people sitting in a theater

Photo: Tom Little

58th Carnegie International
Film Festival

Curated by Rasha Salti
March 3-12, 2023

Screenings at Row House Cinema:
General admission: $12.57, plus fees
4115 Butler Street, Pittsburgh

Screenings at Carnegie Museum of Art:
Free with museum admission

Expanding on ideas from Is it morning for you yet?, the 58th Carnegie International, this film festival spans cinema from Central America as well as Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Lebanon, France and the US. Organized by acclaimed curator of visual arts and film Rasha Salti, the program both foregrounds individual voices and expressions while considering shared or collective structures of experience. Amid a landscape of revolution, uprising, and struggles for liberation, these films oscillate between “morning” and “night”—between the emergence of utopic struggles and the descent into dystopic times. Taken together, these films resist surrendering to regimes of invisibility, silence, or forgetting. In many ways drawn from the geopolitics of the Cold War, these filmmakers write versions of history that challenge the impunity of the victors, confront imperial powers with the legacies of their devastation, and forge their own paths for repair.

Films are being screened at Row House Cinema and Carnegie Museum of Art in a festival format.

Viewer discretion is advised. These films may contain mature themes and depictions of violence.

The Films

El Inmortal (The Immortal)

Directed by Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez (Nicaragua/Mexico/Spain, 2005, 78 minutes)
Language: Spanish
Sunday, March 5 at 8 p.m.
Thursday, March 9 at 9 p.m.
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The Immortal tells the story of the Rivera family, torn apart by war in Nicaragua and trapped in the crossfire between the Sandinistas and the Contras. After their home is burned down by the Contras and several members of the family are kidnapped, the Riveras remain separated until the war’s end. Their reunion exposes the open wounds left by the conflict, as well as by poverty, religion, patriarchal tensions and all that continues to tear apart the fabric of Nicaraguan society.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

Palabras mágicas (para romper un encantamiento) (Magic Words to Break a Spell)

Directed by Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez (Mexico/Guatemala/Nicaragua, 2012, 82 min)
Language: Spanish
Saturday, March 4 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 at 6 p.m.
Thursday, March 9 at 7 p.m.
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Lake Managua holds tremendous significance for Nicaraguans. It is where the ashes of revolutionary Augusto Sandino were thrown after his assassination and also where Managua’s sewage drains. It is polluted and stagnant. Narrated in the first person, Magic Words to Break a Spell blends archival footage with dazzling imagery of the landscape to delve into filmmaker Mercedes Moncada’s take on the history of Nicaragua: the brutality of the Somoza dictatorship, the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, and the corruption and demagoguery of those that betrayed the revolution. Lake Managua remains stuck in a state of unresolved suspension, a metaphor for the rotten legacy of corrupt regimes that have marked the modern history of Nicaragua and which have left the public without explanation or closure since the war’s end.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

El Silencio de Neto (The Silence of Neto)

Directed by Luis Argueta (Guatemala/Colombia, 1994, 106 minutes)
Language: Spanish
Saturday, March 4 at 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 at 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m.
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The Silence of Neto is set in the six months that followed the CIA-staged coup that overthrew Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán in 1954. As a nation loses its innocence, an asthmatic 12-year-old boy, Neto Yepes (Óscar Javier Almengor), begins to discover his identity and sexuality while navigating love, death, and fraught family dynamics. When Neto’s friends discover a machine gun near a dead body, an atmosphere of silence and tension sets in, dissipating only when Neto’s Uncle Ernesto rebels, urging him to break the silence in order to breathe.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

Les Années 68 (Sixty-Eight: Ten Years that Shook the World)

Directed by Don Kent (France/Germany, 2018, Color/B&W, 180 minutes)
Language: French
Tuesday, March 7 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 11 at 2:45 p.m.
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In 1968 a wave of student protests broke out across the world. Drawing inspiration and breath from the Civil Rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War, the youth rose to reject the social, political, and cultural premises of the world as it had been recreated following the Second World War. Through protest they aspired for a new society and aired their criticism of the established way of life, deemed colonial and authoritarian, fixed and hierarchical, liberticidal and moralizing. How do we look at this global movement fifty years later? What could be this bygone era’s legacy, its resonances? The recent uprisings in the streets of major cities (Paris, London, Rome, Dakar, San Francisco, Beirut, etc.) are countless, so much so that the little Parisian May of 1968 seems almost anecdotal. Imbued with the fever of the decade, this film revisits this moment of global change and tells the story of the euphoria, rush, and violence of these years when everything seemed possible, and whose legacy still divides people.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

Kharej al-Itar (Off-Frame AKA Revolution Until Victory)

Directed by Mohanad Yaqubi (Palestine/France/Qatar/Lebanon, 2016, 62 minutes)
Languages: Arabic, French, English, Italian
Sunday, March 12 at 1 p.m.

