MoMA Doc Fortnight 2023 is the Museum of Modern Art’s festival of new international documentary film.
It’s an important festival because the Museum of Modern Art holds one of the world’s great film collections. Art follows the times, and occasionally leads it. This film festival gives a bird’s eye view into what’s happening in the world.
22nd MoMA Doc Fortnight 2023
The 22nd MoMA Doc Fortnight 2023 documentary film festival takes a hard look at the legacy of colonialism and human inhumanity; at the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown, Manhattan; Wednesday, February 22 – March 7, 2023. 🇨🇺 | 🇦🇷 🇧🇷 🇨🇴 | 🇫🇷 | 🇩🇿
This edition brings 15 features and eight shorts to MoMA. Selected films are available for streaming. At least in the films with a Latin or African heritage, there seems to be a curatorial emphasis on the legacy of colonization that still haunts us today.
Before the Colonial Era, the entire world was roughly in balance, with advanced societies everywhere. The world has been out of balance ever since, and the legacy of the development of artillery and the Industrial Revolution may very well be the end of life as we know it.
De la conquête (Of Conquest) by Franssou Prenant, is a reading of memoirs and other accounts of the French invasion of Algiers in 1830, superimposed over film of contemporary Algiers and Paris. It screens at the Museum of Modern Art followed by a conversation with the filmmaker; on Thursday, February 23, 2023 at 7pm. North American premiere. In French with subtitles. 🇫🇷🇩🇿
Let us put this bluntly. Colonies get completely devastated and the damage can last forever. It’s an eternal stain on Western Civilization and not only on the French. There is nothing noble about colonization. Colonizers get rich. The colonized get robbed, abused, raped, murdered and slaved to death. Being colonized means being told your entire life, that you are a worthless devil worshiper. Even after the colonizers leave, the colonized are often trapped in the colonial mentality.
The theft and destruction of human and physical capital knocks entire regions off their development arc. The damage can last for generations, and we blame it on the colonized because they are not European. Actually, we created most of the problems.
Living in the “West,” most of us think everything’s fine, but we have done terrible evil, often in the name of god and country. What kind of god? We don’t know. To get a glimpse of what it’s like, think Russia in Ukraine. It’s hard to believe that it’s happening again. And now other countries are looking to claim their own imperial legacies. We didn’t begin to understand until we lived outside the United States. It’s true, that we still hold colonies.
Notre Corps (Our Body) by Claire Simon, looks at the medical treatment provided to women in Paris’s 20th arrondissement on the eastern edge of Paris. The film shows how the treatment you receive depends a lot on who you are. The first screening is on Saturday, February 25 at 3:30pm. North American premiere. In French with subtitles. 🇫🇷
É Noite na América (It is Night in America) by Ana Vaz shows captive creatures at the Brasilia Zoo in the night. It’s an eerie animal metaphor of displacement, extinction and racism. They are animals after all. In Portuguese with subtitles. It’s screening with Solmatalua by Rodrigo Ribeiro-Andrade, “a dreamlike Afro-Diasporic odyssey.” In Portuguese and Yoruba with subtitles. The first screening is Sunday, February 26, 2023 at 1:30pm. 🇧🇷
The description for “Solmatalua” mentions “the crossroads.” That’s a metaphor for Elegúa, the Yoruba orisha of destiny who holds a similar role to Christianity’s holy spirit.
It’s also a reference to the Yowa, the cosmological diagram of the old Kongo culture (which blended into the three African Diaspora traditions that rooted in the Americas). The Yowa diagram has a circle in the center representing Mother Earth, a cross with four compass points, and a circle of arrows that represent the sun passing from east to west, or the unending cycle of life. Some Europeans call it the crossroads.
European religions falsely demonize African and African Diaspora religions by saying the devil is at the crossroads (in other words Africans and the Diaspora are devils). Priests just want more power and to get support from more people, so they can live like kings. Churches are usually the biggest businesses in town.
The false demonization is also done to keep colonized peoples off balance, so they can be manipulated. Most of the African Diaspora faiths are actually monotheistic and don’t believe in a devil. Most of us are taught quite the opposite. The devil only exists in the head of colonial thinkers.
Now is a good time to be proud of our heritage, all of it. And to be respectful of other traditions, especially those that are not our own. The African Diaspora religions are highly developed faiths that are as rich and meaningful as any other religion. All religions try to make sense of the unending cycle of life and death. We all have to deal with that. Religions serve the same human needs everywhere.
El juicio (The Trial) by Ulises de la Orden (2022), uses archival court film to expose humanity’s capacity for evil. North American premiere. In Spanish with subtitles. The first screening is Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at 6:30pm. 🇦🇷
Argentina’s Dirty War (1974-1983) was basically the Argentine military going to war against its own people, looking for communists with American support. Horrible torture was done just down the hill from the Pink House, Argentina’s equivalent of the White House. Babies were taken from their mothers at birth to be raised in military families. These now-grown children are still being discovered today. People were drugged and thrown out of helicopters. It was a real horror show.
More people were hurt and killed by communist hunters (most estimates are around 30,000), than by communists themselves, if there even ever where any. When governments fail, the people rely on each other. That is not communism.
Llamadas desde Moscú (Calls from Moscow) by Luís Alejandro Yero, tells the stories of Cubans trying to emigrate, who have been trapped in Moscow by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Being caught between a rock and a hard place is a tough fate. The first screening is Friday, March 3, 2023 at 7pm. North American Premiere. In Spanish with subtitles. 🇨🇺
La Bonga by Sebastián Pinzón Silva and Canela Reyes, is a spiritual journey to a town that has vanished in the jungle after the people were forced to flee by a threat during Colombia’s civil war. It’s a journey to a home that only exists in memory, but people belong to the land. The first screening, followed by a conversation with the filmmakers, is Sunday, March 5, 2023 at 5pm. 🇨🇴
Some of this is heavy stuff. As Americans we tend to look down on all these peoples, without recognizing our own complicity in their troubles. It’s important not to drown in endless complaint. The best way forward is to accept what has been done and find ways to move ahead together. At least we are talking about these things now.
MoMA Doc Fortnight Tickets
For tickets and a complete schedule, visit moma.org