Bill Douglas Award 1: Suspended Futures – Programme Notes

Thursday 21 March (18:30) GFT Cinema 3 // 1h30m // 15+
Friday 22 March (10:30) passholders only CCA Cinema // 1h10m // 15+
Saturday 23 March (13:15) GFT Cinema 3 // 1h30m // 15+

Our 2024 Bill Douglas Award Competition opens with reflections on a wider theme running through this year’s programme: that of the need for liberation for all. 

This programme looks at futures dreamt of and futures taken away in contexts of immigration, exposing wider inequalities and tragedies. A Haitian father’s loss and imagination are complicated by a single cassette recording in the poetic Dreams like paper boats, while the captivating and almost strangling cinematography of I promise you paradise immerses us in the love and refuge story of a migrant in Egypt. Tierra de Leche uses a range of visual approaches and testimonies to shed light on the harsh realities of workers on a New England dairy farm, while reflecting on land, labour, and parallels between human and animal exploitation. Long-time friend of GSFF Mahdi Fleifel returns with Elefsina Notre Amour with a rumination on the refugee crisis through an essayistic speculation on a haunting ship graveyard on the Greek coast. 

Tickets available here.

Dreams Like Paper Boats

Haiti // 2024 // 19 mins
Edouard and his daughter live with a cassette received from his wife in the United States, a long time ago. After years of absence, what can we expect from a distant love?

Two small spools share a length of magnetic strip on which can be recorded music, stories, secrets, promises, anguish, passion and words of longing – typically for up to 90 minutes. The spools pass the strip between them to play all of this sound and fury reel-to-reel. They’re held in place by a thin piece of plastic, which you can hold up to the light and look right through. In theory, this casing can protect them and the knowledge they share for decades. Of course, the cassette tape’s case may shatter. This could happen in transit as it travels from America to Port-au-Prince, carrying words from the lips of a woman who will not see her husband and child for another five years, at least. It could take place some time after the tape’s arrival, when a man made weary by toil and absence takes his frustration out on its flimsy form. The good thing about tapes is that they can be mended. With patience and care, a man can wind his wife’s story back into place, cradled between two solitary points. Even if the plastic is cracked a little, and the memory of her slips out from time to time to haunt him.
Oriana Franceschi

Land of Milk

Nicaragua, United States // 2023 // 12 mins
On New England dairy farms, daily life orbits around the milking parlor. Here, machinery and cows come together as an exploitation mechanism of migrant workers from Central America, consuming their every waking hour and even infiltrating their dreams.

Humans, animals and machines converge within Tierra de Leche, as the film considers kinship across species that suffer in varying ways due to the systems of capitalism. At first, we journey across an abstractly rendered terrain of a map, as migrants share how they came to work at the dairy farm and their aspirations of eventually returning home to their countries and families. For now, their lives centre on the milking parlour – a laborious place which becomes their other home. A place where time moves differently due to the long hours. A place where days become lost to the repetition and cycles of working, sleeping, eating, and cleaning. Architectural drawings illustrate the technologies of extraction which see the cows lined up and connected to various bits of machinery, with the cows themselves succumbing to this capitalist production chain of exploitation. As the effects of capitalism take hold of the workers, in moments of intended rest, the cows are all that they have the time and space to dream about.
Natasha Ruwona

Elefsina Notre Amour

Greece // 2023 // 9 mins
Deserted landscapes, ancient ruins and abandoned shipwrecks at sea. Elefsina’s archeological sites don’t come close to being as hauntingly beautiful as these dead ships, the neglected refugees of Elefsina. For how did they end up there, anyway?

2020 Bill Douglas Award winner Mahdi Fleifel took part in the group exhibition Elefsina Mon Amour: In Search of the Third Paradise celebrating Eleusis as European Capital of Culture in the meditatively political way only he can do. The result is Elefsina Notre Amour, a largely silent nine minute people-free epic which narrates pasts and futures lost with grief-laden generosity. The ‘we’ implied in the film title is nowhere to be seen, for the shipwrecks lay abandoned: corrosion and rust have taken over. Yet, the sunset turns everything it touches syrup-gold, as if imagining a past when ships might have done some good. Or, alternatively, a sci-fi tinged future where people are no more. Basking in the depths and textures of 16mm colour Kodak, Elefsina Notre Amour tells numerous stories with the laps of a wave, the caw of a bird, the silence of the wrecks, all the way from a place whose Ancient history remains shrouded in mystery. The tarnished remains of a past, however, throb with the pains and hopes of our today.
Savina Petkova

I Promise You Paradise

Egypt // 2023 // 25 mins
Following a violent incident, Eissa, a 17 year old African migrant in Egypt, is in a quest against time to save his loved ones, whatever it takes.

In the midst of the conflict and fear that shroud them, Eissa and the girl he loves are reunited briefly in a dirty car, hidden away in an Egyptian scrap yard. It’s not exactly a basilica in fair Verona but we know two star-crossed lovers when we see them, and we know when they are doomed to be divided. Perhaps act one of this love story was full of shared dreaming and excitement, promises made by two young people on the brink of a great adventure. But we enter somewhere in act three, just after this worn-down Romeo has emerged from the bitter brawl which signals the beginning of the end of life with his Juliet. In this grimy safehaven, our lovers are too weary for vows; their promise is a shared understanding. Eissa saves his words for when they really count, when they are needed to save his small family from the danger they are hounded by. He can’t waste breath: he has to conserve his strength for sacrifice and the pain that follows.
Oriana Franceschi