United Screens
Think well #1


The Blurring Image Of The One With The Gloomy Face Always Comes Back [1]
Contemplations on (post)colonial, (post)revolutionary, (post)COVID screen cultures

The revolutionary aspirations and uprisings in the Arab/African region (especially Egypt) since 2011 are confronted with the post-colonial states, or more so an age, which according to Achille Mbembe "is in reality a combination of several temporalities", a time of entanglement in which postulating the existence of a "before" and "after" of colonization could not do justice to its nonlinear and transit character, harboring "the possibility of a variety of trajectories neither convergent or divergent but interlocked, paradoxical." [2] The paradoxical finds its expression in military dictatorship and authoritarian regimes that reign through anti-colonial/ anti-imperialist/ nationalist political posturing while suppressing the peoples they govern, just like the colonisers they claim to resist. While mastering the control over the political narrative in order to oppress, they like to appear as saviours. They have been doing this by holding absolute control over broadcast media and the cultural apparatus. Only the images that conform with the existing narrative reach circulation channels – whether in news, entertainment or information. 

Since the 1990s though, international NGOs and funds have made more resources available beyond the traditional cultural support by the patronage of the state. Additionally, technology has enabled activists, cultural workers and filmmakers through increased access to digital cameras to create (moving) images and subsequently to move beyond the purview of the aforementioned regimes.

But this detachment from the established cultural resources continues to raise the question of long term sustainability, autonomy and self-representation of non-confirmative images and their circulation. The sustenance of non-confirmative images are hinged to the community interested in engaging with them. This engagement of critics, audience, cultural workers etc. with disobedient moving images in an independent space is what creates ‘alternative’ cinema culture. But the restrictive measures imposed across the world on physical gathering on account of the ongoing pandemic, has temporarily ruptured collective programming, viewing, discussions, networking and other critical work around alternative cinema culture. The virtual space has emerged as a ‘new’ space of gathering and commoning enabling innovative methods for the cinema culture to prevail beyond geographical borders. But while we celebrate this new space we cannot imagine this to be the permanent resort. The importance of physical cinema spaces goes well beyond "watching films on a big screen". Physical cinemas, film festivals and other non-virtual modes of cinema exhibitions serve social and economic necessities far beyond the obvious cultural spectacle. 

Over the course of five days, the first UNITED SCREENS THINK WELL #1, hosted by Wekalet Behna in Alexandria, Egypt, will bring together cinema practitioners, researchers and technologists to rethink questions of film circulation, labour and space in future imaginaries. Embracing a hybrid format, we depart from the experiences of the Egyptian film culture to understand commonalities of filmmakers who share spaces of economic and political vulnerability across the Global South. Many of us believe in strengthening Collectivities with radical use of Technology such that collectivities shape the technologies that they work with and in turn technologies strengthen collective practices. THINK WELLS [3] are conceived as solution oriented incubators for filmmakers, critics, curators, scholars, artists and technologists to design, hosted by the United Screens network. 


The title is inspired by the poem ”The Return of the One With Gloomy Face” by Egyptian poet Salah Abdel Sabour (1931–-1981) in his first collection People in My Country, published in 1956.


Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony, University of California Press, 2001, 18.


THINK WELL is a vocal resistance coined by South African writer, playwright, filmmaker Puleng Lange-Stewart diverting from etymology which resonates with overtones of crisis and desperation (think tanks). She urges to move towards a "well" where we can find respite, collectively. Believing that our groundwaters are connected, United Screens THINK WELLS initiates flows between cinema practitioners and filmmakers from the Global South to imagine a new film ecosystem powered by community-led technological imaginaries.