They Thought they Saw a Ghost (The Netherlands, 2020)
4K Video - 1.33:1 - Color - Audio 5.1 - 51’
Written, Directed and edited by: Paolo Patelli, Giulio Squillacciotti, Giuditta Vendrame.
Produced by: SeriousFilm
With the Support of: Het Neuwe Instituut, Stimulering Fonds Creatieve Industrie
Cinematography: Giulio Squillacciotti
Sound Design: BJ Nielsen
Delving into the invisibility of labor under automation, the film offers an entry point to the everyday world of seafarers, the carriers of 90% of the world’s goods. “They Thought They Saw A Ghost” stages a series of abstractions: the function of the working body, the empty stage of automated environments, the touristic gaze on the spectacle of mechanisation, the comfort of religious beliefs and the faith in the emancipatory horizon of technological innovation. It presents voices from multiple perspectives, catching a glimpse of the social infrastructure that provides seafarers – whose presence is still necessary – support and care. Unfolding as a visual essay, the film is a chaptered immersive observation of time transformed by automated technologies. The film is the cinematographic result of a visual research originally commissioned for the Dutch Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia in 2018.
The mechanic efficiency in the circulation of the goods on which our economies are highly dependent has a counterpart: while human presence and labor are still indispensable and of infrastructural importance, human bodies strive to adapt to remodelled times and spaces and descend further beneath a threshold of visibility. The film is the result of a series of fieldworks, starting in the ports of Rotterdam and Venice, and aboard harboured bulk carriers and container cargo ships. The research was extended to organisations providing practical assistance and support to seafarers in both cities, and to a research center where autonomous vessels are developed and tested.The sound design by BJ Nilsen is instrumental in re-creating the experience of the ocean of static and mechanical noises in which seafarers are immersed full-time.