QIRMIZI is a short film of 5min 39s, filmed on location in Baku Azerbaijan, which was my home for five years. It is part of an investigation into the weight of context on an individual’s perception of personal identity and freedom, with the participation of artists and individuals from Azerbaijan, France, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, UK and the USA. My original idea was to portray a vision of a kind of utopia where harmony is temporarily possible in the shadows of entrenched geopolitical contexts.
However, I had to conceal most of the Azerbaijani participants' identities at their request, following their viewing of my original final edit, and I have incorporated the responses from the participants, bringing the film’s length to a total of 10min39sec. This brings to the fore issues of censorship and differences in perceived and experienced freedoms in different countries.
I can, and indeed do, claim that my original intention was to make a work about a vision of utopique harmony among so many different nationalities celebrating friendship and enjoying the shared experience of dinner together, against the backdrop of a controlled, not to say authoritarian, environment. Someone else may swear blind that they believe it was my intention to taint all participants, with notions of national identity through bloody sacrifice. “…especially because these bits of sound are accompanied by the 'staged' image of clothes and hands covered with red (does that symbolise blood? what else?)” (J)
The paint covered hands are intended to symbolise how what we consume is who we are, or who we become, both food and information. Not everyone will immediately associate red with blood, and the dinner itself was entirely vegetarian in content.
The use of miniscule snippets of the national anthem are intended to help contextualise the work, though few would be able to recognise this as specifically the Azerbaijani anthem outside of Azerbaijan. Individuals make up a nation, certainly, but a nation’s identity is not defined only on a personal level, but by political identities and allegiances to which we are not always aligned. We seek out the company of those we can relate to, or who share some common values, we construct of our own tribes within society, which can transcend national frontiers and boundaries. Nationality is surely an artificial label, based on historical and geographical constructs which mutate through time, bending to political will. We are all citizens of the world, though humans are naturally wary of those who are portrayed of as the ‘other’. In today’s world where national boundaries appear increasingly porous when it comes to media influence, and the increasing manipulation of our ‘freely’ held opinions, can it truly be said that we know our own minds? To what extent does context inform opinion?
I believe the film takes on a particular resonance here in Brazil following the recent elections, and therefore should now be shown to the public.
Sarah Knill-Jones October 2018