In many respects, Basma Al-Sharif’s 2017 feature Ouroboros was a broad summary of the themes she had explored in her experimental shorts over the previous ten years. It tackled both a symbolic and real physical violence committed against Arab populations, the loss of historical consciousness in the age of late capitalism, and, in particular, the “new urbanism” that has gripped so much of the Global South in recent years, an elite remapping of space that serves to insulate the powerful and alienate the rest of the population.
Capital, a work that has existed in a number of different forms since 2020, represents a shift in Al-Sharif’s film language. In addition to being overtly theatrical — the main action takes place in a living room set on an all-white soundstage — the film also flirts with broad comedy, its main subject being an isolated bourgeois woman who is seduced by spanking-new high-rise apartments, their names offering a kind of substitute phone-sex. Al-Sharif combines maps, performance footage, and warped images of new build, and the result feels muddled and overworked. While it’s more than admirable that she is assaying new forms, the sharpness and clarity of her previous films — especially 2013’s Farther Than the Eye Can See and 2014’s Deep Sleep — are sorely missed.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 27