Vancouver, BC, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, 7:51PM & January 28, 2021, 8:45AM
Thank you ever so much for your kindness, generosity and engagement for providing us with the opportunity to watch your yet to be launched film, An Unusual Summer.
“Life must be disrupted in order to be revealed” — announces the film’s text. What starts as an arbitrary set of scenes, shot by a surveillance camera, ends up emerging into a profound tribute to life, time, memory, love, and destitution. Ultimately, An Unusual Summer offers a tribute to the search of meaning to life’s often mundane events, events that we would have otherwise discarded, or deemed meaningless. Small events matter. They contain the emerging meanings of life, their fleeting nature, like a litany of small things that make the big picture clearer, sharper, deeper, and more complex.
Watching An Unusual Summer I found myself wondering what could a surveillance camera reveal. And yet, there’s much more to surveillance than finding offenses and who did what. What emerges are aspects of community life, snippets of memory and fleeting moments of being, each carrying its own histories of time and revelation. The scenes introduce viewers to the vulnerable circularity of life, beyond its presumptions, its claims to power, put simply: in its mundanity. Scenes capture the daily behaviours, the apparently insignificant actions which are catapulted to centre stage in pursuit of a resolution of a hidden actor. In many ways, An Unusual Summer pays tribute to these moments — freezing time in its shadows, and reclaiming stories which would have otherwise dissipated, like steam in the air, leaving very little, if any, signs behind.
As viewers move through the scenes, they familiarize themselves with characters and plots, in which individuals who probably never thought of acting turn into actors despite themselves. Characters who may have been just passing through that segment of space suddenly assume centre stage, a theatrical space of being. In making sense of these sequences, viewers find themselves connecting dots, feeling the suspense, if not the drama, making speculations about what next, who broke that car window. Converging and diverging stories intersect, complement each other. Some stories come into fruition; stories of one line. Others are more complex; others still remain enigmatic, baffling. Not every thing has a purpose. For things to exist, no apparent reason is needed.
I need to think through what I have just experienced by watching An Unusual Summer. Three aspects stand out for me:
First, the fixed camera: it brackets space, time and movement, a feature which is embedded in the functional technicalities of a surveillance camera. A surveillance camera’s relation to space – both in its geographic and temporal manifestations are intriguing. In relation to a given space, within a given time, surveillance cameras offer a total – if not totalizing – view, reminiscent of Bentham’s Panopticon. Yet, it is precisely that feature that turns a banal camera — so frequently used these days — into a powerful tool that reveals more than just surveillance. It allows a zooming in on those fleeting moments where not just stories — but also the individuals who enact them — are revealed in their most intimate and vulnerable aspects of their life and being. Secondly, the processing of the surveillance camera’s footage is intriguing and revealing, both in terms of concept and in terms of techniques used. The “surveillance” footage has been worked out by the filmmaker, transformed. Certain scenes were cut out while others were re-arranged; music and sound over image added; temporalities inverted. Inserted texts infuse into what started as banal scenes the aura of historically situated personal and collective narratives. Emerging into a narrative, the film – as distinct from the “surveillance” footage – is organised around nested stories; stories within stories within stories. Each story reveals a part and contrasts with others until these sequences reach the big stories, the Stories of life, being, love, dispossession, the space’s own transformations, and loss through the story of the fig tree, Kamal’s parents meeting and getting married, childhood memories, refugeedom and dispersion. The result represents simply a tour de force. A final crescendo – similar to Maurice Ravel’s one movement orchestral piece, Boléro (1928) - An Unusual Summer captures through its iterative and accumulating one movement sequences, the big drama that underpins apparently insignificant and plotless acts and scenes, gradually educating our sense perceptions to see and understand life in novel ways.
Thirdly, in as much as the protagonists in the film did not intend to be “actors”, and many may not have been aware of their role as such, the same goes for the filmmaker — Kamal’s late Father, Abedeljalil. At the time of installing and activating the camera he may not have thought about himself as a filmmaker. Nor did he think the footage may one day be useful for any subsequent production, perhaps at most as “evidence” of something. This goes to show that intentionality and filmmaking can be two separate phenomena, situated apart by a time-gap until a third agent intervenes and reframes what appears to be arbitrary footage. It is from within this gap - between the primary intention of Abdeljalil, and his son Kamal’s intentionality - that An Unusual Summer emerges as a vivid testimony to life’s vicissitudes, vulnerabilities, yet also redemptive outlook.
May An Unusual Summer stand as a tribute to the memory of Abdeljalil Aljafari, a time-lapsed collaboration between father and son, and a redemptive one at that.
André Elias Mazawi
Avec et contre la vidéosurveillance. Voyage dans trois films, Romain Lefebvre
n ° 101-102 (March 2021)
Opaque Encounters in Films About Palestine: Kamal Aljafari, Nadia Yacoub
Documentary Filmmaking in the Middle East and North Africa, ed. Viola Shafik, American University Cairo Press, July 2021
Lost and Found in Israeli Footage: Kamal Aljafari’s ‘Jaffa Trilogy’ and the productive Violation of the Colonial Visual Archive
Becoming Palestine: Towards an Archival Imagination of the Future, Duke University Press, October 2021.
A Spectral Sumud: Jaffa in Kamal Aljafari’s Port of Memory, Mezna Qato and Sadia Shirazi
Being Urban: Community, Conflict and Belonging in the Middle East. Goldhill, Simon, ed. London: Routledge, 2020.
Return, recollect, imagine: decolonizing images, reclaiming Palestine, Farah Atoui
ed. André Elias Mazawi, Sonia Medel, Postcolonial Directions in Education, 9 (1), 8-42
"Bilder sammeln, Geschichte entbergen. Sichtbarkeit und Cinematic Justice in Kamal Aljafaris RECOLLECTION", Iris Fraueneder
in: Delia González de Reufels/Winfried Pauleit/Angela Rabing (Ed.): Grenzüberschreitendes Kino.
Geoästhetik, Arbeitsmigration und transnationale Identitätsbildung, Berlin: Bertz + Fischer 2019, S. 150–159.
From ‘Cinematic Occupation’ to ‘Cinematic Justice’ : ‘Citational Practices in Kamal Aljafari‘s Jaffa Trilogy, Gil Hochberg
Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture, 2018, pp 533-547.
Archiveology-Walter-Benjamin-and-Archival-Film-Practices, Catherine Russell
Duke University Press 2018
Le rituel contre l’oubli : Une archéologie du quotidien dans Port of memory de Kamal Aljafari, Nour Ouayda
Université de Montréal, 2016
Refracted Filmmaking in Muhammad Malas’s The Dream and Kamal Aljafari’s The Roof, Nadia Yacoub
Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Volume 7: Issue 2, 01 Jan 2014
No Place like Home: The Cinema of Kamal Aljafari, Deirdre Boyle and Marit Kathryn Corneil
WUXIA, Journal for Film Culture, Norway, 2013
La Palestine comme écran, ou comment passer « de l’autre côté du miroir »Le cinéma de Kamal Aljafari, Laure Fourest
La REMMM Journal December 2013
Contested Spaces: Kamal Aljafari’s Transnational Films, Peter Limbrick
A Companion to German Cinema, ed. Terri Ginsberg and Andrea Mensch, 218-248. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2012
From the Interior: Space, Time and Queer Discursivity in Kamal Aljafari’s The Roof, Peter LimbrickThe Cinema of Me: The Self and Subjectivity in First Person Documentary, (pp. 98-118)
ed. Alisa Lebow. Series: Nonfiction, Columbia University Press 2012