Video 06:50, 2016
Camera: Amir Aloni, Heba Amin, Amir Balaban, Yuval Dax, OrangeHD
Audio: The Birds of Darkness – طيور الظلام
In a world of political unrest and total surveillance, suspicion and paranoia can become normalized. In 2013, news stories told of a fisherman in Egypt who spotted a migratory stork fitted with an electronic device on its right leg. Fearing foreign tampering, the fisherman reported the bird. The animal was apprehended by the Egyptian authorities on suspicion of espionage. The would-be ‘spying device’ on the stork was later shown to be a scientific tracking device used by Hungarian scientists to follow the stork’s migratory patterns (a follow-up report noted that the stork was released into the wild, captured and eaten).
Heba Y. Amin’s film As Birds Flying (2016) responds to the absurdity of such accusations, which occur in moments of political strain. The short, allegorical film is constructed out of found drone footage of aerial views of savannas and wetlands, including settlements in Galilea – sweeping views that seem to be taken by the ‘spy’ stork in the above story. ‘Seeing the country from the top is better than seeing it from below’, the soundtrack says, with footage of a bird soaring in the air. Funny, absurd and disconcerting, the video’s suspenseful cinematic soundtrack contains the reconstructed audio sequences of dialogue from Adel Imam’s film Birds of Darkness. In that 1995 film – which tells the story of religious and secular political candidates in Egypt – a toxic mixture of political corruption and religious radicalism is shown to have deleterious effects on society. In the reconstructed dialogue, the characters discuss political sectarianism, censorship, democracy and surveillance. ‘The law, as it serves the truth, serves the deceit,’ says one character.
In its footage of birds flocking or perched alone, the film resonates with contemporary political tensions between individualism and crowds, and questions whether birds of a feather really do flock together. The work also considers what it would look like to take literally the dubious narratives constructed by repressive governments, and the flocks of paranoia and conspiratorial thinking that thus arise.
Text by Pablo Larios