Still Pasts

Yazan Kopty in collaboration with Dima Srouji, Milena Desse, and Vivien Sansour.


Presented by Gulf Photo Plus & Reel Palestine.


Yazan Kopty (Imagining the Holy) collaborates with filmmakers Dima Srouji (Sebastia), Milena Desse (The Sun and the Looking Glass), and Vivien Sansour (Cistern) in a series of conversations connecting archival images of Palestine with contemporary film. Using still fragments from the archive as prompts, they will interrogate how images, both past and present, both still and moving, have documented and driven the complex histories that are the subjects of their works. 


Yazan Kopty is a writer, oral historian, and National Geographic Explorer based in Washington D.C. His work centers around the acts of listening and narrating, focusing especially on community-sourced histories and memory as a tool for resistance, reckoning, and reconciliation. He is the lead investigator of Imagining the Holy, a research project that seeks to connect thousands of images of historic Palestine from the National Geographic Society archives with Palestinian community elders, cultural heritage experts, field researchers and family members in order to add missing layers of indigenous narrative and knowledge to them.  Follow this project on Instagram @imaginingtheholy.


Dates and Timings


Wed, Jan 20

7.00 pm

Thu, Jan 21 — Sat, Jan 30

10.15 am | 12.25 pm | 2.35 pm | 4.45 pm


Film Screenings



Dir: Dima Srouji 

2020 | Documentary Short | English and Arabic | 25’

Followed by a conversation with Yazan Kopty and Dima Srouji |31’


The Sun & The Looking Glass 

Dir: Milena Desse

2020 | Experimental Short | English | 23’

Followed by a conversation with Yazan Kopty and Milena Desse |25’



Dir: Vivien Sansour

2020 | Art Film Short | English | 2’

Followed by a conversation with Yazan Kopty and Vivien Sansour | 23’


About the Films 



Dir: Dima Srouji 

Sebastia, a small archaeological town, sits on top of a hill Northwest of Nablus, Palestine surrounded by Shavei Shomron, an illegal Israeli settlement and confiscated agricultural fields of olive groves and apricot trees. This ancient site was excavated multiple times over the last century by colonial archaeologists funded by Zionist individuals and institutions. The first excavation of 1908 led by Harvard University took advantage of Sebastia locals including women, men, and children as cheap labor digging their own land for the sake of biblical archaeology. Each excavation extracted soil and artifacts from the ground, taking what they considered valuable to their home institutions and leaving pottery shards and rubble on the surface. Today, what’s left of the archaeological monuments is contested by the nearby settlement as well as the Israeli military. The Roman Forum is a battlefield, but the locals are incredibly resilient.


The Sun & The Looking Glass 

Dir: Milena Desse

On a land perpetually threatened by colonial appropriation, the transmission of history and narratives plays a peculiar and vital role. The Sun and the Looking Glass - for one easily forgets but the tree remembers is an essay-film which paints a portrait of a place on a hill above Ein Qiniya, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, with two houses from the late Ottoman period. Looking at the objects uncovered during their renovations through a magnifying lens, the film performs the creation of narratives, through dynamic processes of revelation and disappearance.



Dir: Vivien Sansour

In Cistern, the fourteenth (and final) episode of StorefrontTV for Art and Architecture, Season 3, Vivien Sansour presents a new community project, a water harvesting cistern in Bethlehem. Sansour, along with artist Samar Hazboun, documents the site, emphasizing the importance of water for the survival of all living beings. Cistern is a performative ode to the maintenance of a people, based in both a brutal reality and a fantastical world.




Dima Srouji

Dima Srouji is a Palestinian architect, designer, artist, and educator working in the expanded context of interdisciplinary research-based projects using multiple mediums. Her work explores the power of the ground, its strata, and its artifacts in revealing forgotten, silenced, or hidden narratives, specifically concerning Palestine. She works with glass, archives, maps, plaster casts, and film. Most of her projects are developed in close collaboration with archaeologists, geographers, and anthropologists, and sound designers to develop work through interdisciplinary methodologies. The research projects are focused on critical cartography and deep mapping to construct alternative spatial narratives of the global south. Srouji is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture, founder of Hollow Forms, and currently teaches design studios at Birzeit University in Palestine.


Milena Desse

Milena Desse is a French artist based in Brussels. She works in various formats and mediums, such as media-installations, performance, writing, and film. Her artistic research and practice focus on forms of disappearance and revelation, of memorising and forgetting, and on their resonance with storytelling and transmission: looking closer at transformation of stories through time and generations. Her work has been shown internationally in Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center (Ramallah, Palestine),K hiasma (Paris, France), ARGOS center for art and media (Brussels, Belgium), Kaaistudios (Brussels), KHM Gallery (Malmö, Sweden), Kunstbiograf at Artoteket (Copenhagen, Denmark), and Netwerk centrum voor hedendaagse kunst (Alost, Belgium).


Vivien Sansour

Vivien Sansour is the founder of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library. Trained in the field of Anthropology, Vivien worked with farmers worldwide on issues relating to agriculture and independence where she wrote about and photographed rural life and practice. She is working on bringing back threatened varieties ‘back to the dinner table so we can eat our history to become part of our living culture rather than a relic of the past’. A public speaker, Vivien has presented her work as an artist, independent scholar, and conservationist in several venues locally and globally including The Chicago Architecture Biennale, Victoria and Albert Museum, and The Venice Art Biennale. Vivien has worked with renowned chef Anthony Bourdain as a field producer for his Emmy award winning show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Vivien has been a contributing writer for several publications including The Forward Magazine where she is a food columnist. She is a 2020-21 Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative Fellow at Harvard University where she is working on an autobiographical book documenting her work on seeds in Palestine and around the world.