Archives are the seat of power for defining historical truth, which, as the saying goes, is one of the first victims of war and civil conflict. Official chronologies provide their one-sided accounts, and propaganda rewrites history, excluding the subjective experiences and objective plight of those lacking access to the means of representation. At the same time, today’s technological possibilities allow artists and activists to accumulate their own counter-archives from zones of conflict, revealing stories that lie beyond the pale of the redacted media narrative. How do artists gather images in zones of conflict, and which archival politics do they pursue? Are the readings of archived images from a conflict zone essentially textured by the dominant social perceptions and memories? These questions provide the point of departure for a discussion between filmmaker and Academy member Madhusree Dutta, who has worked to build a digital image archive in the violently contested zone of Kashmir, and Tamer El Said, a filmmaker and founding member of Cimateque, an alternative film center in downtown Cairo involved in archival projects.
Madhusree Dutta is a filmmaker as well as a curator and a pedagogue. She is the founder and executive director of Majlis, a centre for rights discourse and multi-disciplinary art initiatives in Mumbai, India. She currently lives in Mumbai.
Tamer El Said realized several documentaries and short fiction films and in 2007 founded the independent film production company Zero Production in Cairo. He is also one of the founders of the Cimatheque – Alternative Film Centre in Egypt. He lives in Cairo. In the Last Days of the City is his first feature-length fiction film.