Urban/Flux Film Festival



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The URBAN/Flux film festival is an experiment in imagining urban space as the locus of all things possible. It seeks to elaborate alternative, ethically driven ways of living and thinking, doing and perceiving (in) the city, to unexpected creative ends. Through a focus on radically innovative experimental film and art video, it aims to create a bridge between cities worldwide, linking places real and imagined, physical and virtual. The goal is to deploy citiness in and from Africa to dream urban futures planet-wide. 40 filmmakers from across the world come together in this richly speculative endeavour.

A programme of the French Season in South Africa, URBAN/Flux is a collaboration between SPARCK, a programme of artist residencies, exhibitions, performances, workshops and publications based in South Africa, and Lowave, a France-based independent film label and production company. 

The festival lasts seven days, from September 17 to 23, and takes place at the Bioscope Independent Cinema. 

Each day, spectators can view a 70 to 90 minute selection of ground-breaking videos and short films on the subject of the city.

Each showing has a specific thematic focus: Histori(cities) / Future Cities / Urban Moves / Politricks / Herstories / (Un)Tender cities / SoundCity / CityScapes.

The artists whose work is represented in the festival are Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone; they film in Arab, in Urdu, in Xhosa, in Mandarin. Together, their works offer radically innovative, deeply thought provoking takes on the city as a space of invention and becoming.



Imaginer l’espace urbain comme un espace de tous les possibles. Elaborer des approches alternatives et engagées de la ville comme lieu de vie, d’action, de perception. Faire de la ville une passerelle entre l’ici et le là-bas, de part et d’autre de voyages physiques et virtuels, vrais et rêvés. La déployer au présent, en Afrique, pour échafauder un futur urbain à l’échelle de la planète. Tels sont les objectifs du festival URBAN/Flux. Au cœur du projet, quarante vidéastes et cinéastes venus du monde entier.  

A l’occasion de la Saison française en Afrique du Sud, SPARCK, programme de résidences d’artistes, d’expositions, de performances et de publications basé en Afrique du Sud, et Lowave, label de film indépendant basé en France, proposent ce festival de sept jours. URBAN/Flux se déroule du 17 au 23 septembre, à Johannesburg, au Bioscope Independent Cinema. 

A chaque jour sa séance. Sur 70 à 90 minutes, les spectateurs découvriront une sélection originale de courts métrages, œuvres de grande qualité sur le thème de la ville. 

Chaque séance est structurée par une thématique spécifique: Mémoire: Histoire(s) de villes / Futurs: la ville de demain / Mouvements: Villes en flux / Politique(s): quand la ville se cabre / Villes-elles: l’urbain au féminin / Sons: la ville comme paysage sonore / Scènes: villes-espaces.

Les artistes représentés sont francophones, anglophones, lusophones; ils filment en arabe, en urdu, en xhosa, en mandarin. Ensemble, leurs travaux proposent une vision radicalement nouvelle de la ville comme lieu de vie, d’invention et d’imaginaires.  






I. Histori(cities) / Future Cities


Bofa da Cara, My African Mind / 6’12 / Angola-Spain, 2010 

Cut-outs of pictures drawn from comic books, movie posters, advertisements and 19th century missionary accounts flash across the screen, rendered in 3D. Moving back and forth between image and text, My African Mind interrogates the violence of the colonial gaze and its present-day avatars. Even as we fly through filmic landscapes of dramatically shifting foregrounds and backgrounds, the images grip us firmly. They insist that we face head-on the (not so) past horror of one continent’s encounter with the other and the scars this has left on the face of the present.  


Sammy Baloji, Mémoire /14’ / Democratic Republic of Congo, 2006 

In the town of Lubumbashi, in the Katanga province of eastern Congo, stand the ruins of what was once a thriving copper mining industrial site. Against this backdrop, Sammy Baloji’s haunting images – part documentary, part dreamscape – meet the sinuous choreography of dancer Faustin Linyekula and a soundtrack of successive leaders (Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Kasa-Vubu, Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent-Désiré Kabila) promising political and economic renewal. Masterfully woven together, these elements tell a history of colonial violence, followed by postcolonial hope and its gradual demise. 


