Salma Shamel: A World without Footnotes

A World without Footnotes is an experimental film that takes us on a journey through audio interviews, narration, images, and illustration. It reflects on what it means to write history in our times by bringing together three interrelated threads: 1) a story of two friends who, while detecting 1000 sq. km on a map for political purposes, have developed an addiction to the certain kind of vertigo induced by the visual disorientation of the map; 2) a story of a historian who, in 2016, hijacked the MS181 EgyptAir flight and rerouted it to Cyprus; and 3) a set of interviews conducted with historians and researchers who have depended on the Egyptian National Archives as part of their research. The film finds refuge in Roland Barthes’s words: “history is hysterical,” and in Fredric Jameson’s words: “history is what hurts.” By taking up the Egyptian National Archives as a site that enfolds researchers, bureaucrats, and security officials together, the film weaves together stories of inaccessible documents, suspicion, disappeared historians, and heartbreak to unfold encounters of subversion and contingency, exhaustion and persistence. Moving between documentary and fiction, it asks: What would it mean to be hurt by history? What is it to create a hysterical archive? If such practices are, in essence, about control, how is it possible to imagine them as uncertain and fragile?
This production was made possible through a grant from the Culture Resource Production Awards Program.

Salma Bakr Shamel works with video and text. She is currently a PhD student in the Media, Culture and Communication Department at New York University.


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