Punto de Vista 2022 Winners
Projection format: DCP
Direction: Jayce Salloum
IC Docs-Iowa City International Documentary Film Festival.
In 1999, Jayce Salloum recorded the Lebanese resistance fighter Souha Bechara in her room in Paris, which was only slightly bigger than the cell she had just left after ten years in prison. Souha sits on the edge of her bed, looking into the eyes of someone who barely understands her when she speaks Arabic and gently muses for forty minutes, not necessarily about her time in prison. She wonders about things like why we put flowers in water after they've been cut. She smiles and sometimes openly laughs.
This recording was the first in a series called untitled video tapes which Salloum has continued to shoot to this day. They are testimonies given in different parts of the world, at random, almost on a whim, a bit like cutting a flower. The filmmaker does not seem to have filmed them just for what the words they contain say. They are punctuated with silences, and the eyes of the interviewees sometimes widen until they occupy the whole screen, distracting from their speech.
The ninth instalment of the series, very short and recorded in a rural school in Bumiyan, Afghanistan, shows four children telling jokes, taking turns to sing, as if in a television programme. The same character always features in the jokes: an ostensibly foolish little man called Nasreddin who is also actually wise in his own way. Can a documentary be just an ordinary, everyday gesture linked to life? Can a film be to the cinema what a joke is to literature as a whole? Can a filmmaker saw off the branch of the tree on which he is sitting? Nasreddin jokes have been part of a very long oral tradition for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They have given rise to written collections, and similar characters can be found in many cultures around the world.