Documentary Screening: Abraham & Sarah Creators of productive landscape, Friday 22th October 2021, 2.30 PM
DOCUMENTARY / DOCUMENTAIRE
Abraham & Sarah I. Creators of a productive landscape
By Ivo Strecker (2017)
Friday 22th October 2021, 2.30 PM @ CFEE
To pursue the weekly screening cycle of ethnographic and archaeological documentaries in CFEE, n° 1 of the Guardians of Productive Landscapes film series will be presented.
In the highlands of Tigray – northern Ethiopia – on the edge of the escarpment that descends steeply to the Danakil desert, Hagos Mashisho and Desta Gidey have toiled and struggled for years to turn the rugged slopes of the East African Rift Valley into fertile ground. They have grown crops here not only to feed themselves and their family but also to share with others, in particular the pilgrims who regularly pass by on their way to the monastery of Gundagundo. Touched by the kindness of their hosts, the pilgrims have given them the biblical names “Abraham” and “Sarah”.
The film explores the work ethos and grace of these Tigrean farmers: the cheerful mood with which they do what needs to be done; the devotedness to the tasks at hand; the coordinated movements of humans and animals as they work when ploughing, sowing, harvesting, threshing; – and finally those moments of invocation when the dependence on nature and the transcendent are acknowledged.
In terms of cinematography “Abraham & Sarah” exemplifies the resonance and synergy between people in front and behind the camera that Jean Rouch called ‘ciné-trance’. This becomes visible again and again in situations such as when Sarah and Abraham cut the wheat when their sons thresh the barley when the itinerant fiddler plays and sings his tune, when the neighbours rebuild the washed-away terrace, and – as a kind of climax – when Abraham ploughs his field.
The Guardians of Productive Landscapes Film Series – edited by Ivo Strecker and supported by Max Planck Institut for Social Anthropology, Germany – is a major new initiative in applied anthropology. It calls for nothing less than a reorientation of global attitudes toward subsistence agriculture and pastoralism – a view that contests the received wisdom of capitalist ‘development’ and underlines the crucial role of the traditional farmer and pastoralist in maintaining the planet’s environmental health and diversity. Its most singular feature is that it argues not from theories but from empirical observation, and it presents its findings in a form that is universally accessible (…) By concentrating its attention on the highly varied landscapes and cultures of Ethiopia, the series also creates a comprehensive study of a country exhibiting many of the climatic and geophysical conditions found throughout the world.