Wednesday, 11 January 2012

John Akomfrah's The Nine Muses

Some films are there to be “consumed”, whilst others are to be “savoured”.
John Akomfrah's The Nine Muses falls in the later category.

A elegiac audio visual poem that explores not only
Caribbean and African immigration to Britain,
but the idea of memory being at the root of our humanity,
the Homeric Odissey still with us...

The Greek goddess Mnemosyne slept with Zeus for nine nights

An exploration of the idea of a journey by itself,
as the very concept of journey is about memory,

we see it by the use of Dewald Aukema's camera which is hardly ever quiet, a camera
that is always roving over the immutable wintry landscapes of Alaska

Are they immutable?

interpoled with archive footage depicting constant movement: trucks in wintry landscapes,
gritting lorries, river flooding through flooded towns...

we being the witnesses of the passage of space and time

as we leaf through the traces left behind in our landscapes, those places we call ours
sometimes a track on the snow

not monuments as we understand them, just traces,
perhaps traces that will be forgotten if we don't witness them

if the nine muses don't sing about them,
if the nine muses don't sing about the beauty of those wintry landscapes as the storm
rages crystallizing those instants into words, into songs...

we hear the voices from times past,
those of Homer, of Milton, of Beckett, of Joyce, of Emily Dickinson,
the voice of many others...

Is there a narrative in the world, in our memories?

A narrative as we have understand it throughout the centuries,
a narrative with a beginning, a middle,an end...

such as in an Hollywood movie...

The Nine Muses is not that...
It is an intense yet contemplative reflection on the nature of memory,
on the nature of traces of the journeys of humanity,

of the journeys undertaken by those unknown yet so influential
people from the Caribbean Islands, from Africa, from Asia, from so many places

voices from a place, from a time,
shaping this island, this island we have made ours as well,
adding our invisible yet still powerful monuments to its history...

Director and writer: John Akomfrah
Original score: Trevor Mathison
Music: the voices of Wagner, Schubert, the Gundecha Brothers, Leontyne Price, and others...

There are films which are “consumed”, there are films which are “savoured”. If you are one of those people who likes the first and dislike the second, The Nine Muses is not for you. If you are one of those who likes the intensity of flavour in your cinema, The Nine Muses is for you.

Those images... traces of history already recorded in my memory...

Official Selection Orrizonti, Venice Film Festival 2010,
London Film Festival 2010, Sundance Film Festival 2011, Sheffield Documentary Film Festival 2011

UK Release date: October 2011
Showing in Selected Cinemas in London and around the country

“I am obsessed with archival material: those ghostly traces of lived moments, those pariah images and sounds that now occupy a unique space somewhere between history and myth… How does one begin to say something new about a story everyone claims to know? … what considerations should govern how one constructs a “historical fiction” about events and lives that have been profoundly shaped by what the St Lucian poet Derek Walcott called, “the absence of ruins”? Lives without monuments, without the ‘official’ signature of recognition and interest.
This film is my attempt to suggest what some of those “ruins” might look like, a desire to look into that dark mirror of one’s own past in search of images, ideas, writers and music with which to construct such a monument.”

John Akomfrah

Distributed by New Wave Films

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