How can a new kind of cinema be collectively created within a transnational society? SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA, the cinema-experiment by bi’bak, explores cinema as a space of social discourse, exchange, and solidarity. The curated film series brings together diverse social communities and connects places both near and geographically distant; it links pasts, presents and futures and moves away from a eurocentric gaze towards transnational, (post-)migrant and postcolonial perspectives. SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA is a different kind of cinema, one simultaneously committed to local and international communities, that understands cinema as an important public sphere of sociality; it considers film history as crucial to the work of cultural memory and is committed to a diversity of film culture and film art. In Haus der Statistik at Berlin-Alexanderplatz, SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA builds a bridge between urban practice and film to create a space that opens access, stimulates discussion, educates, moves, provokes and encourages.
SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA is funded by Haupstadtkulturfonds, Conrad Stiftung and the Programm NEUSTART KULTUR
Past event series can be found in the archive.
"Cinema means more than watching films. Cinema is a space of social discourse, a place of exchange and solidarity. Beyond commercialism and entrenched structures, cinema can be a space that opens access, stimulates discussion, educates, moves, provokes and encourages." We opened Sinema Transtopia with this claim in September 2020. In the uncertainty between two lockdowns, our cinema experiment looked towards future oriented perspectives for a lively cinema space, daring to create something new. Now, after more than a year, it is time to take stock and take a second look at films deserving special attention that may have been lost in these turbulent times. Retakes & Revisions offers a kaleidoscopic overview of the programme so far, spotlighting films that are of particular importance to us and films discovered during our research that could not yet be shown for a variety of reasons.
Funded by Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa and Berliner Projektfonds Urbane Praxis
With a video message from Narges Kalhor
“Just let him know you have a new idea, something about your homeland, something political,” is the advice offered by a friend to filmmaker Narges Kalhor, who is trying to complete her graduation film. Her despair about the project is due to the input of the white male commissioning editor whose comments in voiceover keep interrupting the film. As he puts it, he would like the film to be closer to the audience’s usual “viewing habits”, demanding that “stories from the homeland” be included here and there, as well as images of refugees or “something not so complicated”. The resulting film is many films in one, with the viewers becoming witnesses to the editorial process along the way. With a joyful sense of anarchy and plenty of humour, Kalhor combines a range of different stories to create a mockumentary, which doesn’t ultimately take the editor’s comments so seriously after all.
Narges Kalhor, born in 1984 in Tehran, Iran. She studied directing and visual communication. In 2009, she applied for political asylum in Germany while in the country for a festival. Her graduation film In the Name of Scheherazade premiered at the Visions du Réel festival in Nyon and was awarded the Goethe Institut’s prize for best documentary film at DOK Leipzig.
The Zerda and the Songs of Forgetting is a multilayered exploration of colonial depictions of the Maghreb. Using “scraps of a despised ordinariness” (Djebar) in order to decipher various dimensions of the French colonization of the Maghreb, the film deconstructs the orientalist image through use of editing and fragments of poetry, dialogue and song in both Arabic and French. Djebar’s film is not only a frontal attack on the colonial image but through its form carries out an anti-colonial critique of the practice of image-making. Using this strategy, the film lays siege to the making of national identities and the drawing of state boundaries. The Zerda and the Songs of Forgetting is a rare form of filmmaking that builds on the strategies of Soviet montage, not one that merely emulates the techniques of the past but transforms them into an indigenous filmic language.
Philip Rizk is a filmmaker from Cairo living in Berlin. Amongst others, he co-directed the film Out on the Street (2015) with Jasmina Metwaly, which premiered at the Berlinale and was part of the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015. Rizk is a member of the Mosireen, the collective behind the video archive 858.ma. His texts have appeared online, in journals and in collected volumes.
Bachir Amroune is an Algerian German journalist and filmmaker. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Cologne in Islamic Studies, Philosophy and Linguistics. His current interests focus on human rights and international justice.
Saless: Far from Home
Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, Iran 1998, 16 min.
Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, USA 1987, 8 min.
Jerry & Me
Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, USA 2012, 38 min.
Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa: Far from Home takes a look back at Iranian film culture and identity through the lens of Iranian-American filmmaker Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, who, towards the end of the 1970s, worked with some of the most prominent figures of the Iranian New Wave before moving to the United States. Her films are often intimate, autobiographical works that touch upon issues of cultural identity and exile. In Silent Majority, a group of people dine in a restaurant with signs of intolerance, fear and suspicion hanging in the air. Saless: Far from Home is a moving portrait of Sohrab Shahid Saless. It shows the key figure of Iranian New Wave cinema (and later New German Cinema) during his last days in exile in Chicago, combining informal interviews with multiple clips from his films. The witty, fast-moving and multi-layered cinematic memoir Jerry & Me uses comedian Jerry Lewis to recover divided memories of Iran. One of the essential works of essayistic cinema in the past decade.
Ehsan Khoshbakht is a film curator, writer and filmmaker. He co-directs Il Cinema Ritrovato, the festival of classics and film restoration in Bologna. An architect by training, he has written extensively on film, architecture, and jazz, as well as on American and Iranian cinemas.
Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa is a filmmaker and a professor at the Cinema and Television Arts Department, School of Media Arts, Columbia College Chicago. She is a co-founder and since 1989 the artistic consultant of the annual Festival of Films from Iran. She has written extensively on Iranian cinema and has co-authored a book on Abbas Kiarostami with Jonathan Rosenbaum.
Ashish Avikunthak, India 2005, 18 min.
The Sea Runs Thru My Veins
Zara Zandieh, Germany 2019, 20 min.
Mohamad Hafeda, Lebanon 2018, 25 min.
At Home But Not at Home
Suneil Sanzgiri, USA 2019, 11 min.
The essayistic short The Sea Runs Thru My Veins is an assemblage of multiple post-migrant voices from different geopolitical spheres. At Home But Not at Home evokes postcolonial memories through the use of contrasting footage. Together with cartographic appropriation and re-mapping in Sewing Borders and the use of opacity, rumours and secrets in Endnote, each of these short films reflect queer, counter-narrative aesthetics and decolonial knowledge. Here we can explore (un)seen subjects and how they cross over to occupy new bodily spaces.
Sarnt Utamachote (ษาณฑ์ อุตมโชติ) is a nonbinary filmmaker and curator. They are a co-founder of un.thai.tled, an artist collective from the German-Thai diaspora, with whom they curated the un.thai.tled Film Festival Berlin and Beyond the kitchen: Stories from the Thai Park. Their video installation I Am Not Your Mother (2020) was exhibited at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and their short film Soy Sauce (2020) was screened at OutFest Fusion LA, Xposed Berlin, and Queer East London 2021, among others.
Suneil Sanzgiri is an artist, researcher, and filmmaker. His work spans experimental video and film, animations, essays, and installations, and contends with questions of identity, heritage, culture and diaspora in relation to structural violence. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a Masters of Science in Art, Culture and Technology in 2017.
Jordmannen (The Earthmen)
Muammer Özer, Sweden 1980, 27 min.
Sweden/Finland 1983, Muammer Özer, 38 min.
Jordmannen tells the story of an immigrant from Anatolia who moves to a new country in hope of a better life. The everyday reality of this nameless protagonist, who is depicted as a clay figure, is marked by alienation, racism and exploitation. It is a grim portrayal of an economic migrant in an affluent Western society which is representative of many shared stories: The unqualified worker’s worth is determined solely by his performance. Structured as a series of episodes, the story makes use of dolls, toys and live-actors and alternates between black-and-white and colour film. In Ulkomaalainen/Yabancı, a young man from Turkey arrives in Finland hoping to earn enough money for a better life. But life in the north soon begins to tear him apart. On one hand the hard factory work, the sensory overload of consumer goods, the seemingly constant sexual availability of the women and, on the other hand, news of the political turmoil in his homeland. His near delusional state is expressed cinematically in a montage of documentary and poetic images that occasionally verge on the surreal. The film contains substantial documentary footage from 1970s Turkey.
John Sundholm is Professor of Cinema Studies at Stockholm University and has published widely on minor cinemas. He works also as a film programmer and has directed AVANT since 2002, Scandinavia's only regular international event dedicated to experimental film.
