As a historian, Assia Djebar had been asked by Pathé-Gaumont to sift through some old film reels, which turned out
to be discarded newsreels on the colonies, focusing on the everyday life of the Maghrebi peoples from the early twentieth century to the Second World War. Out of the colonial discards, Djebar, in collaboration with poet Malek Alloula and composer Ahmed Essyad, wove together footage of the Zerda ceremony with poetic voice-overs recounting the lived experiences of indigenous Algerians, interspersed with “songs of oblivion” to recognize traditions that are being lost to colonialism even as they are tokenized by and subjugated to the colonial gaze.
Digital restoration by Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art.
With the support of Goethe-Institut Brussels.
and reduced to silence, photographers and filmmakers invaded to capture us in images. The Zerda is their bleak “celebration” of our society. In stark contrast to their images with their penetrating gaze, we attempted to create an alternative vision, offering glimpses of a daily life held in contempt … But above all, behind the veil of this now exposed reality, we collected anonymous voices that re-imagined the soul of a reunified Maghreb, and of our past.”