The Filmmaker & The Hollow Camera

Ammar Aziz


1.


The filmmaker has eventually completed his film and the people he knows are curious to watch it.


“The film is not for you to watch,” he politely tells them.


They are not convinced. “So have you just made this film for foreign audiences?” someone asks.


“No,” the filmmaker responds, “it is not made for a foreign audience either.”


“Is it then just for the critics?” – another man wonders.


“No, it’s not,” the filmmaker clarifies.


Someone else says, “Oh, so you must have made the film to fill your own artistic void,” he smirks. “And you must be the only viewer and the only critic of your own work”.


“No, I haven’t watched the film, and I don’t intend to watch it,” the filmmaker calmly looks into his eyes.


They get furious and one of them turns a bit loud: “Then why on earth have you made this film after all?”


“Because there was no one,” the filmmaker whispers, “there was no one else to make this film.”



2.


The filmmaker wants to invent a camera that would listen to his direction, understand and respond to his voice.


“If we can have sex robots, with artificial intelligence, why can’t we have cameras that can be thinking machines?” he often says.


Unable to find an engineer to make such a camera, he passionately teaches himself engineering and practices his learning on several objects in the house. He ends up creating things with artificial intelligence: spoons that indicate if they’d like to feed him more rice or not; cups which decide if they want to be filled with tea or coffee, or if they would prefer to remain empty; tooth brushes that feel disgusted on certain mornings. During these years, the filmmaker completely forgets about the camera that remains the only non-thinking object in the house.



Artwork by Ume Laila (Oil on Wood and Canvas, 2019)

3.


The biggest achievement of the filmmaker was that he managed to remain a filmmaker, without making any film all his life. When he grew old, he decided to give away his camera to a film student, who, the filmmaker hoped, would make films that he could not make himself. However, the camera refused to accept the new owner. Upon forcing, the camera attacked the filmmaker in the way a Siberian husky would attack its owner in a snowstorm if the climber tried to kill the dog in a desperate attempt to stay warm with his fur.


4.


There were cameras placed in each room and on each wall outside the house. There were also cameras in the street, in each block, in every neighborhood of the city. And then, there were cameras attached to the costumes and weapons of security personnel and with each vehicle of every citizen. Doctors used micro cameras to examine the mysteries of human bodies. Teachers used cameras to teach classes. Long distance lovers used cameras to masturbate. When people started migrating out of the city because of a disaster they thought was natural, cameras were the only objects that remained there and it seemed that the city was built just for the cameras.


5.


A camera has a strange place in the world of sexual pleasure. When people fuck, they have a mysterious desire to film themselves. No one seems to have understood the reason to use such a gadget in your most intimate moments. When the filmmaker films himself having sex with his lover, he's more concerned about framing and light in the room, which he often finds more pleasurable than an orgasm.


6.


The long tousle-haired and bearded filmmaker roams in the valley like the Biblical prophet who would wander with a walking stick, which was often called the Rod of God—like the ones Moses and Aaron had; their sticks could metamorphose into serpents. The staff of Moses, according to the Book of Exodus, could produce water from a rock, was transformed into a snake and back, and was used at the parting of the Red Sea. Despite his prophetic appearance, the filmmaker's rod, however, is unable to perform any miracles. He calls the rod ‘monopod’. The monopod at best can be used to attach a camera to its head, which is a futile activity anyway and cannot be called a miracle.


7.


There was something about the studio that had several floors, which were all occupied by different sets and props. You could create a hospital, a jail, a brothel, a church, a courtroom, a school, a dance floor or an abstract site at once. There was also a permanent village set behind the main building with a well that looked real, but had no excavation hole—just a circular boundary wall. The filmmaker wanted to show the well from the inside, which seemed to be the only impossibility at this studio.


8.


In a future city, citizens have a blue verification sign on their foreheads— like a tick mark digitally embedded in your skin. When children are born, their tiny foreheads are marked using some laser technology, the details of which are not relevant. This way the state can ensure which citizens truly belong here. The filmmaker is the only citizen from the past. Initially, he was very scared of being caught by the authorities and feared that other citizens would freak out on seeing his unmarked forehead. But to his surprise, no one ever cared. The filmmaker would walk freely in the city and no one seemed to pay any attention, as if he didn't really exist.





Ammar Aziz is a poet, writer and multi-award winning filmmaker from Lahore, Pakistan. His work has appeared/forthcoming in several anthologies, including Greening The Earth, The Red River Book of Erotic Poetry, Shimmer Spring, and Collegiality & Other Ballads. His poetry has been published in several leading journals including Wild Court—the poetry journal of King’s College London, Poetry at Sangam, Dhaka Tribune, Muse India and Narrow Road. He guest-edited a special issue of Poetry at Sangam, featuring Pakistani English poets. He has read at various international festivals and his verse has been translated into Russian, Spanish, Bangla, Tamil, Kannada and Urdu. As a filmmaker, he has widely travelled to leading film festivals and has won numerous prestigious awards including FIPRESCI. Several media outlets such as Deutsche Welle, The Hindu, Scroll, Indian Express, The Christian Science Monitor Dawn, Insa Italy, etc. have written about his work.



About the featured artist: Lahore-based artist Ume Laila graduated with a major in fine art from the Punjab University College of Arts and Design, Lahore. She has been part of two artist residencies, Karbath 01 and Tasweer Ghar and has participated in the Imago Mundi project, Italy. A short film of hers was displayed at COMO Museum, Lahore.

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