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This Isn’t the Future I Ordered

Programmer of the Future-trainee Farah Hasanbegović presents a two-day film programme against despair from 23 July, in Eye and on the Eye Film Player. Exploring the feeling that there’s something not quite right with the world, the programme provides a space to shake out your fears, resentments and disappointments, itemize each one and see if someone in the world managed to build something out of them.

By Farah Hasanbegović22 May 2024

still from Parallel I (Harun Farocki, DE 2011)

still Parallel I (Harun Farocki, DE 2011)

Exactly sixty years ago, Jorge Luis Borges begins a poem with the bold and concerning words: The world has lost its magic. Before I agree with him, I want to preface the upcoming paragraph by saying: I want you to leave this programme feeling better. I want to love the world. My name, Farah, means joy in its language of origin, and I carry the responsibility of that name very seriously. Okay? Okay.

Let’s get it out of our system - the future we got kind of sucks. Strawberries don’t always taste better than strawberry candy. There is a man under that rabbit costume at the mall and he’s tired and his feet hurt and he’s not smiling under that mask. The vast majority of pigeons in urban environments are sick and starving all the time because we laid them all off. Our revolutions were incomplete, the flags at our protests on both sides of the fence are made in the same factories and every job is just emails. I look at pictures of people on my phone all day but they’re never really talking to me. I’ve yet to find a treasure map that wasn’t in an escape room and every door in the offices at Eye has an electronic screen that tells you exactly who’s waiting behind it.

Disenchantment that stems from the loneliness of modern life, from inadequate social and political conditions across the world or from the injustice of how different your story is if you’re born in one place instead of another. How unrewarding life can still be even if you do everything right. These are the big and small factors that generate despair, a machine churning infinitely dispersing a cold feeling into the atmosphere, its engine humming something that sounds a lot like - you’ve lost. You’re too late. You came at the wrong time.

It feels like this:

© Farah Hasanbegović

© Farah Hasanbegović

Did I get this idea from a film or from a history book? Both? If the world was always empty - where did all those dreams and stories come from?

poster PvdT Farah Hasanbegović – This Isn’t the Future I Ordered

This Isn’t the Future I Ordered

This Isn’t the Future I Ordered is a two-day programme of films against despair. Centred around the feeling that there’s something not quite right with the world, the programme provides a space to shake out your fears, resentments and disappointments, itemize each one and see if someone in the world managed to build something out of them. These films don’t promise they’re going to fix you: instead, they offer a place to be someone - or somewhere - else for a while, to get out of our own bubble of despair and visit other personal and political histories, real and imagined dangers, loss and love that isn't just our own. Maybe someone out there has a scar that matches yours. Maybe theirs is already fading.

still from Parallel I (Harun Farocki, DE 2011)

still Parallel I (Harun Farocki, DE 2011)

Romanticizing Astroturf

In a world that feels like there’s nothing behind the curtain - or at least neither good nor more interesting than common plots for world domination - we can get a bit lost in our heads. But when you finally decide to act on that comment by that unsupervised twelve-year-old telling you to go touch grass under an Instagram reel - what if there’s no real grass for you to touch?

Several films in this programme obsess over how artificial the world is - how image and images directly impact what our reality lets us have. In Parallel I, the dreamiest segment of Harun Farocki’s larger video installation of the same name, we’ll discover how you can make a sky on a computer and wonder - would a real bird want to fly in it? Dissatisfied with how stale the language of cinema already felt in 1968, Dutch documentary master Johan van der Keuken turns to his cat to uncover the truth about the universe in The Cat. Letting our imagination run wild with footage taken on film sets from various Filipino productions, John Torres lets us dive into a mysterious plot about human avatars controlled by apps in We Still Have To Close Our Eyes.

From the era of celluloid, to the first digital images, to the meta-modern age where the world devours itself daily - the films in this programme don’t really need you to go touch grass. They know that sometimes the only grass available is Astroturf, or that it’s poisoned or covered in blood. In The Sadness Will Not Last Forever, Alexei Dmitriev gifts us with enough grassy fields to last us a lifetime - but the catch is that each of them is a painting. And I promise - and you’ll see - they’ll still do the job.

