Transit, 2005

Filming or taking pictures in transit areas between Egypt and Gaza is forbidden. The lack of images due to this fact is underlined in this video by the editing: still images hurriedly taken, irregularly punctuated with blank spaces (blacks), appear as a slide show, the only sound dimension is the noise of the slide projector. As a conclusion, a unique sequence in movement (in slow-motion). Transit, made in September 2004, deals with the conditions of the difficult, or even the impossible mobility of Palestinians nowadays.

Indeed, in recent years, especially since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2001, Rafah is the only way to enter or leave the country. From the arrival at the airport of Cairo, men traveling alone, not allowed to move in Egypt, are taken from the passengers and kept under surveillance in basement of the airport until morning, departure time of an escorted bus to the Palestinian “border” under Egyptian and Israeli control. After almost six hours, Palestinians join men, women (of all ages) and children who wait already in Rafah. As Israeli forces arbitrarily limit the number of entries per day, passengers crowd on Egyptian side of the border. So then begins the waiting which can last a day to weeks sometimes… Conditions in this earth port are difficult especially during summer (heat, tiredness, humiliation, precarious conditions of hygiene…)

Transit is part of a reflection I have led since 1997 on notions of involuntary or voluntary displacements and travels. I am especially interested in the state of in-between: in-between identities, in-between cultures as in the pieces called Untitled (suitcase(s) and sand, 1998), or Travelling window (1999). As another example, Departure (2003) is a slow camera recording of the jerky movement of a ferry loaded with passengers. Appearing and disappearing, from and within a white saturated background, without any point of reference for departure or any destination other than the sound of the sea, the passengers’ blurry figures float in the middle of nothing. Their life is suspended as if they were meditating, uncertain about their origines and future. The video Transit consists in a work of counter-information about a city at the border of Israel, Palestine and Egypt. Rafah, unknown to the global media, hits the local headlines daily. Unauthorized video-maker, passenger among passengers, I distinguish myself from a reporter because I do not represent any government or ideology. The fixed images clumsily framed which slowly follow one another and where nothing happens except the wait of the passengers, are also in contradiction with the spectular events hunted down by the mass media emissaries. Nonetheless, I try to document a current issue from the inside: the life of Palestinians (and others) who try every day to cross a border sealed by the power of a military control.

                                Taysir Batniji, January 2005