Which form do I choose as a filmmaker to offer people and their stories a stage? Who speaks, in what way, at which locations and through what means? You can tell that, in IN FLOW OF WORDS, the protagonists were involved in deciding through what form they would tell their stories.
Getting to have a say about form makes an important difference — in general and in the case of the three protagonists of IN FLOW OF WORDS
in particular. Alma Imamović, Nenad Popović Pops und Besmir Fidahić worked as interpreters for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where the war crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars were tried. All three had experienced the war in the nineties and, in the frame of the tribunal, were now interpreting for both victims and perpetrators of the crimes committed there. They were essential to the trial and yet stayed mostly invisible in their function as interpreters. Their task was simply to interpret, as neutrally as possible and without personal involvement, what people were reporting. Therefore, they resembled — as Alma says in the film herself — a vase, whose only function is to hold a flower, just
like it was her task as an interpreter to facilitate a conversation — and nothing more.
IN FLOW OF WORDS Eliane Esther Bots opens up a space in which the protagonists speak, listen to each other, are able to remember, a space which they — unlike the formalized court setting — can make their own with their bodies, actions, and words. One gets the impression that it is the filmmaker who offers herself and the filmic medium as a vessel that is now being filled with voices, emotions, and memories which hitherto had no place in the world. What had been strictly separated before — evidence and testimony on the one hand, the emotions of the interpreters on the other — is now conjoined. The emotions felt during the act of translation are laid over aerial photographs of the crime scenes. Witness statements are amplified through the lasting emotional shocks they have elicited in Alma, Besmir, and Nenad. Their voices can be heard coming from speakers and are, for the first time, talking about themselves in the context of the tribunal. A human dimension moves in — into the images, the memories, and the bodies of the interpreters, through whom the words no longer merely flow, but who are now speaking with their own voices. (Tasja Langenbach)
*We can only show an excerpt of this work in the online archive. For the complete version, please contact the artist.
Images: Eliane Esther Bots, In Flow of Words, 2021 © Eliane Esther Bots / Courtesy Square Eyes