No Man's Land (Salomé Lamas in Person)
September 29, 2013
The films of Salomé Lamas are unreservedly fearless. Formally fearless, as they bend the conventions of form and narrative, documentary and contemporary art; and physically fearless, as we see her trapped, hanging, falling, or sitting still behind a camera letting others courageously occupy the space of the image. She is aware of the rules, makes her own game, does it again.
Born in Lisbon, Salomé studied cinema and fine arts both in Portugal and Amsterdam, and has exhibited her work widely both in the context of the gallery and the film theater. Rather than conventionally dwelling in the periphery between cinema and the visual arts, ethnography and narration, she has made these languages her own. Her films render futile divisions between genre and modes of exhibition, and become the site where cinema shares a common space, forms and materials, with video and installation, in an inviting occupation of a no man’s land.
In No Man’s Land, a mercenary sits in a chair on a sober setting in an abandoned palace inLisbon, as if beginning to pose for a cinematic portrait. The perpetrator is given the space to face the spectator and perform his own history, constructing a fiction which slowly reveals doubts and contradictions, as the camera watches, relentlessly. Paulo narrates his involvement as a hired killer for special military forces during the Portuguese colonial war, the part he played in the GAL (Antiterrorist Liberation Group), a death squad illegally established by the Spanish government to annihilate high officials of ETA, and his work as a mercenary for the CIA in El Salvador. The film is decidedly not interested in the veracity of the historical record, in re-actualizing the official historical narrative, but in the present moment of witnessing, the contemporary space inhabited by the performance of a memory. It rejects to dwell in a static moral duality, and chooses rather play a game where accuser and accused frequently change positions – at a certain point in the film, Paulo asks “How much is worth the life of a man? A man like me or men like them?” No Man’s Land exposes its own processes of making, and reveals itself as a set or a stage where information or document are peripheral to the question of how one plays out and crystallizes as history his own personal truth.