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MIGRATIONS AND TRAVELS, is the first of two programs created for the TRANSHUMANCES, ON THE OTHER SIDE series by curator ARIANE PLANTE. Plante has selected works on VUCAVU that explore the concept of transhumance, Latin trans (on the other side) and humus (land, country), which intrinsically refers to the idea of displacement as connected to humans, animals, birds, or even ideas. It also unveils a vision of territory: territories that hold our identity, the ones we come from or go through, the ones that bring us what we need, that define who we are, and that we question.




 

 

 
Ariane Plante

PROGRAM #1

TRANSHUMANCES: MIGRATIONS and TRAVELS


By Curator:

ARIANE PLANTE

TRANSHUMANCES, ON THE OTHER SIDE: MIGRATIONS AND TRAVELS

ESSAY BY: ARIANE PLANTE


For the Transhumance — On the Other Side series, I will present two distinct film programs to think about the notion of transhumance, which I tackle in this context beyond its traditional, literal definition, from a rather metaphorical, polysemous and multidimensional point of view. My position to support my thoughts and get to the heart of the films I’ve chosen comes from a more empirical and impressionist than theoretical approach.

If the concept of transhumance—from the Latin words trans (on the other side) and humus (the land, the country)—refers by definition to “a seasonal movement of livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures,”[1] it also intrinsically refers to the idea of “crossings,” whether physical or imaginary, and “transformation,” which brings along a new state of affairs. As a matter of fact, this perspective of alteration led to the subtitle of the series: On the Other Side. What motivates movement? What can be found beyond a crossing? How will reality be really transfigured? Which metamorphosis will we be able to observe?

While the second film program explores transhumance via imagination and dreams, in the first program, entitled Migrations and Travels, I’m interested in stories of human transhumance as migratory phenomena.

Our era is deeply shaken by important issues of mobility, borders and migration. That is why I wanted to explore transhumance through the spectre of its dimension intimately linked to the territory. The territory that we come from; the one we live on or that welcomes us; the one we cross, which leaves its mark on us, which supplies our needs, and to which we identity; the territory we leave, which we take over or want to conquer, the one where humans meet, where powers face each other.

I selected five films with formal profiles and characteristics that are both complementary and heterogenous, and distinct subjects and visual styles that offer very contrasting views on the question of transhumance. Themes include the invasion of a territory, the excesses of capitalism, affiliation, identity, immigration, refugees, forced movements, havens, border crossings, travels that transform us, life courses, memories and wandering. Whether they are making autobiographical or experimental films, classic documentaries or free-form essays, these filmmakers all reflect on social, political or cultural issues and phenomena that touch us and say something about our time.

Migrations and Travels sets exiles out of vital necessity against trips that are done for fun, and the intoxicating poetry of impressionist tales against unsettling testimonies that break our hearts. This transhumance finally draws up countless trajectories and many traces of our journey through the world, revealing its great fragility.


[1] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumance

The territory that we come from; the one we live on or that welcomes us; the one we cross, which leaves its mark on us, which supplies our needs, and to which we identity; the territory we leave, which we take over or want to conquer, the one where humans meet, where powers face each other.
PICTURES OF THE INTERIOR - SEAN GARRITY, EXPERIMENTAL, 2003, 4 MIN 46 SEC–WINNIPEG

PICTURES OF THE INTERIOR - SEAN GARRITY, EXPERIMENTAL, 2003, 4 MIN 46 SEC–WINNIPEG, (WINNIPEG FILM GROUP)

PICTURES OF THE INTERIOR - SEAN GARRITY, EXPERIMENTAL, 2003, 4 MIN 46 SEC–WINNIPEG

Filmmaker Sean Garrity began his career in Canada after travelling through Asia and South America for several
years. With pictures of the interior, a black & white photographic short film, he offers a mnemonic exploration of a few fragments of his travels.

Through a contemplative succession of still images and voice-over narration, with no music, Garrity takes on the gaze of the wanderer and the very personal and intimate tone of the confidant. He slowly shows a collection of photographs–artistic photos more than documents–, most of which he took during his travels, while adding personal observations. Each photo becomes a small treasure chest that opens up and reveals a few moments of interiority, some elusive memories. Odours, sounds, atmospheres, shadows, lights, presences, and spirits practically come to life in these still images and the wandering soul expressed through the words. Both sensual and profound, the film gracefully dabbles in a kind of nostalgia, without artifice. The final image, taken by his father, shows Sean Garrity as a child, sitting in front of a television. It could have been the first image of the film, the one where everything started. Placed there, in conclusion, it makes for a beautifully, unexpectedly open ending.