Theo Eshetu, Lightning strikes / 7’41 / Ethiopia-Italy, 2010

In 1935, the Italian army stole a historical monument from the city of Axum: a 24-meter high granite obelisk dating from the 4th Century AD. In 1947, as part of a peace treaty, the Italian government agreed to return the obelisk. For decades, it reneged on its promise. Only in 2005, and after countless delays, was the monument returned. Theo Eshetu’s experimental documentary recounts this repatriation. 


Eléonore Hellio / Mowoso, Postcolonial Dilemna Track #02 / 7’36 / DRC-France, 2009 

A psychotronic dash on the wild side of Afrofuturist exploration filmed in Kinshasa and Mbandaka, Postcolonial Dilemna Track #02 throws a stark and surreal light on the violence of late capitalism’s scramble for Congo’s precious metals. The film is part of an ongoing series whose subject is the postcolony: dystopic interzone, part dream, part nightmare and impossible urban snarl. 


Neil Beloufa, Kempinski / 13’58 /Algeria-France, 2007

Welcome to Kempinski.  The inhabitants of this mystical / mythical place – is it a city, a country, a planet? – are preparing to fire rockets into outer space. They will also be deploying satellites and visiting distant galaxies. So they explain to the camera, mostly by night, to the sound of buzzing electrical cables overhead. Filmed in the historic city of Mopti in Mali, this “documentary” about movement across space and time is unscripted.  A single rule obtains and threads throughout: interviewees imagine the future and, in the act of speaking, bring it into the present.


Chui Mui Tan, One Future / 4’45 / Malaysia, 2009 

One Future is a starkly filmed, edgy and powerful science fiction story about a society in which everything is perfect, except for one thing: no one is allowed to speak. A hyperrealist nightmare vision of conformist dystopia, the film follows a man wending his way through yet another day in “paradise” – a day that will end badly for him. 


Ahmed el Shaer, Under Examination / 2’20 / Egypt, 2009

A citizen of Digitaland, created with Machimana software, is seeking a visa to enter Planet Earth. A bureaucrat from the host planet, in charge of controlling movement at the border, is compiling information on him. In the background, disembodied voices speak of “criteria”, “indicators” and “standards”. Obtaining a visa these days is complicated, especially if you’re trying to negotiate passage from and alien-nation into the “real” world.


Ala Eddine Slim, Journal d’un homme important / 7’47 / Tunisia, 2010 

In a space out of time, an unknown man is undergoing an unidentified form of torture – or so it seems, for as the minutes pass it begins to appear that the violence is self-inflicted. Words appear in Arabic script, overlain over a hood covering his face and on his naked body: they describe his status as a middle-aged bureaucrat. The video was filmed over a few days in December 2010, at the height of the events in urban Tunisia that brought on the “Arab Spring”. 


Julia Raynham, Rulings of the Night, / 3’42 / South Africa, 2009

In this Afrofuturistic film, two dancers move from the heights of Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town, to the bowels of the city: a car park and then the aisles of a supermarket lit ghastly white. They are accompanied by a bird of prey and stalked by the ghostly presence of a mystic gorilla. Following in their wake, we question what the human race and the late capitalist system to which it is in thrall have done to the cities they call home.


Nelson Yeo, Seeya in Electrik Dreamz / 20’ / Singapore, 2011 

Seeya in Elektrik Dreamz is a tale of four people confronting the end of the world. The post-apocalyptic universe it presents shows a vastly different Singapore from the one we are used to seeing. By way of a visually driven story, the film questions whether the passage of time has any meaning and how this (absence of) meaning affects us. Multiple, alternative urban worlds are referenced, in a dystopic overlay of “real” and dream spaces. 



II. Urban Moves & Politricks


The Suleiman Brothers, Rojak ! / 4’49 / Malaysia, 2009 

A street food vendor comments on Malaysia’s multi-faceted social tapestry. Anger, violence and a good deal of humour take centre stage. Made entirely with CGI special effects, this video by Jordan and Mussadique Suleiman offers a visually stunning and politically engaged take on the urban condition in Kuala Lumpur. 