Halfway through making this programme, in my basement in Amsterdam I search up lamps that are supposed to fight seasonal depression, but decide to spare myself the expense at the last minute. It’s not really about touching grass - it’s about remembering what the blades feel like against your hand and the smell of it when it’s freshly mowed and drying in the sun. In the absence of nature, in the absence of authenticity, If you also frequently feel like the world isn’t all that you thought it was going to be, join me in holding the real so very close to our chest by rehearsing our memories and informing ourselves about what threatens even our memories of grass.

still from The Sadness Will Not Last Forever (Alexei Dmitriev, NL/RU 2016)

still The Sadness Will Not Last Forever (Alexei Dmitriev, NL/RU 2016)

still from Just Dont Think I'll Scream (Frank Beauvais, FR 2019)

still Just Dont Think I'll Scream (Frank Beauvais, FR 2019)

still from General Alert (Godard) (Sanja Iveković, HR 1995-2000)

still General Alert (Godard) (Sanja Iveković, HR 1995-2000)

No Breaks on the Information Highway

I come from a city that’s rife with shopping malls - my apartment back home is flanked by three of them, and for some reason, they are where I go when the world feels insufficient. Judging by the crowds there - maybe everyone does. There’s something about consumption - of things, content or substances - that softens the landing of heavy thoughts. Amsterdam sadly lacks a lot of big consolidated shopping malls, so I find myself turning to content more than things to soothe my brain - and from the look of all those bowed heads on public transport, so does everybody else.

Psychologists claim that doomscrolling is soothing because it makes us feel like we have control over the flow of information, particularly of horrific news. Allegedly, this practice “feeds our compulsive need to try and get answers when we’re afraid”. From figuring out what clothes are in for the summer to helplessly monitoring warzones, my moments of despair are constantly pacified in bite-sized chunks. Pirating films at a rate greater than the speed of light, the Frank Beauvais of Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream tries to use consuming cinema as a way of dealing with a low period in his life. “I flutter in my jar alone,” he says, sometimes not leaving the house for days. But the thing is, in the cinema we’ll be right there fluttering alongside him, nothing concealed except the things none of us can say out loud.

still from It Comes From Above (José Permar, HU/MX 2022)

still It Comes From Above (José Permar, HU/MX 2022)

still from Cat Listening to Music (Chris Marker, FR 1994)

still Cat Listening to Music (Chris Marker, FR 1994)

In Cat Listening to Music, we’ll discover that despair in the modern world affects all animals, humans and others. We’ll join as Chris Marker’s cat Guillaume-en-Égypte loses himself in a song while dreaming of a lost love, and then the next day we’ll see Beauvais indulge in the same practice in his feature. Unfortunately for us and for the makers featured in this programme, consumption doesn’t manage to soothe everything. In General Alert (Godard), Sanja Iveković leaves us in front of the television during a raging war to enjoy a brief moment of respite, but the war claws its way through the TV in a uniquely insidious way.

Jen Tarnate turns the stream of information on its head - in In the Name of Small Things, we tune into a space transmission from an entity trying to reconcile its humanity. Briefly, it feels like the other side of the black mirror - what would we hear if we could understand the noises made by the screen as we tap on it to ask for more distractions?

Over on the Eye Film Player, José Permar offers us another perspective on isolation with It Comes From Above, a film that makes you wonder if we’re afraid of an alien invasion - or if we desperately need one. The information highway cracks like a faultline through the world, and every day we lean over it to see if it’s gotten any bigger. Through films from Croatia, Germany, the Philippines, Mexico, Russia, France, and beyond - this programme offers a two-day, communal doomscrolling session where the only unifying algorithm is that we are all a little bit on edge - and that no one can stay like that forever.

As a special treat and a break from the loneliness of watching films in a quiet room, the second day of the programme begins with Raised In the Institution of Dreaming, a lecture-performance that sends filmmakers Taymour Boulos and I on a cinematic exploration about where all that missing magical promise went.

“I wake up & it breaks my heart. I draw the blinds & the thrill of rain breaks my heart. I go outside. I ride the train, walk among the buildings, men in Monday suits. The flight of doves, the city of tents beneath the underpass, the huddled mass, old women hawking roses, & children all of them, break my heart. There’s a dream I have in which I love the world. I run from end to end like fingers through her hair. There are no borders, only wind. Like you, I was born. Like you, I was raised in the institution of dreaming. Hand on my heart. Hand on my stupid heart.”

Meditations in an Emergency by Cameron Awkward-Rich

still from We are Winning,Don't Forget (Jean-Gabriel Périot, FR 2004)

still We are Winning, Don't Forget (Jean-Gabriel Périot, FR 2004)

In defence of magic, I won't tell you if my time at Eye making this programme has been magical or disenchanting. I can't tell you if there are ghosts in the archive and where the glowing treasure boxes are stashed in the ceiling. For the sake of the magic, I can't tell you if the open arms I hoped would welcome me here have found me yet. Whether in films or in our lives, the way out of despair and into a more magical world will look different for each of us. I hope that we're all heading to the same place. I hope I'll see you there.

Enjoy the films.

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