Reflection: Borderzone

Sally Wills is a MLitt Curatorial Practice (Contemporary Art) student from Liverpool. She is presently undergoing a work placement with the University of Glasgow’s Collaborations & Cultural Activities Committee. Her research focuses on concepts of dwelling, domesticity and locality. 

I attended Borderzone, the first CinemARC event of 2024 and my first introduction to CinemARC, a monthly film screening event based in the University of Glasgow’s Advanced Research Centre building. In line with this month’s theme, we watched a trio of short films, each offering unique perspectives on what constitutes a border.

In the first film, three men talk fondly of the traditional fishing practice of haaf netting which they engaged in the Solway Firth area. Watching HAAF by Julia Parks is like listening to a tale told by a grandfather of a time before I was born – emphasised by the black and white visuals of the film. The ‘border’ in this film is introduced as the deepness of the meridian line which separates the Scottish and English sides of the channel. This natural division caused good-natured competition between the Anglo-Scottish fishermen. However, it is unfortunate to find out that in recent years the tradition has been repressed by increased regulations to be more environmentally conscious; a discredit to these fishermen when considering how much larger companies impact the environment. Ultimately, the film highlights the importance of oral history and the coming together of the two sides to preserve this tradition. 

Following this, we imagined a future through Mona Benyamin’s Moonscape. This musical, film noir tells a story about a man, who in the pursuit of happiness finds a loophole in the United Nations Space Treaty and claims ownership of the moon, from which he can sell land. This is a cause for celebration, as he and his wife dance and clap alongside a little alien. The two roles are played by Mona’s parents. It’s authentic to see, as someone who’s had their own parents star in their own art projects. The film poses a hypothetical question: ‘is it easier for a Palestinian to buy land on the moon than to return to their homeland?’ It’s explored through the director’s own lens, a young Palestinian woman living under occupation. Initially hopeful, the film takes twists and turns through email correspondences, making light of trauma through humour and more dancing, only to end in vain. The humour used highlights the absurdity of the occupation. Mona speaks for not only Palestinian resistance but also for other suppressed Arab countries.

Lastly, we are taken on a personal journey through family history in Singing in the Wooden House by Kirsten Adkins. The film welcomes us into Adkins’s household, where the family intimately recount memories through old photo albums. The backdrop of these being the ‘wooden house’, situated on the border between Finland and Russia. The old photographs flash on screen, accompanied with the loud lilt of Finnish folk singing which entices a sense of unease; these images are tainted by war, evacuation and loss. Suddenly the singing stops… like the wooden house abandoned and left to be reclaimed by nature. Emptiness is a big part of the film; it’s the same feeling Adkins felt as she was confronted with the past. Now in the present, we witness photographs she took of the wooden house in its current state; however, this doesn’t feel like home anymore. As described in the poetic song lyrics “if it’s named it’s made real”, “but the words get stuck in my teeth”, Adkins grasps for the intangible; as it exists now the wooden house cannot be claimed as home.  The film makes us question these tangible ‘borders’ such as edges, wire fences, walls and shores.

To compliment the films, we ended the screenings with a panel discussion between Kirsten Adkins, Cairsti Russel and Hyab Yohannes. They delved into topics around home, displacement and barriers. 

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