Beyoğlu Yeşilçam Cinema, Istanbul, Turkey
Historical narratives inform us of events that happen in the past, I am interested in personal narratives that in many ways may be uncertain, unsure or doubtful – and how these narratives contribute to destabilising existing narratives, and creating new ones. The historian’s voice has been described by Walter Benjamin in the Story-teller (1969) as certain, fixed on a singular meaning and a history of empiricism. The story-teller’s voice is necessarily ambivalent, as it has the ability to question itself and maintain a sense of seriousness as well as humour. It is a flexible, fluid, process of remembering. History has the tendency to give a broad overview of events that have occurred and exclude the individual experiences within those events. These stories, which I collect from my grandfather’s history are re-imagined in the film essay in a way which is self-reflective about the affects of that history on the present.
The Intern 575 (2017) is a feature length essay film about my great-grandfather’s immigration from Germany to Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa during the early 1900s. An interview with my grandfather revealed a chain of memories that told the story of his father who was interned during the Second World War for 7 years. Archival images belonging to my great-grandfather are juxtaposed with footage I recorded with actors. The sequences in the film are shot at various museums in the Western Cape. This story is about moving between different spacio-temporal moments and the risk or potential loss necessary in confronting colonial archives and the legacies of apartheid. The sound track is a compilation of popular American and German songs from the 1940s that were recreated by musicians and singers who worked with me on this project. Many of the songs were originally sung by Ella Fitzgerald and recall experiences of love, disappointment and longing. When layered onto the images, the combination creates a complex dialogue. I suggest that it is in these spaces (between image, object and, sound) that are beyond words or language that learning and unlearning can occur. Digital media becomes a vehicle for decolonizing my family archive and creating ways of dealing with the shame surrounding my great-grandfather’s internment.