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OCCIDENTE a film by ANA VAZ. 2014. France. 15 min. An ultramarine film-poem traversing Brazil and Portugal’s entangled pasts.

This film screened exclusively for a week and is currently not available online.

Brazilian artist and filmmaker Ana Vaz’s preoccupation with the natural world is splayed wide across Occidente (meaning “West”). The film charts a transatlantic voyage of Brazilian new-worlders and the Portuguese working class by way of dinner table intimacies and choppy surf attempts. Vaz’s approach to affluence and strata in present-day Lisbon—all the ways in which materiality is at odds with the environment—is elastic, pleating together 16mm footage with HD video and imagery appropriated from Google Street View.

 

Vaz considers the film an exercise in “reverse ethnography,” repositioning the alleged “discovery” of the Americas as an identity crisis for settlers. A curling ocean wave is the first legible shot, denoting cyclical colonial habits which will inform the images to come: a gamboling peacock, Chinese porcelain, ganache and confectionery, clinking glassware. Through divergent sounds and sights—images of opulence and leisure and a tense score by the filmmaker’s father, Guilherme Vaz—Occidente acts as an elegy to the Anthropocene.

 

 

“In the hunt, at nighttime or in the magic hour, the chimera of experience reigns. It is a theater of forces in which prey and predator camouflage and watch, appear and disappear, are visible and invisible, yet indivisible. Cinema is, for me, a space for this hunt to act itself up, a ritual of camouflaged observance, an experience in thought and action.” ANA VAZ

 

Vaz’s camera is inquisitive, though not accusatory. With a fluid, gestural mode of montage, she reveals colonial hauntings—whether that be literal imagery of labor, or uncanny snapshots of the Praça do Comércio’s imposing architecture. Vaz then suffuses her film with shades of blue (lapis, cerulean, petrol, navy) to lineate the natural world versus these man made rites; at one point, a manicured hand appears to graze the clouds and ocean, its blue varnish obscuring the surrounding skyline, spiritually motioning in one the film’s early notes: “westward movement that moves eastwards / into a shattering of its original.”

 

Born in 1986 in Brazil, Vaz has built her practice as an artist and filmmaker (through self-described “film-poems”) around myth, history, and nature. Her eco-horror doc It Is Night in America saw endangered species captured on expired 16mm film stock, a dryly literal approach to extinction. Vaz is also a founding member of COYOTE, an interdisciplinary collective compounding ecology, political science, and conceptual art practices. Her latest short A árvore—a “ritual-film” about Vaz’s father—premiered at Berlinale’s Forum Expanded this year.

 

Text written by Saffron Maeve.

Credits for
OCCIDENTE
cast
Lis Andrea De Melo, Silvia Caetano, Hugo Costa, Gabriel Abrantes & Alexandre Abrantes
written by
Ana Vaz
produced by
François Piron
cinematography
Ana Vaz
editing
Ana Vaz
music
Guilherme Vaz
sound
Maxence Ciekawy, Louis Henderson & Ana Vaz