John Akomfrah
Querelle down the Chimney 
 (& up the Spout)

The Liberated Film Club is a celebration of lost, suppressed and impossible cinema. Its first major iteration was held over the month of July in 2016 at Close-Up Film Centre in London.

Each event was introduced by a different guest, who were not told anything about the film they were to introduce. These introductions were in addition introduced by video-link by the absent curator, and are published alongside the transcripts of the words which followed.


Liberated film of 1965 on the closed door of the hardware store. Argentinian pop singer given the director’s torch to tackle an impossibilist capitalism and teatime on screen. Genet might have liked this Liberated Film, Fassbinder too. Trivia: Genet never saw Fassbinder’s Querelle, as no cinema local to Jean was willing to host the maximal gust of his cigarette smoking.


Here we are, upstaged by an unknown film and an unseen introduction, which was insanely complimentary, flattering, embarrassing. You know the gig: I really don’t know what the film is, so I’m not sure how what I have to say will help. But it struck me that one possible thing I could do was remind you how in many ways the premise of this event, or these events, is in fact the premise of cinema. The impossible relation implied by the term itself is that you will be in anticipation, waiting for something to come, which despite all pretensions or claims to the contrary . . . will not come. That is the cinema. Even Transformersnever quite delivers what it says on the tin. Our reception of cinema always remains transfigured, but it never really comes.
    I started to think about how to connect this thought with what I think cinema has which is worth preserving: hope. Not hope in the Obama-esque sense. The problem with that definition of hope is that it suggests you will come to hope, and hope into being. We don’t. We either, as Bloch says, “commit to its arrival as the thing to come,” or not. It is a principle.
    Three days ago, I went to introduce Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror. I’ve seen this film just about more than any other film, and I thought ‘I don’t know what I’m going to see in it again’. But when it came on it was different. I saw and heard things that I hadn’t before. It was unknown, and it isthis transfiguration, this hope for the new image or sound which is bound to our relation with cinema. The unknown event in particular perfectly mirrors what our relationship always is to the image.
    I was led to think about which other films or people name this relation: and it’s the central figure in Close-Up by Abbas Kiarostami that comes to mind. Hossein Sabzian. Every time he opens his mouth, in the film and afterwards, he says something about cinema which I think is worth holding onto. The last thing I read, in Kiarostami’s obituary, was Sabzian saying: “With every good film I see, I feel reborn.” Fucking deep, dude. And it seems to me that this question of rebirth is bound up with that one of hope which the cinema promises, because it effectively says that you will come into this room to watch Tarkovsky’s Mirror(which you’ve seen sixty times), and you will leave with a new insight. This new insight will transform not just your former perceptions of the film, but of yourself. The image has that ability. It has the ability to remind you that it’s both an attempt to register mortality—because of course every image you see dies the moment you’ve seen it—and a space, and one of the best we have, in which the opposite question of immortality is also wrestled with. It is this double motion of the image that cinema most invests in and most trusts.
    I have no idea whether what I’ve said will help you navigate through this. Good luck.


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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.

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