“The linear logic of editing with one frame following the other was a part of my frustration. My reality wasn’t linear. It was fractured like my sense of time and space. Reinventing the apparatus was my way of liberating it and of representing an experience closer to my own.” Nida Sinnokrot
Nida Sinnokrot is an American and Palestinian filmmaker and artist, except, he doesn’t live in America but in Jerusalem, has never lived in Palestine as he grew up in Algiers in forced exile and doesn’t make films in the traditional sense but more like artistic, documentary films.
This sense of contradiction and dislocation in his upbringing would cause him to feel frustrated with the linearity of traditional film making and invent a new way of making and watching films by deconstructing the process and editing equipment itself, coining the term ‘horizontal cinema’ for the resulting type of film.
In his ‘horizontal cinema’, Sinnokrot would film something a few times and display the film through a series of modified projectors, simultaneously. For an added level of interactivity, the film would go slower or faster, oscillating between 0 and 100 frames per second depending on the number of people and their movements within the gallery itself.
Much like the cubist painting offering a simultaneity of views, this would resolve the problem Sinnokrot had with the linearity of traditional cinema; that the sequential construct of images depicting a beginning, middle and end only catered to a post-industrial patriarchal gaze. Packaged and pornographical, it allows no audience participation and was not suitable for stories that are inherently fragmented; the story of dispossessed and displaced peoples or like the story of his own life.
In Palestine Blues (2005) Sinnokrot would start off with the intention of doing a ‘horizontal cinema’ about the daily difficulties Palestinians faced with water shortages, but would end up, due to the ‘life or death’ situation the farmers there faced, doing a traditional film about the Israeli confiscation of their land to build a ‘security wall’; an 8 meter high concrete wall that separates Israel from West Bank.
Although Sinnokrot would forego the ‘horizontal cinema’ technique in Palestine Blues, it would not follow a very traditional structure either. As the film begins with the destruction of Palestinian olive plantations by Israeli bulldozers, it ends with more devestation, disappointment and hardship.
Other than a clear beginning showing his tendency to listen to the blues when in Palestine, and the surreality of planting a Californian style residential community in this ancient, donkey cart driven land, with a clear ending showing the names of those that have died trying to stop this confiscation of land, the middle seems to take a circular structure; going round and round but deeper and deeper into the lives of those affected.
This is Sinnokrot’s ‘road movie of a disappearing landscape’; the story of a conflict between neighboring countries that started decades ago and continues in the latest installment with the building of this separating wall. The problem of the wall is that it separates and isolates communities from essential existing resources required for existing, and separates the farmers from their source of income; their farms.
It also depicts the kind of asymmetric warfare that’s going on in the world’s today; where one side uses the latest weaponry ‘softened’ for example with rubber bullets to limit the collateral damage, the other side uses handmade weapons, such as rocks and a sling, and is depicted in Rubber Coated Rock-All Stars 02 (2015).
The rocks wrapped in rubber are simultaneously on the one hand reminiscent of helmets worn by Israeli soldiers, and on the other rocks and slings used by Palestinians and also, as they are on pedestals, refer to pictures of children who are ‘invisible’ until they die in this battle when their portraits are photoshopped and paraded around.
The crux of the matter is of course, religion. Where one side believes one thing, and the other side has their own version of what God said, this is getting quite personal and cannot be argued further here.
In Caravans (2014), a mechanical contraption containing a series of stainless steel slats that rotate in 3 fixed positions, revealing, semi-revealing and finally hiding what appears to be camels hair. It refers to the cold, hard but sleek structures of modernization that have caused ancient Arabic cultures, the Bedouins with their caravans of camels, which are in fact symbols of wealth and physical ‘comforters’ against the harsh desert climate, to become gradually extinct, systematically erased from existence like animals in a slaughter house.
The imagery that’s left in such a landscape is depicted in Jonah’s Whale (2014), a metal container that has been sliced into regular sections sitting on an open air terrace. But what does it have to do with Jonah, the biblical prophet who ran away, or the whale whose stomach he ended up living inside for 3 days until he agreed to God’s commands?
Perhaps it has to do with the symbolism of the whale that swallowed Jonah, which was God’s ‘jail’ for Jonah for 3 nights, and the symbolism of the Bedouin culture being put into concrete apartments, and being forced to get a job to ‘make ends meet’ in this modern lifestyle.
This is also relates to another issue that Sinnokrot has taken up, with his ‘Back To The Land’ initiative in which people are taught to live ‘outside the system’ by engaging in farming and providing enough for one’s need without going through the ‘normal’ urban systems and channels of living.