Earth Day On Screen
Somerset House Studios
Online Film Programme
April 22 - 26, 2021

‘Finden, Zeigen, Halten (finding, showing, holding): like an archaeologist patiently and meticulously digging into the soil of material life, uncovering and preserving traces of histories that continue to haunt the present’
- Hartmut Bitomsky on Peter Nestler

On the occasion of Earth Day, film collective Sharna Pax has programmed an online screening of three short films - Word for Forest (2018) by Pia Rönicke, Cardinal (2019) by Kevin Jerome Everson, and Die Donau Rauf (1969) by Peter Nestler and Zsoka Nestler. Each film attentively observes a different environment - forest, sky, and river.

Word for Forest registers the movement of a seed from the Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen back to its original home in the Mexican Oaxaca mountains; Cardinal observes birdwatchers looking for the state bird of Ohio and Die Donau Rauf traces the layered histories of the Danube. Engaging with the inhabitants of these places - people, plants, birds and boats - the films offer subtle and nuanced encounters with complex
histories marked by colonialism.

Word for Forest
Pia Rönicke, Denmark/Mexico, 2018, 16 mm/stereo, colour and b&w, 23 min

Word for Forest is a cinematic journey that travels from the Botanical Garden in Copenhagen to Santiago Comaltepec in the mountains of Oaxaca. The film records a seed’s displacement from Mexico, where it was collected by the botanist Frederik Liebmann in 1842, to the Botanical Garden in Copenhagen. The film returns to the plant’s original home, the unique habitat of the cloud forest. The cloud forest in this region has an exceptionally high biodiversity, where specific oaks and pines grow side by side with a rich plant life that is not found anywhere else.

In Santiago Comaltepec, a community belonging to the forest, has not always had the right to care of the land. Both the Spanish colonial empire and the Mexican state have previously demanded control over the forest. In the 1980s, the community fought for the forest’s rights. Through ‘comunalidad’, the forest became common land and only the naturally fallen wood can be collected. The film follows the voice of the forest guide Don Felipe, as he talks about the forest in both the local language Chinantec and Spanish. It invites one to listen to the rhythms of the language and the sounds of the forest and to absorb the variations in the many ferns. It beckons the view to enter a universe that might show an alternative to the path of destruction that we are currently on.

Pia Rönicke, born in 1974 in Roskilde, Denmark, is a visual artist based in Copenhagen. During the past 20 years, with a lot of humanity but also humility, Pia Rönicke questions our society and analyses our human condition, hopes and failures Her work expands in different kinds of apparently empty spaces, the kind of spaces from which utopia origins; the no man’s lands where notions of identity and nation need to be redefined; the virgin landscape that produces a new dimension of possession (Word for Forest and the concept of Communidade); the devastated lands and maps produced by war, and the destruction that creates new territories.

Kevin Jerome Everson, United States, 2019, b&w, 2:30min
Film courtesy the artist; trilobite-arts DAC; Picture Palace Pictures.

Cardinal observes birdwatchers looking for the state bird of Ohio. With Taj Torrence, Matilda Washington, Serra Everson, Derron Everson, Jacienta McSwain.

Kevin Jerome Everson, born Mansfield, Ohio, is Professor of Art at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Everson's work – photography, sculpture and films – include nine collaborations with Claudrena N. Harold. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions and retrospectives at Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Whitney Museum, Andrew Kreps Gallery, Harvard Film Archive, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Seoul, and included in the 2008, 2012 & 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 2013 Sharjah Biennial and the 2018 Carnegie International.

Die Donau Rauf
Peter Nestler and Zsoka Nestler, West Germany, 1969, 16mm, colour, 28 min

A critical look at the political and cultural history of the Danube country and its development; a travelogue. Travelling the Danube by steamboat, Die Donau Rauf unearths layered narratives of the ancient and the recent past creating a poetic document of filmed archaeology.

Peter Nestler was born in Breisgau, Germany in 1937. His films initially recorded the changes affecting rural and industrial communities in the early 1960s. Since then, he has developed a politically and aesthetically uncompromising body of work in which history, the working class, labor and production, immigration, the environment, and the struggle against fascism have been recurring themes.

Zsóka Nestler was born in Budapest in 1944. Betweeen 1967 and 1978 she worked with Peter on 24 documentaries on 16mm, mostly as a team of two. Peter ran the camera and Zsóka recorded the sound. Later she studied and worked in the cities of Stockholm and Uppsala (receiving a Bachelors Degree in Behavioral Research/Cross-cultural Relations and Immigrant Issues, and a Graduate Diploma in Psychotherapy). She has contributed to many research projects and publications on immigration and refugees, racism and ethnic conflicts and has worked in governmental institutions and NGOs. She returned to making films with Peter in 1992 on “Zeit” and in 2003 on “Mit der Musik groß werden.”