Where do you come from? is a question often targeted at Black people living in the West. An innocuous question, some may argue: an innocent query meant to solicit a sense of context, meaning and reference. To others it is a diabolical question: 'other'-ising and alienating—an insistence that a Black person's point of reference in the world has to exist elsewhere from where s/he is currently situated. But for most of us the question is confounding: in a world of changing boundaries and (for some) easy migrations, we find that we are all from so many different places, and have so many different homes.
Alnoor Dewshi has taken the question on and is offering, with this short film, a somewhat cryptic but nevertheless delightful solution. He introduces us to two identically dressed, sharp-tongued nomads: Latifah and Himli. They take us on a miniaturised epic of a journey across many landscapes—all of which exist in a mythological, and often beautifully shot London of ambiguous time and place. We follow Latifah and Himli through all of their contexts and conversations. They are concerned, if only for a moment, with the problem of their identity. They take it to their savvy and sexy uncle who, over a game of ping-pong, offers them a couple of clever conundrums and a few wicked backhands. Satisfied, the two women continue on their travels, content to just hang out from time to time and to use the tools of whatever culture is available to serve their purposes. The problem of their identity has not been solved. They are not able to fix it—to pin it to a bulletin board of history. They just continue on against an ever shifting backdrop, exchanging breezy wisdoms and checking out the territory.
Alnoor Dewshi, at a time when many filmmakers are grappling with issues of identity, seems to be rejecting the terms of that project entirely. It's as if he was insisting that identity is not a fixed solution but is fluid and in perpetual motion like Latifah and Himli, and that it's just about as linear and even a concept as their meandering and contradictory conversations. Visually, the film moves at the same undulating pace as the picaresque narrative: just as you think you've got the rhythm of the film down, it's over. The central question of belonging is fully conceived: this film is thoughtfully written, photographed and edited. Pewshi is among a handful of young Black experimental filmmakers associated with the London Film-Maker's Co-op (Alia and Tanya Syed, Sogand Bahram, and Pier Wilkie are some of the others) who are making innovative and unpredictable films around issues of race and subjectivity. Like Dewshi, they are concerned with aesthetic and formal as well as political and cultural problems. And they are coming up with some sophisticated answers offered often, as in this film, with humour and pleasure—and without the hair shirt.