SNOWBIRDS—JOANNIE LAFRENIÈRE, DOCUMENTARY, 2017 48 MIN. – MONTRÉAL

The angle through which photographer and filmmaker Joannie Lafrenière tackles travel and migration in SNOWBIRDS gives a complementary, antagonistic vision to the theme of the selection.

Truly a living diorama, this documentary feature is a very authentic, respectful, and funny portrait of a community of willing exiles—Quebec retirees who, like migratory birds, settle in Florida every winter. Looking for leisure activities, warmth, and entertainment, they spend six months per year in their mobile home, on a piece of land they have acquired and where they feel “at home.”

The great coherence between the visual style, aesthetic choices and subject of the film makes for a charming whole. The meticulous framing, field size, and “mise en scène” depict the protagonists in their daily life, in their domestic environment or practising their favourite activities, while highlighting the kitschiness of their world. By presenting this gallery of colourful, endearing characters, Lafrenière delineates a unique sociological phenomenon. The people we meet share their motivations, their journey, their quest, their values, their dreams, their fear of illness and death, letting us discover their vision of movement, travel, and life. And it’s absolutely fascinating!

Each photo becomes a small treasure chest that opens up and reveals a few moments of interiority, some elusive memories.
SNOWBIRDS—JOANNIE LAFRENIÈRE, DOCUMENTARY, 2017 48 MIN. – MONTRÉAL

SNOWBIRDS — JOANNIE LAFRENIÈRE, DOCUMENTARY, 2017, 47 MIN. 33 SEC. – MONTRÉAL (SPIRA)

THIS HALFWAY PLACE - GERTRUDE HAMBIRA, DOCUMENTARY, 2014, 4 MIN 48 SEC - WINNIPEG (ZIMBABWE)

Gertrude Hambira’s moving film seemed essential to me to illustrate my reflection on transhumance and migratory phenomena. Living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, this filmmaker had to flee Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe because of her political beliefs and activities. This Halfway Place, the first documentary she directed in Canada, is an autobiographical film about her stormy journey.

Assembling images filmed in her native country with shots in which she appears, alone on a public transit bus in Canada, she emotionally remembers crossing the “very long bridge” from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, which led her from the United States to Canada, the country that would finally become her haven. She conveys the difficult moment when she reached the Canadian immigration post after seven months of exile, under the illusion that she had reached her destination. Alas, she had to begin the second part of her journey, throughout the maze that is the Canadian immigration system.

The restraint and simplicity of the film let us clearly take in the words, resilience, reflection, and moving story of this strong woman. Always relevant, she raises questions about critical, complex issues related to politics, immigration and bureaucracy, as well as the reality of refugees searching for a safe territory where to live with their family. A thought-provoking film as manifold as it is essential.

To learn more about the journey and story of Gertrude Hambira:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/newcomers-brave-stage-stories-sarasvati-play-1.4679415

Always relevant, she raises questions about critical, complex issues related to politics, immigration and bureaucracy, as well as the reality of refugees searching for a safe territory where to live with their family.
THIS HALFWAY PLACE - GERTRUDE HAMBIRA, DOCUMENTARY, 2014, 4 MIN 48 SEC - WINNIPEG (ZIMBABWE)

THIS HALFWAY PLACE - GERTRUDE HAMBIRA, DOCUMENTARY, 2014, 4 MIN 48 SEC - (WINNIPEG -ZIMBABWE) (WINNIPEG FILM GROUP)

LAND OF OIL AND WATER - WARREN CARIOU, DOCUMENTARY 2009. 43 MIN 25 SEC - (SASKATCHEWAN/MANITOBA)

Warren Cariou is a writer and artist of Métis and European descent who, along with Neil McArthur, directed the most political film of the program. Land of Oil and Water, a very affecting documentary, paints a heartfelt portrait of some indigenous Canadian communities struggling to preserve their way of life in the face of the changes caused by the arrival of the oil industry on their land[1].

Having learned that Alberta oil companies planned to establish themselves on his native territory in Saskatchewan, Cariou began a kind of pilgrimage to go meet Cri, Dene and Métis communities in order to understand the hopes and fears they have about the development in their community of an industry known for its unscrupulous practices. How do they think their lives will be transformed by the establishment of oil sands operations? During his journey, the co-director discovered individuals divided between the desire to preserve the integrity and quality of their spaces, and the hope of improving the living conditions of their community by taking advantage of the economic activity promised by the companies.

