News from the Locarno Festival


Signs of Life




A densely layered, highly atypical homage to the past and future of the Gaza Strip, Basma Alsharif’s multilingual time-and-space travelling debut feature takes place (simultaneously over one day) in the Palestinian territory, Los Angeles and the Mojave desert, Matera and Martina Franca, Italy and a chateau in Brittany. A red-sweatered man, a barcode tattooed on his neck (played by Italian artist and filmmaker Diego Marcon), embodies Alsharif’s notion of dislocation, exile and the eternal return; his actions often unfold in the reverse, a technique introduced in the opening passage as a woman leads the camera backwards through a well-preserved house in Gaza. Alongside there are other men and women who deliver symbolic fragments of history in the present, the swirling sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, hurdy-gurdy and hardcore techno, not to mention a voiceover by filmmaker Sky Hopinka delivered in Chinook Wawa (with onscreen translation in the Godard font), 16mm cinematography by Ben Russell (plus drones!), and quotes from Joseph Conrad and Carlo Levi. An ouroboros is an ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail, an apt title for a dazzling film that constantly recreates itself, formally attempts to move beyond the past, while presenting the world as a fractured puzzle with no easy solution.

Mark Peranson
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