Diary of Dreams and Palm Prints

in Istanbul IFF 2024

by Valentina Giraldo Sánchez

Looking and thinking through two short films from the National Competition, Valentina Giraldo extrapolates their poetic and lyrical qualities, and how collective solipsism enhances the film-going experience among kindred spirits, with dreams accompanied, linked, attentive, and present.

Films, amidst their luminous materiality, always reveal a beyond. They appear as links, surpassing their object quality, and then, they lend us the eyes to see.

Films mobilize encounter’s possibilities. They establish ways of walking. When they find words, films become pollinators, traveling seeds, legs that run very fast. Film, when it finds the words, becomes intermittent. Films are also geography, in whose map the wonder of the world is inscribed, and suddenly everything becomes domestic, close, handmade.

I think: I go to the cinema because I like to be alone and at the same time accompanied. I go to the cinema because it reminds me of the stoves where food is heated. I go to the cinema and, sometimes, I fall asleep. The screen, which is a stove, illuminates and warms my body.

Recently I read a text about hammock weaving in a region of northern Colombia. From that, an idea is derived: When a baby is born, a small hammock bag is woven so that the mother can carry it on her back. Over time, a new hammock will be woven so that the one who was previously a baby can sleep alone. The hammock in which the body will sleep for years ends up being the place where the body dies. The body is buried with the hammock.

I can’t help but think that from the moment one is born, the surface on which dreams will rest must be present.

I think again about cinema, about its linking revelation and its overflowing materiality reminiscent of the act of dreaming. Sometimes the same thing happens to me with films as with dreams: there are certainties that I cannot explain. I remember my friend Pedro saying that films are not made but remembered, and then I think that films are not only seen, but also remembered. Or rather, while watching them, we also remember them.

What is that hidden light in the body that wants to come out when it faces the stove of the screen?

Could cinema not be a way in which life looks at life?

This text is a handful of dreams that think through two short films from the Istanbul Film Festival’s National Competition. Between the theaters where the films are screened and the square meter of tenderness that is the bed where I sleep, there are a lot of kilometers. There is also an eight-hour difference. This means that, between the clocks of the house where I live and the clocks of the cinema, there is a day of sleep and a day of work difference (although we usually sleep less than we work).

This coverage thinks, as the word indicates, in a wrapping, a chrysalis. This coverage is a blanket: A blanket-cover that thinks about the film from every blink and closing of the eyes, one that looks and at the same time remembers. It is also one that writes with two hands on the hands seen on the screen (because when life meets life, there are ideas that become roots and one cannot stop thinking about them).

All this started, as it almost always does, in a film where I fell asleep. I would fall asleep and wake up and fall asleep again. And then under the body pulsed a light, and I didn’t know if I was dreaming or if it was the film that was dreaming about me. I remember a fragment. A group of people dances and embraces. There was a gesture that they all shared: the hand behind the nape and the thumb caressing the lower part of the head. I thought that was the light that wanted to leave my body: a hug. And then I fell asleep again. The dream had been led by the hands, and as that idea became a root, it met again, face-to-face, on several occasions.  

One: Children of the White Mountain by Yalçin Çiftçi.

This documentary short film records a mountain in Anatolia where a school and a cemetery co-exist. The joy of the children and the soccer games are tense with the silence that must be maintained when one is so close to death. As dreams, two images appeared: The children and the teacher share a chocolate cake, serving it on the pages of the math book. The children gather to cook together.

An idea passes by: the world is composed of relationships that hands make possible.

What else pollinates this complicity between image and word if not other ways of accompanying and being present?

Vanessa Londoño writes: “The relief of a literary text is formed by discontinuous layers, geological events that erode, accumulate, or sediment ideas. […] Like the fossil, language is, after all, evidence that something was in motion before suddenly petrifying into the word.” (author’s translation)

I see the school children on that white mountain. Their hands reveal the geological layers of companionship: the hands that write mathematical operations embrace each other, prepare a mass of tenderness, and feed joy. The children hold hands and start dancing.

Two: Between Delicate and Violent by Sirin Bahar.

This encounter of hands with dreams and cinema follows the thread of Carolina Benalcázar’s writing, she specifies that “the hand knows”. I keep thinking about everything that hands know how to do. How hands learned to move.

I watch the film and imagine palmistry. Reading-the-hand-of-light.

Everything that hands remember has woven, past heritages. Between Delicate and Violent runs through the hands as archives of memory that accumulate and transfer information. Not only the incorporated know-how of the hands, but also the wounds that they hold. Violence appears as a thread that ties all the wrists and phalanges: trauma is something that can also be inherited and hands, which know very well, keep that information.

I remember words from Gloria Anzaldúa in La prieta: “A woman is buried beneath me, Buried for centuries, supposedly dead. A woman is buried beneath me. I hear her soft murmur, the rasp of her parchment skin battling the folds of her shroud. Her eyes pierced by needles, her eyelids, two moths fluttering.” (author’s translation)

I think of the pulsating light, of the hand plus another hand plus another hand plus another hand that are in this film. A woman is buried beneath me, and my hands know it. The light that seemed hidden then reveals itself in a film that has dreamed a past, which is almost always present and sometimes almost appears as a certain future: the hand that knows does not know alone, it always knows accompanied by other hands.

I think of the architecture of the dream as I write about these films: almost always when I close my eyes in a movie theater, it is precisely my hands that help me hold my head and the dream. It is also the hands that engage with that limb-artifact-prosthesis of writing and language.

To the kindness of these films (that is to say, the ease with which they let themselves be loved) that generously lent me their dream to sleep, a poem by Hugo Jamioy: “Friendly hands: May hope blossom in the fertility of your thought to continue offering the fruit of your friendly hands.” (author’s translation)

In front of the screen, life looks at itself and shakes hands, dreams accompanied, linked, attentive, and present.

Valentina Giraldo
Edited by Steven Yates