Guli Silberstein, Excerpt / 4’35 / Israel-UK, 2008 

An excerpt from Internet video news: a family is hiding behind a wall in a neighbourhood that has become a war zone. With heavy processing, the image gains new dimensions and creates a troubling contrast between form and content, to disquieting effect: anxiety is deconstructed into pixels.


Nicolas Provost, Plot Point / 15’34 / France, 2007

Most of us have seen hundreds of hours of television and film footage that features crowded American cities, Manhattan streets, yellow cabs, cops, uniforms and ambulances. Such images have become stereotypical all over the world and are widely associated with action films, crime movies and, to a certain extent, medical drama. In Plot Point, Nicolas Provost plays with this premise, questioning the boundaries between reality and fiction and, in the process, our reading of cityscapes planet-wide. 


Aryan Kaganof, The Society of the Spectacle / 3’37 / South Africa, 2011 

Black and white media images flash across the screen at break-neck speed to a hypnotic soundtrack. The urban narrative that results is slick, modernist, and without flaw. It demands our submission. It is at once seductive and, in its proficiency to captivate, slightly alarming. With its hammering pace and seamless composition, there is no place for intervention or insertion of alternative pictures. To elbow our way into the storyline would entail a brawl. 


Nduka Mntambo, If This Be a City / 8’13 / South Africa, 2012

Set in a high-rise apartment in downtown Johannesburg, If This Be a City chronicles the relationship between two young men. It is a visual and aural exploration of their relationship characterized by haunted images of desire, manias, memories, longing, violence, unconsummated sexual acts and a pervasive sense of ennui. Quotidian moments of waiting and dreaming are fused with found footage of early Joburg gold mining. This short experimental work attempts to capture the difficult convergence between Joburg’s violent history and its present aspirations to be a global city.


Barbara Hlali, Painting Paradise / 5’30 / Germany, 2008

Media reports show the wall surrounding the Shiite quarter in Bagdad, highlighting beautiful landscapes painted on it to cover up the effects of war. In a simultaneously ironic and nostalgic mode, the film proceeds in a similar way: pictures from crisis zones are changed, darned and covered up with colours. A deceitful idyll develops, which cannot be sustained in view of actual conflict situations.


Zhenchen Liu, Under Construction / 9’55 / China, 2007

Government city planners have recommended that parts of Shanghai’s old city be demolished to make way for the new China. Each year, over 100 000 families are made to leave their homes under duress. Under Construction takes viewers on a two- and three-dimensional flight through neighbourhoods that have been reduced to rubble, showing how the decision to destroy whole sections of one of China’s largest cities has wreaked violence in the lives of vast swaths of its population. 


Goddy Leye, The Beautiful Beast / 4’38 / Cameroon, 2009 

A naked man writhes on the ground. We know nothing about him, save that he seems in pain. Or might he be grinning? A soundscape comes through in waves: Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece, “M”. A Hitlerian voice battles with another, a voice of reason and demand: demand that the man on the ground be treated with care or perhaps, simply, with basic human sympathy. We will never know which voice wins out.


Khaled Hafez, The A77A Project (On Presidents and Superheroes) / 3’36 / Egypt, 2009 

Two figures drawn from a large-scale canvas by the artist are cast in motion via 3D animation and morph into the ancient god Anubis. The Lord of the Afterlife walks through the streets of present-day Cairo, past scenes of daily life, in what was once described as “one of the most beautiful downtowns in the world.”  The film’s score is a mix of sounds drawn from cyberspace and archival voice recordings: re-worked open-source digital loops and samples of Egyptian president Nasser delivering his famous 1967 resignation speech.


Waël Noureddine, Ca Sera Beau. From Beyrouth with Love / 30’ / Lebanon-France, 2005 

A man takes us on a tour of his daily life in Beirut: “Beirut, or perhaps any other city at war with itself. Here no conflicts ever get resolved, no wall ever gets repaired. In the perforated city, the explosions sound more powerful. We have the choice between the army and religion, or religion and the army. A fix of heroin costs 5 dollars. I go and visit some acquaintances and send some post cards...”



