SSMF 2022: “Pause”

Ecologies & Empire

The projects in this panel attend to the temporalities of ecology as intertwined with the temporalities of “empire”. Empire here connotes both specific imperial formations of modern colonialism, and also more broadly an empire of human knowledge, as in the Borges parable of the imperial map that covered the Earth.

Moderated by Indivar Jonalagadda, University of Pennsylvania
Saturday, March 26, 11:00 AM — 12:25 PM Eastern

Ghost Empire § Belize

Susan Thomson

Part of a trilogy of films exploring the legacy of British colonial rule and the criminalization of LGBTQ+ people in 34 countries around the world, artist-filmmaker Susan Thomson examines the constitutional challenge taken by Belizean activist Caleb Orozco against Section 53, a 19th century British colonial law criminalizing acts ‘against the order of nature’. Opposition to the case by evangelical Christian groups has included symbolic hangings of an effigy of LGBTQ+ group UNIBAM. The constitutional challenge taken by Orozco in Belize took over a decade to reach a successful verdict. The film therefore engages with the question of the ‘pause’ in the sense of a slowed-down time, during which Orozco had to find both inner and external resources in order to successfully deal with the ongoing court case and threats to his life and safety from evangelical groups locally and internationally. Time is a significant player within the film, as we see different time zones overlap – the time of British colonialism still evident in the law, current time including the slowness of the court case, the historical time of slavery, and in addition the ageing process as we see Orozco grow older as the case continues. The repeated sequences in sepia of the road which was the mahogany logging route during slavery times, also introduces a kind of pause within the film. The ten year ‘pause’ in Orozco’s life, was a life-changing one which has changed both the country he lives in and himself. The film is a psychological portrait of Orozco’s resistance and sacrifice, and the validation of his efforts at the UK Parliament, and at the UN where he is congratulated by then vice president Joe Biden.

Susan Thomson is a Scottish/Irish writer, visual artist and filmmaker, working across the formal boundaries of visual art, film and literature. Ghost Empire is an Arts Council of Ireland funded series of films on Singapore, Northern Cyprus and Belize, following constitutional challenges to anti-LGBTQ+ British colonial laws, which have screened widely internationally including at Anthology Film Archives, New York; Kashish Mumbai Queer International Film Festival; Scottish Government, Edinburgh; CCA, Glasgow; Limerick City Gallery; INIVA, London; MICGénero Film Festival, Mexico City, where they were nominated for best international film and selected to tour round seven Mexican states.

Seedcast: 4th World filmmakers ‘doing the damn thing’

Michelle Huturbise
Temple University

Jessica Ramirez
Nia Tero

Julie Keck

Indigenous storytelling is vital to a deeper understanding of our world as well as to addressing the climate crisis, but how do we best support these storytellers? The 4th World Media Lab does just that, supporting early and mid-career Indigenous filmmakers from around the globe. In this Seedcast podcast episode, current fellows share how Indigenous-focused spaces make room for growth, why BIPOC filmmaking is in a critical moment, and what they envision next. The founder of the lab, Tracy Rector of Nia Tero also shares about the generative partnerships that keep the 4th World fellowship going and what inspired the name.

Jessica Ramirez (she/they) is a Creative Producer at Nia Tero, combining her innate love for and curiosity about people with her dedication to building narrative shifts which highlight community power. As the host of the Seedcast podcast, Jessica shares stories of Indigenous experiences from Indigenous peoples who live all over the world.

Julie Keck is a filmmaker and communications strategist based in Chicago, IL. As a consulting producer with Nia Tero, Julie supports both the Kin Theory database and the Seedcast podcast with strategic communications and partnership outreach. Julie studied psychology at Knox College and earned her Sustainable Innovation MBA from the University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business.

Michelle Y. Hurtubise (she/her) is a Visual Anthropology Ph.D. candidate at Temple University and Nia Tero strategist researching narrative sovereignty and BIPOC creator support systems through the development of Kin Theory, a global Indigenous media makers database, the 4th World Indigenous Media Lab, and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

A Gregarious Species

Natasha Raheja
Cornell University

What do bugs and borders have to do with each other? From 2019-2020, thousands of gregarious desert locust swarms flew across the India-Pakistan border, ravaging the fields of farmers. In the same year, Indian government officials described migrants as termites and infiltrators at right-wing political rallies across the country. Farmer started to wonder if locusts were bioweapons to destroy crops. Scientists met at the border to discuss how to manage this “transboundary pest” in an era of climate change and hostile bilateral relations. Bringing together mobile phone videos of gregarious locusts, nationalist political rallies, and scientific webinars, this found-footage, experimental video raises questions about the selective porosity of borders amidst environmental crisis, farmer insecurity, and majoritarianism in South Asia.

Natasha Raheja is a documentary filmmaker and anthropologist working as an assistant professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. Her film screening at SSMF is part of an experimental video series about human, animal, and object movement across the India-Pakistan border.

Crash Theory

Adam Fish
University of New South Wales

Crash Theory is a documentary that investigates the entanglements of disintegrating ecologies, tumbling drones, and human interventions. This 45-minute video, by anthropologist Adam Fish, provides a first-person account of drones monitoring erupting volcanoes, palm oil plantations, and coral reefs in Indonesia; marauding elephants in Sri Lanka; starving orcas in the United States; rhinos in the United Kingdom; and internet infrastructure in Iceland. It asks: What is the relationship between life, loss, and survival technologies?

Adam Fish is a Scientia Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Arts and the Media, at the University of New South Wales. He is a cultural anthropologist, documentary video producer, and interdisciplinary scholar who works across social science, computer engineering, environmental science, and the visual arts. Dr. Fish employs ethnographic, participatory, and creative methods to examine the social, political, and ecological impacts of new technologies.