Greece, Germany, UK, Bangladesh | 2017 | 95 min | English
Inspired by the director’s father’s experience of being trapped without a passport in Ellinikon Airport, Greece, in 1977, Tripoli Cancelled follows a week in the life of a man who has been living in the same abandoned space for a decade—keeping sane through a daily routine of writing letters to his wife, fantasising about flying an ageing jumbo jet, and reading a precious copy of the children’s book Watership Down. Naeem Mohaiemen’s first fiction film merges our epoch of migration with the post-Holocaust concepts of the ‘spectral human’ and Der Muselmänner—a slang term used among captives of World War II concentration camps to refer to those who were resigned to impending death. In reality, Ellinikon Airport—designed by neo-futurist architect Erno Saarinen—recently housed Syrian refugees and was subsequently targeted for luxury real-estate projects as part of EU debt renegotiation.
Born in London in 1969, Naeem Mohaiemen studied for a PhD in anthropology at Columbia University. Naeems’s work ranges across essay films, academic debates and mixed media installations, which he uses to research the revolutionary left and states of belonging in a post-colonial context. Chapters from The Young Man Was (2006 onwards) have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the 56th Venice Biennale (2015) and the Sharjah Biennial, UAE (2011). “In Tripoli Cancelled,” says Naeem, “the pace of easing from one scene to the next is as slow as I could make it. Petros, our cinematographer, would look at me, waiting for me to say cut and I would stare back and wait, always a few extra beats. We were in a dream state inside that building. I think we did not want to leave, so everything was elongated.”