“I see everything,” she says, as if it was a curse. Brilliant sunshine, clear blue skies. The sea is calm, framed by a piece of railing. Buzzing voices. A peaceful moment if it weren’t for the fact that the sea is standing upright, vertical, like a waterfall. A rush of images, twirling, upside down, jolting.
People in the boat, in the water, screams, life jackets, emergency whistles. Fluorescent orange, geometrical shapes cast by the sun. There’s no horizon anymore, no sky, no up or down, only deepness and nothing to hold on to. Even Eme’s flow comes to a halt, contracting into the brutal present.
She is filming and speaking. To him, to herself, to us, perhaps. Floating legs in sweat pants, jeans, thronged together. A blouse with butterflies, it looks like their wings are flapping in the water. The snake-like belt of a coat, a crumpled-up plastic cup, a pack of cigarettes.
Fuck you all! She speaks, she rages, and she films to beat being tired, being cold, the fact that help isn’t coming. To beat dying, just for something to remain.
SCREENINGS & AWARDS
2020 World Premiere: Berlinale – International Filmfestival Berlin – Forum Expanded
2020 International Premiere: Visions du Réel – International Feature Film Competition
2020 Dokumentar Film Woche Hamburg
2020 Open City Documentary Festival
2020 Taiwan Int. Human Rights Film Festival (Asian premiere)
2020 Human Rights Film Festival Inconvenient Films – Best Film Award
2020 Camden Film Festival (North American Premiere)
2020 New Horizons IFF
2020 IDFA – Paradocs (Dutch Premiere)
2020 RIDM (Canadian Premiere)
2020 Filmmaker Festival (Italian Premiere)
2020 Pravo Ljudski Film Festival
2020 Muestra de Cine de Lanzarote
2021 Document Human Rights FF
2021 WANDA, Belfast: Feminism and Moving Image
2021 DocPoint Helsinki Documentary FF
2021 Anthology Film Archive with Goethe Institute New York German Showcase
2021 Becoming Earthly
2021 Ann Arbor Film Festival
2021 ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin2020
2021 One World Romania
2021 Costa Rica IFF
2021 Iceland Documentary Film Festival (Iceland Premiere)
2021 Goethe Film Week in Egypt
2021 Experimental Film and Video Festival in Seoul – EXiS
2021 Festival Internacional de Cine independiente de La Plata Festi-Freak
2021 paradoks Film Festival
2021 London Migration Film Festival
2021 Docs in Exile Film Festival (Greek Premiere)
And more: Meet the Docs FF, La Cinematheque de Toulouse, Dogmilk, RTS, Costa Rica Cinematheque, Cinematheque Copenhagen – Docs & Talks 2022
- Best Film Award at the Human Rights Film Festival Inconvenient Films, Lithuania https://nepatoguskinas.lt/2020/en/
- The Film Prize of the Robert Bosch Stiftung with the project idea in the category Documentary. February, 2018.
The Film Prize is aimed at young filmmakers from the Arab world and Germany and awarded every year as part of Berlinale Talents.
For a compelling approach to an urgent topic, for a poetic treatment of a shocking story with unique footage and a rare perspective, for a documentary that touchingly brings out the mundane in a discourse so very often reduced to the abstract and sensational, for a project that sheds light on the absurdities of little things in the grand discourse of flight and displacement and a film that promises to add a valuable dimension to a discussion where it seems that everything has been already said. And in appreciation of the personal strength which this project demands of its team members the jury awarded this project.
- Youth Jury Prize at Filmmaker Festival 2020
For the original use of the device, made up of images adrift, capable of deconstructing the collective imagination on the theme of migrants at sea, offering a vision different from that of the media. A necessary point of view, realized through unintentional underwater shots, reworked in a flow of thoughts. For the ability to catapult the viewer in the first person into the tragic nature of the event, both through the image and through its sound transcription.
- Honorable Jury mention in the International Competition at DocPoint Helsinki Film Festival 2021
- ELBE DOCK Award 2021
Reviews: The Guardian (EN), The Michigan Daily (EN), Publico (PT), The National (EN), Indebioscope (NL), MUBI Notebook, Not Fiction review by Sean Farnel, Business Doc Europe (EN), Desistfilm (EN), Slant Magazine (EN), Notfiction.ca (EN), Kino-Zeit (DE), Moviebreak.de (DE), Film Explorer (DE), Caligari (ES)
it’s a crime that this mammoth entry in the annals of documentary has not been the loud talk of every European festival it’s played at.Review by Max Carpenter link
It’s too easy to turn away from such a film, to come up for air. In the cinema, I couldn’t do that. I’m “screening” it on my laptop, where most of us have watched some of this year’s most outstanding films. Purple Sea is one of them, a documentary work of art.Review by Sean Farnel link
It underlines what Purple Sea is: the view from the other side. Not a number, but a person. In a sense, this film is almost nothing. In another sense, it is everything. It’s the essence of an enormous geopolitical mess, boiled down, for me, to this single image: legs, dangling under water. Moving slowly, hypnotically, in a cold, ghastly blue. While the image itself also sways, back and forth, at the pace of the waves, reminding us of the person it is attached to. It is a moving image of death – no one here knows if they’ll make it, no one can do anything, except hold on, and wait for help that might never come, or come too late. We are accustomed to still images becoming iconic. Photos of a war, a revolution. It’s less common for moving images, but that is what those legs under water are, to me: an iconic image of this immeasurable tragedy. An image that you need to see moving, an image that needs time. An image that needs at least an hour.Review by Kees Driessen link
DIRECTOR’S BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY
Amel Alzakout, born 1988 in Syria, is an artist and film maker based in Leipzig. Between 2010 and 2013 she studied journalism at Cairo University, Egypt. In 2017 she participated with other artists in the video installation TRUST US in the 3rd Herbstsalon at the Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin. Between 2017 and 2018 she studied art at Weißensee Art Academy in Berlin, currently she is studying media art at the Academy of visual art (HGB) in Leipzig, Germany. In 2018 she won together with her co-director Khaled Abdulwahed the Film Prize for International Cooperation Germany/Arab World by the Robert Bosch Foundation with the feature length film PURPLE SEA produced by pong film. It’s her first directing.
