‘The Sultana’s Dream’ It’s not a movie. And it is not so in a radical and enthusiastic way, conscious and happy of its strangeness of being a film without actually being one. But it is not a film because it aspires to be something else. No, it is not a movie for the simple reason that the best movies are always much more. ‘The sultana’s dream‘, of Isabel Herguera (San Sebastian, 1961) It is also a dazzling and welcoming exhibition based in the Tabakalera building in San Sebastián. And, furthermore, it is a manifesto against the sterile rigors of manifestos. And, furthermore and above all, it is a beautiful moving canvas of excessive clarity. And, furthermore, and in a hurry, it is also an unfinished piece of a hidden and ancient art that equally calls to the best dreams that awakens to horror. Let’s say ‘The Sultana’s Dream’ It is not a film to the same extent that the pipe that Magritte painted was not a pipe because the text that appeared underneath said so, precisely, the pipe that it was. ‘The sultana’s dream‘ is a film in competition at the San Sebastian Festival with the shape and texture of miracles. And of the contradictions. And much more.
The director herself walks through her exhibition and there, with the preparatory drawings in her hands (you don’t have to touch them unless you are the director), she explains, to everyone’s surprise, that she doesn’t like to draw, that what she really likes is enthuses “is working with inks.” The explanation already gives a clue. On the screen, the idea is not to create that sensation of movement that copies and pastes the agitation of reality as traditional animation does. Quite the contrary, it is about suggesting the internal displacement of matters such as emotions, proclamations and affects.
He says that it all started when back in the previous decade, when he had just finished one of his short films, he entered a bookstore in New Delhi and came across the writer’s book. Begum Rokeya, ‘The sultana’s dream’. What appeared in her hands was a text from 1905 in which the author from Bangladesh, a self-taught person who had to learn to read and write secretly as a poor woman, imagined a fantastic world with a soul of absurd satire, an unredeemed universe. where women took the role of men. Written 20 years before the well-to-do intellectual Virginia Woolf wrote ‘A room of one’s own’ More than a century after Rubiales’ kiss, it wanted to be a premonition more than a book. Keep it up. It hasn’t come true yet.
And he decided to start working with him, rather than making a film. That would come later. “In 2013,” she says, “we organized several workshops with women in Ahmedabad, in India, where he taught. First it was with four and five year old girls. With Rokeya’s text in front they imagined pregnant men and in absolute freedom they founded a new, amazing and, above all, different world. Later, another workshop at a nun’s school with children aged 12 to 15 brought to light many of the doubts that begin to appear at that age. ‘Why can’t I go home peacefully at night like men?’, they asked themselves. And finally, one more workshop with women experts in the mehndi art who with a henna paste labeled lead flowers from ancient stained glass windows on the same skin, finally gave an image to Rokeya’s vision.
That’s all in the movie ‘The Sultana’s Dream’. There is also work with children from the families that care for the elephants. “Why can’t I drive an elephant like the kids do?” is heard at one point in the tape as a literal transcription of what was heard in one of these improvised classes. And you can also see a thousand more experiments where the sound speculations of Gian Marco Serra They bring the soul to the body in constant mutation of the watercolor backgrounds of Angel Peris. And all this while the skins of each drawing, each canvas, each transparency are superimposed one on another in an organic and sensual continuum very close to something similar to ecstasy. Or the simple pleasure of the beautiful, which is more pagan and less dramatic. If you will, and without disparaging the director, ‘The Sultan’s Tale‘ is a collective work built from Rokeya’s voice that blends with all the voices of her readers who one day crossed paths with Herguera in an art workshop. With them and with the spectators’ own gazes.