Through many testimonies taken among people from these communities, the film tackles issues such as invasion and uprooting, depicting some of the most potentially disastrous aspects of migration and transformation. The interviewees evoke transhumance while talking about their ancestral lifestyles and their very organic relationship with the territory and movement, but that notion also appears in the film as a consequence of the establishment of the oil industry on their land. Its major environmental impact–contaminating the air, water and soil–might force some of the population to abandon their traditional practices, and possibly even leave their homes and their communities to maintain their health.

“It’s almost as if there is a point somewhere in the close future where we won’t have a choice: pack our bags and leave our homes…”
 - 
Words from one of the participants in the film

Land of Oil and Water is a nuanced film that raises serious concerns that are still strikingly relevant and too often overlooked. I see it as a call to resistance.
 


[1] Adapted from https://vucavu.com/fr/winnipeg-film-group/2009/land-of-oil-and-water-fr

The interviewees evoke transhumance while talking about their ancestral lifestyles and their very organic relationship with the territory and movement, but that notion also appears in the film as a consequence of the establishment of the oil industry on their land.
LAND OF OIL AND WATER - WARREN CARIOU, DOCUMENTARY 2009. 43 MIN 25 SEC - SASKATCHEWAN/MANITOBA

LAND OF OIL AND WATER - WARREN CARIOU, DOCUMENTARY 2009. 43 MIN 25 SEC - (SASKATCHEWAN/MANITOBA) WINNIPEG FILM GROUP

ISLAND AND FLIGHT - DAN POPA, EXPERIMENTAL DOCUMENTARY, 2014, 23 MIN 40 SEC - MONTRÉAL

To conclude the program, I’ve selected a film poem by Dan Popa, a Montréal director of Romanian descent. This is the third film of a trilogy that explores human dynamics through the spectre of various means of transportation. Island and Flight is an almost meditative journey that multiplies points of view on contemporary aviation[1]. From the sentimental attraction that travel, airports and airplanes have on many of us to the topic of immigration, this documentary/film essay hybrid takes on the many faces of transhumance.

The film conveys weightlessness via long shots, some in slow motion, on which our gaze and attention hang. Scenes filmed in some twenty airports worldwide, a myriad of images of the sky, and shots of cockpits are accompanied by a hypnotic soundtrack. This minimalist music, whose melodic layers and atmosphere remind one of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports[2], is completed by excerpts of communication between pilots and air traffic controllers, gleaned over the airwaves, and fragments of the testimony of a woman of Romanian descent who immigrated to Canada.

Taking a lively look at places that anthropologist Marc Augé identifies as non-places; “anthropological spaces of transience where the human beings remain anonymous and that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as ’places,’”[3] Popa gives a soul and sensibility to these transitory spaces, which become filled with meaning and emotion.

To me, Island and Flight is a mesmerizing ode to elsewhere and freedom, to travel and life journeys, to the skies and the timeless, fundamentally human dream of flying. A sublime, aerial conclusion to this first program.  


[2] Ambient 1: Music for Airports is a musical album written by Brian Eno in 1978. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambient_1:_Music_for_Airports)

[3] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non_place

...a lively look at places that anthropologist Marc Augé identifies as non-places; “anthropological spaces of transience where the human beings remain anonymous and that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as ’places"
ISLAND AND FLIGHT - DAN POPA, EXPERIMENTAL DOCUMENTARY, 2014, 23 MIN 40 SEC - MONTRÉAL

ISLAND AND FLIGHT - DAN POPA, EXPERIMENTAL DOCUMENTARY, 2014, 23 MIN 40 SEC - MONTRÉAL (LES FILMS DU 3 MARS - F3M) 

ARIANE PLANTE



Trained in anthropology, Ariane Plante has worked freelance for a dozen years in the cultural and artistic community, notably as curator, programmer, author, project manager, and artistic advisor. A self-taught artist, she also develops a professional practice in media and visual arts. She has received grants from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec as an artist and curator, and from Première Ovation, as an artist, author (screenwriting) and curator. In 2012, Ariane Plante started Klondike – décor sonore pour patinoire, an independent curatorial project in audio art. She also created Occupation trouble, a program of video works from the La Bande Vidéo media library. In 2015, she was named main curator of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions of Mois Multi, the Quebec international multidisciplinary and electronic arts festival. She also programmed an Art and Exploration section at the Quebec City Film Festival in 2017. Her writing has notably been published during an exhibition at Oboro, and in the ETC media magazine. She lives in Montréal, and works in Quebec City and Montréal.