Caterina Pasqualino is an anthropologist whose research within the realm of Gypsy flamenco for the past twenty years has culminated in her seminal book Flamenco Gitan. Her interest in performance and ritual and their relationships with experimental film—explored in the book she co-edited with Arnd Schneider, Experimental Film and Anthropology—has led her to begin exploring her practice through the language of experimental film.
Following a meeting with Chiara Ambrosio—a filmmaker, visual artist, and flamenco dancer—the two have decided to develop a film together to explore the role of the “outsider” and of suffering within art and, more specifically, within the space of flamenco.
In the opening sequences of Desert People (1967, 49 minutes, Australian National Film Board), we read, “This is a film on two families of the western Australian desert.” But in fact the film’s real subject is the wonderful Gibson Desert—whose textural surface is magically rendered by black and white 35mm film—and the relationship with “its” people as they constantly move across it, stopping only for short moments of rest. This relationship is marked by material scarcity and hard labor. We see boys and men restlessly digging the hard surface of the desert with spears and wooden tools. We see their bodies slowly disappearing inside it, to reappear with handfuls of water, small lizards, and rats. We see women making food out of wild grass. We see families gathering to eat, forced into a momentary standstill by the heat of the sun at midday.