OPPRESSION: The new documentary Spaces of Exception draws parallels between the experiences of oppression and resistance in Native American reservations and Palestinian refugee camps.
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: January 27, 2019
Country: USA, Lebanon and Palestine, 2018, 90 min


Documentary is now enjoying increased attention and respect as an innovative cinematic form in its own right. Freed from an expectation to mimic the pretence to objectivity of journalistic reporting with its formula of opposed talking heads, directors have been experimenting more with the possibilities of documentary as a tool of advocacy, activism and community mobilisation.

In a panel titled «Documentary Expanded» at the inaugural Sharjah Film Platform in the United Arab Emirates this month, a new launchpad for Arab cinema from the region and a meeting point for critical engagement, documentarian Malek Rasamny set out a vision of himself and his colleagues as «transmitters». His concern is not just where stories are being sourced from but also where they are subsequently taken to through the end product’s screening; what lines of communication and access between disparate groups are enabled. Rasamny, who is based between New York and Beirut, co-directed Spaces of Exception (2018) with Matt Peterson, a documentary that had its world premiere in Sharjah, and which was created by the pair in the hope that it will function as a conduit of transnational solidarity for the territorially oppressed.

Spaces of Exception. Directed by Matt Peterson and Malek Rasamny.

Land and the exercise of power

«In Navajo there is no word for relocation; to relocate means to disappear and never be seen again,» a Native American says in Spaces of Exception. The importance of a sense of place to a people’s collective identity and spiritual cohesion, and the systematic fracturing of such links by occupying forces who seize control of the means of definition and law-making of the land to exercise power, is explored in the documentary. Shot over the last four years, it draws a correlation between the experiences of indigenous people in North America, confined to parcels of land by white colonisers targeting their ancestral grounds, and Palestinians in the West …


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