Isaac Julien

19 August - 5 September 2009

WESTERN UNION: small boats 2007
Single screen projection| 35mm colour film, sound surround, 18′ |DVD transfer/HD, 5.1| 18.22 mins size variable
edition of 10

Known for his extravagantly beautiful filmmaking, in WESTERN UNION: Small Boats (2007) Isaac Julien depicts the picturesque Sicilian seaside village of Agrigento and the grandeur of Palazzo Gangi, the famed location from Visconti’s masterpiece The Leopard, in stunning juxtaposition to a deadly voyage.

To escape deplorable economic and human rights conditions, thousands of African and Asian ‘clandestines’ depart each year from North Africa on the 160-kilometre journey across the Mediterranean Sea to the southern coast of Sicily. Setting off in larger boats, they are transferred mid-sea to smaller, very overcrowded fishing boats where they are left to drift for days on end until they are sighted by the European coastguard.

Employing a suggestive, non-representational cinematic style, WESTERN UNION: Small Boats subverts strict narrative, creating a collage of sound and image. Throughout the film, choreographer Russell Maliphant has created a series of vignettes echoing and rearticulating these dramatic voyages. WESTERN UNION: Small Boats is the final instalment of Julien’s trilogy about journeying across continents and cultures that includes True North (2004) and Fantôme Afrique (2005).