«Queering the paternal archive: Photography, Hybridity and Embodiment in Pilar Monsell’s África 815» by Sarah Thomas



This essay analyzes Spanish filmmaker Pilar Monsell’s 2014 documentary África 815, an account of her father’s complex history, including professional and personal failures. It shows how the film creates proximity within distance, constructing a nuanced account of Manuel Monsell’s life, which, without explicitly condemning its thorniest elements (and in particular his Orientalist fetishizing of younger Maghrebi men), nonetheless refuses to gloss over them. Rather, the filmmaker lays bare her father’s vulnerabilities and faults so the spectator may to come to his or her own conclusions about Manuel’s actions and experiences. This process is achieved through several key filmic tactics, explored here: hybridity, tactility, silence, slowness, and voice. Analyzing these strategies, the essay traces how the filmmaker’s gaze on the narrative of her father’s past uncovers meaning by engaging in an embodied and attentive reading of a life history that resists both binary identities and easy narrative legibility.

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