Akram Zaatari: 28 Nights and a Poem is an interpretation of the archive of the Scheherazade photo studio. Photographer Hashem el Madani opened the studio in 1953 in the Lebanese city of Saïda after having spent years photographing people in front of their shops, in public squares, or at the beach in response to their wish to appear before the camera. Some of the poses he captured on film were adopted by those who saw the photographs and subsequently took on a life of their own. They were recorded by photo and 8mm cameras and are accompanied in the film by songs recorded on cassette tapes and played back on a laptop, together with El Madani’s stories. The archive does not actually exist in itself, but is generated by a system of recordings and transmissions in infinite variations.
Kidlat Tahimik: Balikbayan #1 tells the story of the very first round-the-world sailing tour – not by Ferdinand Magellan, who died shortly before the journey was completed, but by Enrique, his slave. The film opens with a cardboard box containing film rolls being dug up from the ground. Shot in 1980 and now showing their age, the images tell the story of the circumnavigation. Enrique carved his memories of the journey into wood, with the sculptures adorning his garden. Balikbayan #1 weaves together the official story with that of Enrique, as well as with the director’s cut of what Tahimik started filming 35 years ago in order to find out the truth, and then continued in a village in the province of Ifugao in 2013.