Babel

Babel, HD video, 2019, 8′

Everything begins on a fixed shot of a middle-aged lady, serious, thoughtful. She tries hard to remember some words from a language unfamiliar to our ears, her native language: Assyrian. Like the origin of the mythical city of Babel, this neo-Aramaic language was born in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of humanity (present-day Iraq). Simple words (numbers, days, expressions,…) reappear from the bottom of the ages; they emerge little by little memories of Juliette Rustamova which one understands later that she is the mother of the artist. The subject of the film, which initially evokes a loss of memory linked to old age, gradually changes in favour of memories: shared moments of childhood, moments of joy and pride related to a language that is transmitted intuitively. The Assyrian is like other Aramaic languages, threatened with extinction despite the existence of many Christians from Syria, Iran and Iraq who still practice it and who have migrated to Armenia and Georgia, the homeland of the artist. Language is the link to these religious communities, an inheritance both individual and collective. Hence the importance of the transmission and translation of an endangered language in a minority context. Like all life that passes, this film questions the irremediable loss of wealth fallen into oblivion and the family heritage and ancestral we must preserve. (Text: Catherine Henkinet)