Points of Departure
Although my background is a product of two continents and cultures, I have never experienced this as something that needs to be reconciled: the two backgrounds are already reconciled within me, they are what makes me “me”. The “reconciliation” I attempt in the film is to expose a hitherto obscured aspect of Glasgow’s history, counterpointing it with the Glasgow that is depicted in the archive. Glasgow’s culture is a product of a continuous influx of diverse aspects of human experiences and histories, but when I searched the archive for footage taken in the 1960s and 70s there was an almost total lack of depictions of Glasgow’s Asian citizens. It was this “gap” in the archive that prompted my decision to restrict human presence to verbal description contained in the voice over until the final shot, which was the only footage I found of a non-white child from that period.
The objects and places we cannot leave behind create the tapestry that is Points of Departure. Exploring themes of personal and collective memory through Syed’s relationship to the city of Glasgow, a voice over describes a tablecloth she retrieved whilst clearing her elderly father’s house. The film attempts to unravel the threads of memory held within this mundane item and to find an image within the BBC archive that relates to her memories of growing up in Glasgow. Syed’s father’s unrehearsed attempts to translate an Urdu Ghazal discovered in the archive, a poetic expression of the beauty of love and the pain of loss, exposes a process of translation that becomes the key allowing a path through the labyrinth of both her own memory and the BBC archive.
Points of Departure fractures the normative culturally dominant view of Glasgow’s cityscapes and re-inserts a Scottish Asian presence. After unsuccessfully searching the BBC archive for footage that Syed could relate to as a mixed race child growing up in Scotland, she formulated a set of rules governing how she would edit the footage: she could not find a human presence she could relate to, so she would only present footage where there was no human presence.
Alia Syed will present Points of Departure during an artist talk in Cinema ZED STUK on February 22.