On Belonging with Chantal Akerman from right to left - Ibro Hasanović
In 2014, Ibro Hasanović met Chantal Akerman in Paris while she was preparing to visit Kosovo to screen some of her films, such as “La Captive” (2000) and “La Folie Almayer” (2000) at the Francophonie Week. This first encounter turned into a long and on-going conversation that included some draft ideas about a project based on reciprocal individual testimonials. This period coincided with the loss of Akerman’s mother who was an Auschwitz survivor. It can be clearly observed—through her works, interviews, and writings—that her mother, along with her Jewish background, was the core element not only for her works but also for her life. Hence, in November 2014, Chantal Akerman paid a visit to Pristina and they innately started the project with an interview that took place at her hotel room. The plan was to continue with a series of interviews where both Hasanović and Akerman were interviewed. They were unable to complete the project; sadly, Akerman took her life on 5 October 2015 in Paris. It was only long after her decease that Hasanović decided to work on the footage.
As a remanence of this unfinished project, “ON BELONGING - with Chantal Akerman from right to left” (2016) is a sincere poetic work with autobiographical dimensions. Akerman, sitting on her bed in a hotel room, reflects on the sense of belonging by integrating anecdotes from her childhood in Brussels to her years in New York, talking about her inspirations, the role of literature, languages, and her writings. She creates a feeling of re-inventing mundane but indispensable aspects of life through how she immerses herself as a subject of discovery. Remembering how her documentaries and films were all set, one can understand Hasanović’s consideration to let her overtly direct the flow of the work. Particularly, her documentaries taking place in the Eastern Europe, the American South, the Mexico-U.S. border were all about creating the feeling of a situation taking place in those specific locations that she chose rather than conveying gathered data and factual information about that place.
The traces of this consideration can also be detected with how Hasanović centres Akerman by keeping the camera stable and letting her move out of the frame without cutting. This work echoes the tidal relationship which Akerman balances between the “planned” and controlled setting and the subject’s liberty to act. The work follows her in-between passages from places to genres, from narrations to fictive stories, from bodily engagements to the state of being on the move.
Akerman effortlessly shares her entire world with her instincts, emotions, memories, oppressions, pleasures, experiments, rebellions, observations, and experiences within the borders of this interview in a relationship with the camera that is almost tangible. As the climax of this interview, she defines the sense of belonging through her maternal language, which dictates a left to right direction. It is not a path, it is not a land, and it is not a document. Belonging is the feeling attached to her world, which she shares with us by elevating its urgency and temporality. © Başak Şenova