Ahmet Gürata is an academic, film critic and festival curator. He is currently a senior visiting scholar at Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS) and has published research on the history of Turkish cinema, reception, remakes and documentary in anthologies and journals. He also works as a programmer for the Festival on Wheels and Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival.
Leather shoes, suit, tie, combed hair and a freshly-shaven face: Ranjit Mallick needs to make a good impression for his job interview at an Indian-British company. Yet, with his suit stuck at a dry cleaners which is on strike, he begins a frantic hunt for a new one. Mrinal Sen's politically charged comedy combines documentary images of the everyday, slapstick, newsreel footage, experimental montage, photographic collage, jump cuts and zooms. Several times, the film breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly: Why do you really need a suit to have a chance of getting a job? With creative use of a wide variety of cinematic techniques, Interview is a raging critique of the adoption of status symbols from the former British colonial masters.
Kunal Sen studied Physics, then switched to Computer Science and obtained his Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Illinois. He worked as a scientist in a medical research lab, wrote technical text books, and then joined Encyclopaedia Britannica. Currently he is the Global Chief Information Officer for this group, which includes Britannica and Merriam-Webster. He also have an active art practice and works in various mediums, including electronic kinetic art.
Promona Sengupta is an academic, an activist and a curator currently finishing her PhD at the International Research Center Interweaving Performance Cultures at FU Berlin. She co-founded Mo’Halla, a pop-up space for progressive art, culture and politics, based in Berlin. She has worked as a curator for Khoj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi and on various international exhibitions throughout Asia.
Inventur - Metzstraße 11 / Inventory - Metzstraße 11
Želimir Žilnik, FRG 1975, 9 min.
Abschied / Farewell
Želimir Žilnik FRG 1975, 9 min.
Bogdan Žižić, FRG / Yugoslavia, 1977, 17 min.
Specijalni vlakovi / Special Trains
Krsto Papić, Yugoslavia 1972, 12 min.
Na Objedu / At Lunch
Vefik Hadžismajlović, Yugoslavia 1972, 9 min.
Halo München / Hello München
Krsto Papić, Yugoslavia 1967, 13 min.
Dernek / Party
Zoran Tadić, Yugoslavia 1975, 12 min.
This short film program brings together documentary works from the early and mid-1970s made by Yugoslav directors associated with the Zagreb and Belgrade film clubs and the documentary film school in Sarajevo. From a range of perspectives, the films not only address the problematic selection and recruitment processes of so-called guest workers, but their everyday living conditions in Germany and the lives of their relatives who remained. The highlight of the program will be a film by Želimir Žilnik, long thought to have been lost, which was recently found in the archives of the Documentation Center and Museum of Migration in Germany (DOMiD). Indeed, the very fact that this film was not adequately preserved – in neither a German nor a Yugoslav national film archive – raises many questions regarding hegemonic film historiography and archiving, and their relationship to themes of migration in both countries.
Borjana Gaković is a film and media scholar. She writes and works as a lecturer in the field of film and cinema culture, and as a curator of mostly historical cinema programs, often with reference to feminisms in film history.
Diana Nenadić, film critic and editor, has been publishing film reviews and essays in Croatian periodicals since the mid 1980s. As one of few Croatian film critics concerned with documentary and experimental film, she has served as a curator of film programs and retrospectives for various film festivals and exhibitions.
High up in the mountains, more than 2000 metres above sea level, lies a Turkish boarding school for Kurdish pupils. Under military drill, the pupils are educated to become “valuable citizens for country and nation”. When the school is snowed in and cut off from the outside world, Yusuf tries to find help for his sick friend Mehmet. As he does so, the question of who is responsible for Mehmet's critical condition arises more and more. Director Ferit Karahan uses the self-contained parallel world of the boarding school as a mirror of a country marked by militarism, masculine harshness and a disregard for the Kurdish minority.
Born in Muş, Turkey in 1983, Ferit Karahan first worked as an assistant director before beginning to make his own short films. His debut feature, The Fall from Heaven, won Best Film at the Antalya Film Festival and Best First Film at the Ankara International Film Festival. Okul Tıraşı is his second feature film.