Napps – Memoire of an invisible Man: An Experiment in Visual Representation of Illegalized Migrants
The political status of sub-Saharan migrants residing in nation-states around the world without work or residence permits affects the migrants’ public representation: while compelled to conceal their identity in mass media out of cautionary measures, the migrants become “hyper-visible” in public discourse through their repetitive representation as masses of victims or dangerous invaders.
The “invisibility” of the migrants’ subjective identity led to an anthropological filmic experiment in which the main participant – a West African refugee living in Berlin without a work permit – is never seen on camera. Named in this film Mr. X, to protect his identity, the refugee joins the ethnographic filmmaker behind the camera as cinematographer and storyteller. His voice recites memories from his life in Africa, Italy and Berlin, constructing a fragmentary narrative conceived through his collaboration with the filmmaker. Mr. X uses the camera to illustrate these memories with images of German landscapes, and to engage in a self-reflexive dialogue with the filmmaker who appears on screen.
Contextualizing the migrant’s cultural invisibility, the research addresses the centrality of vision in modern thought as a means of understanding and capturing reality. It presents experimental approaches towards visual anthropology, that criticize the observational tradition’s search of cultural “sameness” through the corporeal, and celebrate cultural diversity expressed through the visually absent. The methods used – shared anthropology, “third voice” dialogue, montage, self-reflexivity, reversing of the cinematic/ethnographic gaze – are evaluated for their ability to both bypass and confront the migrant’s forced invisibility, and the underlying political, cultural and epistemological order.
Tami Liberman (b. Tel Aviv, 1983) is an ethnographic filmmaker, video editor and lecturer. In 2007 Tami graduated from the Film Department of Tel-Aviv University with a BFA with honours and began working as a video editor in the Israeli film and television industry. She edited various genres such as documentaries, prime time television shows, music videos and fiction films. Tami was awarded a scholarship in the field of editing by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.
Editing the German feature film Unbelehrbar led Tami to move to Berlin in 2010. In 2013 Tami completed her MA studies in Visual and Media Anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. Her thesis film, Napps - Memoire of an Invisible Man won two awards at Achtung Berlin Film Fest, and was screened in festivals such as the 56th Festival Dei Popoli. Her short ethnographic film Home in Mind has been screened in 30 festivals worldwide. Tami presented her researches in various conferences such as The American Ethnological Society Spring Conference, Boston 2014.Tami is currently developing her next video projects while working as an editor and teaching courses in Visual Anthropology and Video Editing at Kibbutzim College, Tel Aviv, and Freie Universität Berlin.