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April 5, 2014

Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi X 2

Italian filmmakers Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi have over the past 25 years proven themselves to be masters of the assemblage of found footage film, returning over and over again to images from the first decades of the 20th century, with a special attention to images of war and colonialism. Since their visit to the HFA five years ago, the duo has released a major new work: Pays barbare (“Barbaric Land”), a montage of images from Mussolini’s brutal occupation of Ethiopia in the mid-1930s. This work is paired with an earlier film that also wrings from amateur footage a jaundiced look at cinema’s complicity with the colonial gaze.

Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi’s method consists of poring over these images, studying the interactions among the onscreen figures and between these figures and the camera, looking for telling glances and revealing gestures, which are then slowed down and isolated.

Both films feature soundtracks composed by famed Italian singer-songwriter and ethnomusicologist Giovanna Marini, who sings texts by Henri Michaux and Mircea Eliade with a spare piano accompaniment.— David Pendleton

Special thanks: Giuliana Minghelli—Harvard University.

These screenings are presented in conjunction with the 7th De Bosis Colloquium in Italian Studies at Harvard University University and with the opening on April 4th in Pusey Library of the exhibit: In Africa it is Another Story. Looking Back at Italian Colonialism. The colloquium will feature a conversation  (via Skype) between Prof. Giuliana Minghelli and filmmakers Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi at 5pm on Monday, April 7 in Boylston Hall, Room 403.


Saturday April 5 at 7:15pm

Pays Barbare (Barbaric Land)

Directed by Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi
France/Italy 2013, digital video, color and b/w, 65 min

We pore over material relating to Italian colonial Ethiopia (Abyssinia), recently unearthed in a private film archive. We scour those individual film frames of colonialism, studying them with a magnifying glass, and transcribe the captions. The material was intended for private home viewing, in silence. In these filmic fragments, examined by hand, without a projector, are indications of who owned the films, those sequences to which they returned over and over. Ours is a dual reading, that of the images themselves and the way in which they were consumed. An Ethiopian woman on her knees wearing a top that leaves her breasts bare, a bearded soldier who washes her head symbolically: certain words recur in the captions, such as barbaric, primitive, pillager, bigamy. Among the films we find a number of military sequences showing the violence of the Italian venture to conquer Ethiopia and the phrase: ‘Civilization now dawns in this primitive and barbaric country’. These constitute an image of Mussolini in Africa. – Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi

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Saturday April 5 at 8:45 pm

Images d’Orient – Tourisme Vandale (Images of the Orient – Vandal Tourism)

Directed by Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi
France/Italy 2001, digital video, color and b/w, 62 min

This precursor to Pays barbare is similarly taken from privately shot footage, this time by European travelers to India at the end of the 1920s. Although this period was a time of gathering anti-colonial fervor, such events remain offscreen. Instead, the “vandalistic tourism” decried by the film’s title includes images of festivals and processions, parades and cremations; as Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi would have it, the camera’s touristic gaze amounts to a kind of desecration. Especially striking is the contrast between the poverty witnessed in the streets and the opulence of a ruling-class garden party.

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