The Possibility of Spirits

From the Series: The Screening Room

Photo by Mattijs Van de Port.

A barely perceptible breeze brushes through quivering feathers adorning a statue. For a fleeting moment, one has the sensation that the statue has come alive. Van de Port plays with this juxtaposition between stillness and movement as he meditates on the possibility of spirits, and how best to welcome the unseen but felt into the frame. “My camera won’t make spirits available to you,” he warns, and yet one is left with a lingering sense of enchantment. An ant carries a leaf many times its size over an urban wall, graffitied with leaves—have the painted leaves come alive? A pocket of air caught in a white sheet as it is wrung out suggests an unknown presence. A pile of fresh leaves is transformed into green feathers of a spirit by the same name. The film as visual essay centers on the Candomblé religious practices in Bahia, Brazil—thesis and image are set into motion. Possibility of Spirits is filmed and narrated by Van de Port who proceeds in a reflexive and self-deprecating mode, ever questioning himself, the anthropologist, as to why he has framed a shot in a certain way, why he has pursued one aspect over another, and if he is capable of knowing spirits at all. “I don’t know what it is that I’m filming,” he confesses. Yet one is left with the sense that perhaps the camera knows something that Van de Port has not yet discovered.

The Possibility of Spirits from JAF on Vimeo.

The Possibility of Spirits, 71 min (2016)


We thank Mattijs Van de Port for granting us the opportunity for the film's redistribution, Richard Baxstrom for his close engagement and review of the film, and Laura LeVon for creating an invitation for how to begin discussing the film.

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