Backyard (2018, assistant director, 26′)
Stranger’s Diaries (2019, together with Khaled Abdulwahed, 8-channel video installation, 35′)
Purple Sea (2020, 67′)
Khaled Abdulwahed, born 1975 in Syria, is an artist, photographer and filmmaker based in Leipzig. Between 1996 and 2000 he studied Fine Arts and Graphic Design at Adham Ismail art school in Damascus, Syria and at Frederick University in Nicosia, Cyprus. Between 2002 and 2008 he exhibited his artworks in the Middle-east and Europe. Between 2011 and 2013 he directed and produced video artworks which were screened in many art spaces, festivals, universities and TV channels over the world. In 2015 he was invited to Berlinale Talents. In 2018 his short film BACKYARD celebrated its world premiere and won the CNAP (National Centre for Visual Arts) award at FID Marseille.
Bullet (2011, 2′)
Tuj (2012, 2′)
Slot In Memory (2013, 2’30”)
Backyard (2018, 26′)
Stranger’s Diaries (2019, together with Amel Alzakout, 8-channel video installation, 35′)
Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed have been collaborating on diverse projects on a regular basis. Amongst their joint projects is the experimental short film ‘backyard’ that celebrated its world premiere in the International Competition at FID Marseille in 2018 and won the festival’s CNAP Award. ‘backyard’ celebrated its German Premiere in the Competition at 61. DOK Leipzig.
In 2018 Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed were awarded the Film Prize for International Cooperation Germany – Arab World by the Robert Bosch Stiftung with their feature length documentary „Purple Sea“.
Author/Director/Narrator Amel Alzakout
Co-Author/Co-Director Khaled Abdulwahed
Montage Philip Scheffner
Dramaturgy Alex Gerbaulet, Merle Kröger, Philip Scheffner
Sound Design Simon Bastian
Colour Grading Matthias Behrens
Producers Alex Gerbaulet, Ines Meier
Commissioning editor ZDF/ARTE Doris Hepp
Produced by pong film
Co-produced by ZDF
in cooperation with ARTE
Robert Bosch Stiftung
Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa
PRODUCER’S BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY
Alex Gerbaulet has a record of many years of practice-based and film-theoretical teaching at different German art schools and has worked as a curator for film festivals, like Dokfest Kassel and Duisburger Filmwoche. Her short films Shift (2015), Depth of Field (2017) and The Sleeper (2018) won many awards and have been shown around the world.
Alex Gerbaulet and Ines Meier
PONG was founded in 2001 by Berlin based cultural producers Merle Kröger and Philip Scheffner. Both had gathered film production experience in the video collective dogfilm from 1992 – 2000.
PONG stands for the production of creative documentaries and features on the border to the arts – films in which the filmmakers’ aesthetic and political positions are formed and expressed.
Merle Kröger has expertise as scriptwriter, dramaturg and novelist. She is co-author of several films by Philip Scheffner. Furthermore, she has published four novels with argument since 2003. She received the German Crime Novel Award in 2013 and 2016. A fifth novel will be released in 2020 with Suhrkamp. Since 2007 she works for Berlinale Talents, Doc Station. Since 2011 she is co-director and mentor at the Professional Media Master Class for Documentary Film in Halle (Saale).
Philip Scheffner has been working as a visual artist since 1985. His feature length creative documentaries The Halfmoon Files (2007), Day of the Sparrow (2010), Revision (2012) and Havarie (2016) won numerous awards, have been released in cinema and were shown around the world. Scheffner’s first fiction film Europe, currently in post production, will premiere in 2020. As part of pong, his focus is project development and editing.
Caroline Kirberg has specialized in the production of interdisciplinary and innovatively conceived films on the border to the arts. Next to being pong’s head producer, Kirberg has been producing for wellknown artists like Clemens von Wedemeyer, Dani Gal, Assaf Gruber, Stephan Geene, Volker Sattel and Clarissa Thieme. She teaches film production at film and art schools.
PONG has been the production hub of films by Dorothee Wenner (Peace Mission, Kinshasa Collection), Philip Widmann and Dan Nguyen (A House in Ninh Hoa), Khaled Abdulwahed and Amel Alzakout. Abdulwahed’s short Backyard (2018) is currently touring worldwide festivals. The documentary Purple Sea by Alzakout/ Abdulwahed will have its world premiere at Berlinale 2020, Forum Expanded. Together we focus on up-coming artists and filmmakers and international co-productions, aiming to expand pong as a platform for moving images as well as sounds, music and text.
Currently the PONG team is supported by Mareike Bernien and Julie Carvalho. We are producing Philip Scheffners first fiction film Place de l’Europe, a feature length documentary by Alex Gerbaulet and Mareike Bernien, an online web archive of German Indian filmmaker Navina Sundaram and several other projects in development.