Is it possible to create histories out of absences? Are there ways to build archives based on a lack of records? How can dissident bodies and territories, marginalized or actively suppressed in history, be brought to surface through the means of hegemonic archives? What if we think of a body or landscape as archive – composed of layers of diferent times? And to what extent might the reworking of preexisting images and sounds contribute to strengthening the sense of community within certain groups (indigenous, lgbtq* and sex workers)?
Based on a corpus of films from South America, we propose to discuss these questions, probing the possibilities and conditions for a documentary practice that makes visible cognitive, affective and bodily experiences that are not only displaced in public discourse but sometimes go against the very notion of the archive and the “archivable”. Here we are particularly interested in the intersection of nature and body discourses whose normative function is undermined by the films’ different aesthetic strategies. By drawing on different sources from private and public archives, the films produce a kind of counter-archive capable of telling alternative histories of colonized territories and unwanted bodies.
An eclectic archive that goes back and forth between medical and police records in an attempt to reveal the tension between visibility and control, invisibility and denial. Putas como nosotras (Whores Like Us) is a documentary essay in progess about organized sex workers, the subtleties and complexities of their trade, and the stigma that turned them into society’s dirty joke. While the world debates their right to exist, they sew a strong net of mutual help to survive.
With my current work, I want to explore the path between what I will call “the archives of stigma”, and the almost total absence of the sex worker’s own images (in a sense of a conventional “album”). Through certain operations, the film attempts to show other ways in which colonized and impoverished women of color can reread their past and find themselves in a different kind of images.
Agustina Comedi is a screenwriter and filmmaker. She studied Modern Literature. In 2017 her first film Silence is a Falling Body premiered at IDFA. The film was multi-awarded and selected in more than 50 international festivals. In 2019 she programmed a special section for CineMigrante together with Suely Rolnik, called 10 Woman/10 film essays/10 years. That year she premiered Playback, at Mar del Plata Film Festival, where the film won the prize for Best Short Film, and in 2020 the Teddy Award Berlinale 2020. She is currently working on her next film.
Among the many sources that feed Agustina Comedi’s cinematic work, the personal archive plays a prominent role. In the Argentinian filmmaker’s films, home videos, family albums and other amateur footage become a site of excavation, interrogation and reinvention. By drawing on these archives, the films offer alternative forms of knowledge that stand in contrast to more formal or institutionalised archives, shedding light on issues that are suppressed by official history: The deadly silence about the HIV pandemic and the persecution of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the aftermath of the dictatorship, and the pathologisation and criminalization – still practiced in Argentina – of sex workers. Together with testimonies from survivors of systematic discrimination and persecution, these personal archives form a valuable historical resource for researching and making visible subaltern experiences and non-hegemonic pasts.
Michael Karrer graduated in Political Science and Philosophy and holds a master’s degree in Literary and Cultural Studies from the University of Tübingen. He is an associate member of the PhD Programme “Entangled Temporalities of the Global South” at the same university. Currently he is working on his dissertation No Home Movies. Re-Visions of the Family Archive in Argentine and Brazilian Cinema, which focuses on different uses and reuses of family films in the context of postmemory discourses. His research interests include Latin American literature and film, autoethnography and queerfeminist documentary.
Between the 1920s and the 1940s Henry Ford started building a city in the heart of the Amazon on the margins of the Solimões river that would supply Ford’s factories with rubber. The objective of this enterprise was not only to control and gain access to an important commodity but an attempt to “civilize” the jungle. The history of Fordlandia, the name of this town, can be a model of the battle between nature and culture, where, eventually, the jungle beat Fordism. A series of contemporary works by documentarist and visual artists revisit this territory and history, collecting images, objects, producing an counter-archive of this battle. An archive that is also made by elements of nature. Works like Melanie Smith’s Fordlandia (2016), Yuri Firmeza’s Fordlandia, the ruins of an extractivist project (2019) and Suzana de Souza Dias’ Fordlandia, Malaise (2019) create an intrinsic reflection on temporality by looking into a past that announces a future – the crisis of industrialization. These works also propose a complex dissident body composed by humans, ruins and nature. This proposal will look at these works and reflect on how they create an archive and a body from Fordlandia’s forgotten history and phantasmatic existence in the present.
Roberto Robalinhois a post doc researcher at Universidade Federal Fluminense and University of Tübingen as part of the research project Discomforting territories: images, narratives and objects of the Global South. He received his Ph.D. in Media Studies from Universidade Federal Fluminense in 2017. In 2015 he published a book on audiovisual narrative and the Iraq war based on his Masters. He has also lectured in the Media and Cultural Studies department at Universidade Federal Fluminense. He has directed short films and is in pre-production of his first long feature, a documentary that visits the geographical and symbolic landscape of Brazil´s backlands