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In the seminar Holding Rehearsals I share the what, why, and how behind the feature film-in-the-making Holding Mawda. This seminar is an invitation to explore together filmmaking as an ongoing practice of collective imagination, and as a valuable method to make common cause with practices of place-making and situated knowledges.
Mawda Shawri, a two-year-old girl, was shot and murdered by a police officer during a car chase on the highway E42 in Mons, Belgium, on May 17, 2018. This happened within the framework of the police operation Medusa for migration border control, mandated by the Belgian federal government. Mawda was shot and killed when she was sitting in a van with her fugitive Kurdish Iraqi family. The bullet, apparently aimed at the wheel of the van carrying around thirty fugitive people, was fired through the window and hit her cheek. From the moment of Mawda’s death, a series of painfully dehumanising measures were inflicted on the family even as extraordinary attempts were made to control the official narrative about the chain of events that led to her death – so as to deflect blame from the police operation that preceded it.
What film approach can hold the capacity and imagination of collective counter-justice that has been built in support of Mawda’s family, operating in the gap that is stretched between, on the one hand, a language of legal procedures whereby police impunity is bound up with the criminalization of “migrants,” and, on the other hand, a scandal about the resulting indifference that lets this case, like many others, pass?
Cinema refers to so much more than just a medium, and certainly to so much more than an industry. In the very first place, cinema functions as a holding environment for collective imaginations. This is especially relevant on the matter of living through dominant scenes of representations that obscure the violent processes and oppressive infrastructures that produce group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death. How to envisage another scene of representation? How to wield a deep intervention precisely within scenes of injustice by reconfiguring what we understand as presence and visibility, as the sensible?
Robin Vanbesien is a visual artist and filmmaker who lives in Brussels. He is PhD researcher and coordinator/tutor of the Master in a Socio-Political Context at Sint Lucas Antwerp.
Image: Production still of Holding Mawda (July 2022)