III. Herstories / (Un)Tender Cities


Shazieh Gorji, Answered / 1’ / Pakistan, 2008

“Where are you from?” Immigrants are constantly being asked this question. In this performance-based piece, it is put over and over again to a woman unpacking a trunk of clothes. The result is a simultaneously jarring and intimate ballet centered around questions of identity and belonging, remembrance, endurance, nostalgia, reassurance and (self)justification.  The film functions simultaneously as an exploration of globalisation and as a platform to intimately engage with personal stories of migration.


Dineo Bopape, Under All Means Necessary / 4’35 / South Africa, 2006 

A woman shakes her head slowly, looking to and away from the viewer/camera. What appears to be passive refusal slowly gathers speed and proceeds into a full-tilt frenzy of head shaking, a maddened refusal. As the film proceeds, the image, in constant and increasingly frantic movement, breaks down into a disco of dots, pixels, abstracted lines, shapes and colours. The score, an inter-woven, sped-up, doubled, slowed down, sniped mix of sounds, amplifies the violent shake-up going on on the screen.


Sissi Kaplan / The Incident / 8’ / France, 2012

Shot in Singapore, The Incident is a short experimental film about a strange encounter between a woman and a man. In the nocturnal setting of an urban landscape cast in eerie, neon green, a woman narrates her experience of an amorous night. She exposes her thoughts about desire and love, and about the fear that made the story’s fulfilment impossible. 


Nazim Djemaï, La Parade de Taos / 19’ / Algeria, 2009 

A woman named Taos meets regularly with a man in the zoological gardens of Algiers. Under the watchful eye of passers by, they seek quiet spots to court. One day, he does not come. For the first time, she is alone in the gardens. She roams. Soon, she is harassed by a group of children, then by a guard. Filmed in rich shades of black and white, this short film creates its own aesthetic with great subtlety, preferring the art of suggestion and of the implicit to didactic statements. 


Halida Boughriet, Les Illuminés / 1’37 / Algeria, 2007

In this short and powerful black and white film, the viewer sees the world through the eyes of a woman wearing a burka. The woman is the artist herself. The camera is positioned within her habit and, with her, we look out onto an urban scene: a moving sidewalk inside the Montparnasse train station in Paris. We never see the woman’s concealed face, only her silhouette with her long and thick black clothes. Passers by stare at her as if she were a curious animal. 


Lamya Gargash, Wet Tiles / 8’20 / United Arab Emirates, 2003

A woman is being prepared for an arranged marriage. The artist, an accomplished photographer as well as a filmmaker, uses dramatic camera angles, changes of film exposure and camera focus to express the protagonist’s state of inner agitation. The result is a subtle piece in which the storyline is implied rather than spelled out.


Tejal Shah, There Is a Spider Living Between Us / 6’45 / India, 2009

There is a Spider Living Between Us considers desire – the yearning for two to become one physically and spiritually. Multiple techniques – still frame animation, photocollage, dreamy black and white shots – are deployed and blend into one another, exploring in formal terms notions of coming together and oneness. Key themes are lesbian sexuality and tribadism, which take on a simultaneously sensual and political cast.  


Heddy Maalem & Benoît Dervaux, Une rose est une rose est une Rose / 10'37 / Algeria-France, 2007

As we move in and out of urban spaces defined by powers that be, how do we find the place that is specifically ours? How do we stake our ground? How do we move beyond preconceptions of race and gender, status and origins? These questions are at the heart of choreographer Heddy Maalem’s work. In this piece, a solo for female dancer, a body does the asking, alternately questioning, asserting, appearing full-screen and disappearing at the edges as if being slowly devoured by the impossibly white landscape against which she seeks to affirm her identity.


Madiha Aijaz, I Belong I’ll Be Long / 2’35 / Pakistan, 2009

Focusing on ideas of affiliation and allegiance, I belong/I’ll be long II reflects on filmmaker Madiha Aijaz’s identity and on the relationship she entertains with Pakistan, as the country finds itself at loggerheads with its own identity. Using animation as her medium and borrowing heavily from symbols and metaphors used in popular Pakistani film and vehicle art, Aijaz casts a fantastical, childlike gaze on the changing political landscape – a landscape that she sees as “opaque and transparent at the same time, due to the complexities of the war being fought around its borders”.  


