)

Pleasure Dome
Saturday July 23, 2016
Cinecycle, Toronto

Far from Iran
Does the Sand Hear the Waves? by Taravat Khalili 31 minutes 2016
The Host by Miranda Pennell 60 minutes 2015

Does the Sand Hear the Waves? by Taravat Khalili 31 minutes 2016
A personal voyage of migration and loss written in scorched pictures from both sides of the ocean. From an impossible Iran to an impossible Canada, the artist holds the classic immigrant’s position of being at home neither in her new country or the old one. Instead of feelings of home there are the conjurings of family, the devastation of resettlement and new jobs, the blood ties of Farsi and gravesite vigils. The artist holds up each frame, showing us the cost of seeing.

Most unusually, in a digital moment that has turned everyone into video artists, and converted the act of shooting into a haze of camera pointings, here is an artist who has developed a very personal and singular camera style. The camera focuses and refocuses, or else lurks in the corners of her own frames, waiting in the difficult moments of her own life in order to retrieve pictures that look back. These frames within frames point to what is being left out, and to the layerings of memory and displacement that underlies what is on display.

This avant-garde Iranian home movie proceeds through a number of locations, which are also the markers of certain scenes: the parent’s house (snow!), the Subway shop they operate, the filmmaker’s apartment and work studio. A diary script rendered in yellow offers reflections and subtext. “My grandmother got married when she was 15. She has 5 children. They all live outside of Iran. Her three sons live in the US and secured her an American Citizenship but she chooses to live in Iran where my grandfather is buried.” Astonishing moments of intimacy (a house party, a scar) punctuate this family story, as the filmmaker quietly abides, moving her camera slowly over the wounds of returning.


The Host by Miranda Pennell 60 minutes 2015
This family story plunges the artist into the heat of empire. The artist’s father was employed by the Iranian Oil Company, later known as British Petroleum, so her childhood was spent in a tony desert bungalow surrounded by a peculiar projection of Great Britain. The Host proceeds as a series of maps, diagrams, markings and photographs – here is a landscape understood as utility, as resources that need to be extracted, everything is viewed from a terrifying and objectifying distance. Pennell’s treatise on colonialism is impelled by the haunting laconic rhythm of her montage, we are given time to pore over the surface of every object. A series of accompanying sound effects, many of which arrive at unusual volumes, underscores the artist’s intention to bring the background into the foreground. Her deadpan delivery aims to deliver the material without extra shade or colour, offering the viewer space for our own emoticons. This sober, respectful and devastating work is one of the year’s highlights, a quiet and insistent probe into the act of making and marking territory, of the way identity is constructed in serial acts of necessary blindness, and the way the Other continues to slip in and out of view.

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