Hunters and Gatherers

Along with three other films “Who else like you” by Jeanne Faust and Jorn Zehe was shown in Project Arts Centre as part of an exhibition project entitled The Prehistory of the Crisis, which attempts to reflect on the current cultural and socio-political relationships in Ireland in the face of recession. In particular the focus is on the experience of migrants and their relationship with the society in which they find themselves, against the backdrop of changing economic situations within those societies.
The film is shot in one take; the camera stays still for the entire 9 minutes. A Magnificent mountainous landscape is spoiled by the sight of a small industrial town. Luscious greenery of some kind of crop enhances the foreground. Diving in and out of the greenery is a young man who appears to be gathering something. At a closer look comes the realisation that the “gatherer” has no container in which he could store whatever it is that he is collecting. This evokes associations with futile labour, one which appears not to have any objective or purpose. The clothes which the gatherer wears – T-shirt and shorts- are worn and faded, suggesting the image of an impoverished seasonal worker.

While the viewer is given time to make these observations, a background sound can be heard, which is that of an approaching car, we hear the door slam closed and footsteps coming ever closer. Much like the viewer the person arriving on the scene takes time to observe the “gatherer”. We never see this newly arrived person as he stays behind the camera for the entire duration of the film; we only hear his voice: “Hombre”, to which the gatherer reacts and comes over. “OK, he got it”, the newcomer tells himself, switching to German. The fact that he hesitates as to which language he should use indicating his awareness of the fact that the gatherer is a “foreigner” although he cannot be sure of what nationality. He continues, saying: “I lost something, maybe you’ve seen it…”, to which the gatherer only shakes his head in response. The “conversation” continues along these lines, eventually we see the “gatherer” take off his T-shirt and throw it over his shoulder. The man behind the camera is domineering, his confidence indicating that he speaks from a position of power and superiority. In contrast the “gatherer” speaks with his gestures, the separate words that occasionally come from his mouth are mumbled – and not subtitled – his lack of voice is associated with powerlessness and oppression. The voice behind the camera continues: “you are some kind of gatherer here? Some people are gatherers, some are hunters…”

After that dialogue, or rather monologue the “gatherer” approaches the man behind the camera and disappears from the frame – only the landscape unfolds in front of the viewer. We can hear the sound of a closing car door in the background. The “gatherer” comes back into the frame within a minute, smoking a cigarette he walks away from the viewer. “Go buy yourself a ticket. Buy yourself a ticket and fix your cough”- shouts the man behind the camera to the “gatherer’s” back. They are the words of a person who has just given somebody money and now gives them instructions on how to spend it. The fact that the “gatherer” comes back into the frame smoking draws associations on stereotypical “post-coital cigarette”.

We can only guess about the transaction that took place behind the camera, but it leaves us in no doubt about who was exploited. The “gatherer” goes back to his rummaging through the green. A tractor comes into the frame and waters the crops.

Within a few short minutes of the film the artists draw the picture of displacement, of how that displacement leads to subjugation and exploitation. The film evokes images of a disparity of power between individuals, and of how that gap can be exploited to the advantage of one person at the expense of another.

Posted By: sviatlana (