Screening & Discussion: The City-Visualizing The Past, Rebranding The Present I, II, III & IV by Jessica Jacobs

Thu, February 23, 2012 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Doors Open at 6:30 P.M.

Director in Attendance
Tickets: $10 at the door ($5 for Alwan members)

About the Film:

While there is growing awareness that localized views of cultural heritage are important, we are still in the processs of exploring adequate tools that can explain and describe the processes of their production adequately, processes that are developing, absorbing and incorporating concepts of heritage in a totally different way and for a completely new audience. Visual representations of heritage (and tourism) have long been recognized as powerful tool for the reinforcement of hegemonic perspectives. They can also be used to unravel and reqork these very same interpretations.

In 2008 Jessica Jacobs spent 8 months in Amman and Damascus filming and interviewing a wide range of people involved in the production and consumption of heritage.

Visualising the Past, Re-branding the Present i, II, III & IV are the first of a series of collaborative films. Eavh film focuses on a different aspect of heritage and uses a different documentary and/or ethnographic style in order to further explore the affect of visual representations on the discourse surrounding cultural heritage.


I. Amman – Straightforward documentary. This film uses talking heads, a linear style and cutaways to present a question about heritage and Amman, and also offer some possible answers. The subject is understandable and the documentary format is there in order to reveal the issues in a straightforward way to the viewer in order for the viewer to feel they have understood all the issues and can come to some kind of conclusion. This is underlined by the presence of figures of authority. This positionality is not particularly challenging to the viewer who is allowed to maintain their ‘distance’ from what is being viewed.


II. Syria – Here the camera turns on itself more – there are patterns and associations – there are no cutaways to explain the comments but instead they have been collected and sorted according to a pre-determined set of categories and spaces. The viewer is pushed more to consider the role of the filmmaker in the construction of the argument (if any) and the way information is presented, leading to a potentially less comfortable viewing experience.


III. Audio-Visual Levant – In this short piece sound and image are de-linked causing the viewer to become aware of the connections (or lack of connections) between the two different senses. Moving images are still and act as signifiers – they are literally signs but the viewer is not given any guidance how to read them. This form of film often raises more questions than it will ever answer. Is there an argument in the sequence of images or is it random? What is the relationship between sound and image.


IV. New concepts of heritage and history are beginning to transform the urban spaces of many major Arab cities. This film brings my collaborator Zaher Al Saghir to the fore. Official representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, the European Union, an international development organisation and the city municipality voice their perspectives on heritage against a background of the noises of the Old City and Zaher’s interviews with shopkeepers, local residents and young Syrian visitors.

Production Credits
Director/Producer: Jessica Jacobs with Zaher Al Saghir (Damascus) Dahlia Salem (Jordan)
Editor: Michael Ho, Eduardo Vidal
Sound Editor: Kieron Teather
Translation: Alice Guthrie

About the Director

Jessica Jacobs is a cultural geographer whose work focuses on the south and east Mediterranean. She uses film as a research method and output. In 2009 she spent 8 months filming in the two cities of Amman and Damascus. This was a collaborative project that aimed to collect approximately 100 interviews with different stakeholders involved in the production and consumption of heritage in the region, particularly the heritage concerning these two cities. Each film is designed to be shown either singly or in the context of the other films. There are two more films to be made - one on museums, heritage and national identity and one on food heritage and consumption of place.

Last updated: 2012-02-23 17:20:08

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