Stacy Hardy & Jaco Bouwer, I Love You Jet Li / 12’18 / South Africa, 2005 

Beijing, China. International Wushu master and cult Kung Fu film legend Jet Li tours the city to promote his latest blockbuster action film. 12 000 km away, at an airport in Africa, a young woman waits to fly out to meet him. What follows is a peculiar tale: part love letter, part post-traumatic electronic travel diary. Written by Stacy Hardy and directed by Jaco Bouwer, with an original soundtrack by acclaimed experimental electronic composer Felix Laband, the film speaks of intense loneliness, desire, anxiety and incomprehension in the face of movement – across space, borders, class and gender divides – at once always incipient and forestalled.



IV. SoundCity & CityScapes


Dudouet Kaplan, Hors Chants / 6’44 / France, 2004

Urban rhythms come together with a dense musical score in Hors Chants by Dudouet & Kaplan (a trio including two video artists and one musician). The result is an energetic graphic symphony. The piece uses video shots of the unfinished Cité de la Musique building in Strasbourg overlaid with computer-generated motion graphics. It is am homage to the Cité’s founder, Henry Godet. 


Jan Verbeek, On a Wednesday Night in Tokyo / 6’ / Germany, 2004 

Tokyo, 11pm. People entering a train. Shot in one take and haunted throughout by a claustrophobia-inducing soundscape, the video communicates the inevitable, leading up to the edge of the unbearable. Humour undergirds horror and vice versa in this tale of urban Japan. 


Naadira Patel, I Like It When It Goes Fast : Control / 3’49 / South Africa, 2010 

An ongoing image and sound project, I like it when it goes fast explores notions of desire, intuition and acceleration. The physical focus of the project is a rollercoaster. Designed for pleasure and amusement while simultaneously restricted and safe, the rollercoaster is an urban structure through which one is able to relinquish anxiety and restraint, a momentary suspension of life, death and (dis)belief. The intoxication of the speed and adrenaline it procures is a rush pursued for its own end.


Kgafela oa Magogodi, Itchy City / 5'37 / South Africa,  2006

Itchy City is a poem by Johannesburg-based author and spoken word artist Kgafela oa Magogodi. It is part of a larger project, titled I Mike What I like:  a play adapted for the screen by Magogodi and filmmaker Jyoti Mistry. The film melds sequences from a live performance of the poem with filmed and painted images of Johannesburg, resulting in a powerful commentary on the complexities and the absurdities of everyday life in South Africa's economic capital.


Raed Yassin, ,Beirut, / 14’44 / Lebanon, 2003

,Beirut is a documentary on the marginal characters living in the city’s peripheries. A horse race gambler, a pigeon raiser, a squatter, a fisherman and a drag racer speak about their passions for risk, habit, occupation, and speed. Patient or restless, they watch over the waking hours of the city and the somnambulant wanderings of its citizens. Each hobby has its proper terminology, and every obsessive his way of circumventing the conventional flows of city life. Yassin employs simple techniques such as monochromes and slow-motion to accentuate the habitual gestures of these figures, fabricating a playful, fast-paced, and cut-up visual and aural ode to Beirut.


Berni Searle, Gateway / 4’ / South Africa, 2010 

"Gateway" is the second of a trilogy of videos that, together, form a series titled Black Smoke Rising. A small house set ablaze gradually reveals itself to be a facsimile of the real thing, constructed from corrugated paper and soon reduced to ashes. Capturing the deep sense of discontent enveloping the poor in South Africa today, the video melds simple yet powerful visual and sound elements to challenge perceptions of reality, constructions of identity and notions of home. 


Aryan Kaganof, Western 4.33 / 32’ / South Africa, 2002

An experimental documentary on the Shark Island German concentration camp near the town of Luderitz, Namibia, Western 4.33 exposes the atrocities committed in the camp, in which thousands of Herero people were incarcerated from 1905 to 1908. Stark black and white images shot on Kodak Plus X super 8mm film interspersed with flashes of intense color and remarkable sound design make for a mesmerizing sensorial experience and a powerful political statement.