Originally from Tehran, Iran, Mazi has recieved his BFA in new media arts and cinema from Concordia university. He is currently an active member of the Senselab run by Erin Mannings and Brian Massumi, and a member of Topological Media Lab... [more]
Originally from Tehran, Iran, Mazi has recieved his BFA in new media arts and cinema from Concordia university. He is currently an active member of the Senselab run by Erin Mannings and Brian Massumi, and a member of Topological Media Lab run by Sha Xin Wei.
Mazi's work is composed primarily of new media narrative installations about mind, body, near-death, death and afterlife. He explores the different, if any, mind and body relations, and has been primarly influenced by new cognitive theories and Zen buddhism view on mind.
Mazi has also been an active film critic and writer.
In the context of Photography, Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida writes: “Photography cannot signify except by assuming a mask.” (Barthes, pg. 34) This mask is the meaning that goes beyond that which is depicted. It goes beyond the face and the expression. In the context of film, it is perhaps the meaning that exceeds not only the aesthetics of the composition, but one that surpasses different layers of narrative; a meaning that lays within the form.
Or (2004, Keren Yedaya) is a film, where its impact is mainly due to the meaning that resides under the layers of the narrative, and signified through the form. The film is empty of any camera movement. The camera never follows anyone. It is always there, but passive. The characters walk freely regardless of the framing. In many times there heads are cut off by the frame. Sometimes all we get is a frame empty of any person, only the off-screen sound. For Yedaya, it’s not so much about the face or the characters, rather how the camera by its mere presence within their everyday life can create meaning.
As in Avedon’s photograph of William Casby, it is not Casby’s face that is affective but what it signifies: the essence of slavery that is laid bare. In the same sense Or is not so much about Or or even her mother. The meaning and the significance even go beyond the issue of prostitution. Or is rather signifier of complex sociopolitical dynamics.
Qouting Barthes: “Society,[…] mistrusts pure meaning, It wants meaning but at the same time it wants this meaning to be surrounded by noise, which will make it less acute. Hence the photograph whose meaning (not its effect) is too impressive is quickly deflected; we consume it aesthetically, not politically.” (Barthes, pg.36) Or rather than a political film is a film that is “made politically.” It is perhaps for this very reason that Yadeya finds camera movement excessive. Her minimalism and discount for glorification (what Barthes calls “noise”) is what makes the film more than an aesthetically pleasing and satisfying image. Yadeya does not want her picture to be less acute. She is neither interested in oversimplifying a politic nor reassuring our already existing political beliefs, but rather in creating a context for us to question them.
Barthes writes: “Photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks.” (Barthes, pg. 38) Perhaps it is its simple aesthetics, treatment of the form and open politics that create the room for self-reflection. It induces a curiosity to seek the suggested meaning which is different than the literal one, to move beyond the narrative of Or and/or her mother. Or is consumed politically for it speaks, and induce us to think; for it thinks.
Reference: Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang 1981.
A look at Curfew and The Roof, two Palestinian films depicting the Cinematic Space of Occupation.
Both Curfew by Rashid Masharawi and The Roof by Kamal Aljafari portray the cinematic space of occupation. Both films are situated in the occupied city of Gaza. The Roof also includes Ramollah, in its non-fiction narrative. The space of occupation is that of once was, the space of preset-time, of hopelessness towards future, a space of vicious circular everydayness. It is a space where the notions of private and public emerge, where home loses its privacy and becomes an absurd notion.
As mentioned in both films the notion of home is of has been. It only exists now in the narrative of the past; a representation of something that once was and now is even difficult to evoke in memory. (Gertz and Khleifi, pg. 102) It is not an actual memory or narrative, rather one that resembles itself indirectly through the present conditions of the Palestinians within the film. In The Roof Aljafari describes this memory in voice over:
"Everything began in 1948. In May, My grandparents were on a boat on their way to Beirut, after their city Jaffa had been bombed. Over those few days the waves got too big, so they were forced to return. […] But when they came back Palestine was already gone. Their homes were gone as well. The people who remained were forced to live in one neighborhood and they were given the houses of other Palestinians. […] In 1948 the owners of this house were still building the second floor. My parents live on the first floor and the past lives above them." The memory of once Palestine that now under the occupation has given the idea of home an absurd meaning; a home that is unwillingly shared, and embed the past lives in it.
The private and public spheres are intertwined in the space of the occupation. In Curfew the family’s house is a representation of such relation between the private and public. The privacy of the home is interrupted so many times that the family barely gets through a letter. The neighbors are always present whether on the wall, lurking from the window, or simply passing through the house to get to their home. The curfew itself is an intrusion into the private space transforming each private house into a collective space. At the same time the house also resembles a “prison of exile.” Its claustrophobic quality and the way it has crowded an entire family, and perhaps neighbors, who are forced to stay in that space due to the curfew, accentuates this sad irony of a house which is not a home.
Space of the occupation is also represented as a distanced space; distanced from other part of the world, and distanced from the diasporic space. The distance is emphasized through the importance of the television. The redundant depiction of the habit of TV viewing not only suggests the everydayness of lives but it also shows the distance between the occupied space and the outside, whether it is other parts of the Arab world or Washington where the peace talks are taking place. The distance is sensible through unreachability of those in diaspora. In Curfew the son in Germany is so inaccessible and remote that even his letter doesn’t get read properly. The film coveys impossibility of communication. In The Roof we witness the similar when Aljafari calls a friend in Lebanon; a phone conversation that is concluded in the realization that they can never meet.
There can be felt a sense of being second-degree citizen in the Palestinian characters of the both films that blur further the idea of home. In Curfew the humiliating way in which the Israeli soldier interrogates the civilians, whom most of them aren’t accused of anything, is an example of such. In The Roof this feeling is more emphasized by the privileges (whether legal or suggestive) that a holder of an Israeli passport is qualified for.
ref: Nurith, Gertz, George Khleifi. “Without Place, Without Time: The Films of Rashid Masharawi.” Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma and Memory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. 101-118.