Balagan presents: CONQUEST

Tuesday, December 19
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2hr 00mins

For most of human history, the “right of conquest” drove international policy. The valiant Conquerer, it had been rationalized, was noble and righteous, divinely ordained to exploit, subjugate, and plunder; entitled to all the spoils of the wars he waged. Central to imperialist expansionism during the so-called “Age of Discovery,” this notion persisted as a dominant political belief until there was practically no land left on the terrestrial earth to colonize.

Then, following the Second World War, the international community changed its stance, determining wars of aggression unjust and illegal. Yet the underlying philosophy remains strong still today, even if the tactics have changed, that one may take by force what they believe they deserve – for might makes right. Indeed, this belief extends far beyond territorial claims and translates to all levels of human interaction, from the interpersonal to the international, with everything in between.

The four films in this program consider this theme from a variety of perspectives, reflecting on the legacies of Portuguese and Spanish colonialism, decades-long persistent warfare in Columbia, the conquest of the space (with notable echoes of the “Age of Discovery” in the “Space Age”), and an ever-present culture of sexual exploitation that only now seems to be gaining more widespread acknowledgment. Far from agitprop declarations, each film is nuanced and contemplative, preferring instead to offer room to think rather than conquering you its message.



The Figures Carved into the Knife by the Sap of the Banana Tree

dir. Joana Pimenta, 2014, HD and 16mm on video, 16 mins

The rapid turning of a light draws a circle. In the space bound by its line unravels an archive of postcards sent between the island of Madeira and the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique. The figures carved into the Knife by the Sap of the Banana Trees circulates between a fictional colonial memory, and science-fiction.

La impresión de una guerra 

dir. Camilo Restrepo,  2015, 16mm on video, 27 mins

For over 70 years, Colombia has been confronted with internal armed conflict. Over the years, the outlines of the conflict have grown indistinct. A climate of generalized violence has gradually settled over society as a whole. Violence and barbarity have worked themselves into every aspect of daily life, and fine traces of it mark the streets. Through a multitude of these traces, perhaps the narrative of this hazy war will finally take a firmer shape. Impression of a War offers a vision of some of those deliberate, accidental, ostensible, fleeting or dissimulated marks. They are often signs of the struggle against oblivion, indifference and impunity.

Under the Atmosphere 

dir. Mike Stoltz,  2016, 16mm, 15 mins

"Referring to the narrowness of the peninsula, they claimed it would not be able to withstand such a great explosion and would be blown to pieces the moment the cannon was fired. 'Then let it be blown to pieces' the Floridians replied." Filmed on the Central Florida "Space Coast", site of NASA's launch pads. Dormant spacecraft, arcane text, activated landscape, and the surface of the image work towards a future-past shot reverse shot.

Soft Fiction 

dir. Chick Strand, 1979, 16mm, 56 mins

"Chick Strand's Soft Fiction is a personal documentary that brilliantly portrays the survival power of female sensuality. It combines the documentary approach with a sensuous lyrical expressionism. Strand focuses her camera on people talking about their own experience, capturing subtle nuances in facial expressions and gestures that are rarely seen in cinema. The title Soft Fiction works on several levels. It evokes the soft line between truth and fiction that characterizes Strand's own approach to documentary, and suggests the idea of softcore fiction, which is appropriate to the film's erotic content and style. It's rare to find an erotic film with a female perspective dominating both the narrative discourse and the visual and audio rhythms with which the film is structured. Strand continues to celebrate in her brilliant, innovative personal documentaries her theme, the reaffirmation of the tough resilience of the human spirit." - Marsha Kinder, Film Quarterly


This program is funded in part by a grant from the Brookline Commission for the Arts, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.