After the Nakba of Palestine in 1948, Palestinians were portrayed as victims packed into refugee camps, dependent on relief from international organizations. The Palestinian revolution of 1965 enabled men and women to take both their destiny and their image into their own hands, transforming from assisted refugees into freedom fighters. The Palestinian struggle joined worldwide anti-imperialist liberation movements, and the camera became a weapon for those who could pass invisibly. A group of photographers and filmmakers established the Palestine Film Unit within the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), forging from their offices in Lebanon links with militant filmmakers internationally and with institutions in East Berlin, Moscow, Baghdad, and Cuba. During the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982 the material they had collected was destroyed. Off Frame considers how a young filmmaker looks at these images today. It sews together sequences from films found scattered in archives worldwide, in which fiction borders on propaganda and fantasy borders on reality, capturing or highlighting what is outside, or “off” frame. Yaqubi refrains from commenting on these images, leaving space for spectators to feel and extract their own meaning.

Screening at Carnegie Museum of Art.

El lugar màs pequeño (The Tiniest Place)

Directed by Tatiana Huezo Sanchez (El Salvador/Mexico, 2011, 104 minutes)
Language: Spanish
Wednesday, March 8 at 9 p.m.
Friday, March 10 at 7 p.m.
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It was during a visit to the church in her grandmother’s native village in Cinquera, El Salvador that Tatiana Huezo was inspired to make a film about the legacy of the civil war that tore the country apart from 1979 to 1991. Decorating the church’s walls were emblems of that history: pieces of a combat helicopter and portraits of young villagers who were killed. From here the call to war was launched. In this marvelously edited film, Huezo captures the civil war’s legacies, bringing together footage of the village, survivors, and surrounding mountains, forests, and caves, collecting memories of enduring, witnessing, and surviving.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

The Lebanese Rocket Society: The Strange Tale of the Lebanese Space Race

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon/France/Qatar, 2012, Color/B&W, 93 minutes)
Language: Arabic
Monday, March 6 at 9:10 p.m.
Watch Trailer

In the early 1960s in Lebanon, Manoug Manougian, a professor of mathematics at Haigazian University, and his students designed and launched rockets for the study and exploration of space. The program began mobilizing other researchers and soon the Lebanese Rocket Society was born. After the program fell under control of the Lebanese Army, state financing enabled their rocket designs to be continually improved and tested. Despite its success, the Lebanese Rocket Society stopped operating suddenly in 1967, and the ambitious scientific project vanished from collective memory. Structured in two parts, the film relays the Lebanese Rocket Society’s astonishing story in its first chapter, and in its second, follows the filmmakers as they try to reconstruct one of the rockets as a sculpture—one ominously resembling a missile, in a region teetering on the brink of conflict.

Screening at Row House Cinema.


Directed by Guillermo Escalon (El Salvador/Canada, 1994, 110 minutes)
Language: Spanish
Monday, March 6 at 7 p.m.
Tuesday, March 7 at 5:45 p.m.

In Suchitoto, a village in El Salvador, Alejandro Cotto (1927-2015) celebrates his 63rd birthday while the youth celebrate the end of the country’s nightmarish civil war. Cotto, a pioneer of Salvadoran cinema, is convinced of his great talent, although he has only directed a few films in his life. In Alejandro, Cotto speaks to Director Guillermo Escalón about cinema in the name of Third World artists who wrestle with a paucity of means and sometimes invent imaginary worlds to ward off depression and sadness. Cotto recounts not only the greatness and misery of his career, but also the horror of war, the fate of his village, and the path of his dreams. After all, it takes a big dreamer like him to envision making “great cinema” in a village. Escalón uses excerpts from Cotto’s films extensively, demonstrating the versatility of his filmography, including his last film, Universo menor (begun in 1979 and still unfinished) in which he captured the popular rural festivals of El Salvador, a subject of great passion.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

The Inheritance

Directed by Ephraim Asili (USA, 2020, 100 minutes)
Language: English
Friday, March 3 at 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 at 8:45 p.m.
Saturday, March 11 at 9 p.m.
Watch Trailer

For his feature-length film debut, director, writer, and editor Ephraim Asili drew inspiration from his own life experience as a member of the radical Black group MOVE, directing an impressive ensemble piece almost entirely set in one West Philadelphia house. Described alternately as a “speculative re-enactment” or an experimental hybrid genre that blends scripted drama with archival news footage, voice-overs, and interviews, The Inheritance could not be a timelier work. It reflects on the process of building radical grassroots political movements with intelligence and heart. MOVE was the victim of a notorious and tragic police bombing in 1985.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

Just a Movement (Juste un movement)

Directed by Vincent Meessen (France/Belgium, 2020, Color, 108 minutes)
Languages: French, Wolof, Mandarin
Friday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 at 12 p.m.
Saturday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Watch Trailer

On May 11, 1973, a voice in Dakar cried out, “Omar is dead!” Omar Blondin Diop, a young militant philosopher whom Jean-Luc Godard had cast in La Chinoise (1967) as an articulate Maoist, was said to have committed suicide in his Gorée Island prison cell. His family and friends don’t believe a word and demand to know the truth of this political crime. Just a Movement is a free reprise of La Chinoise that reimagines its characters fifty years later in Dakar and updates its plot, centering Omar Blondin Diop as the key character. A meditation on politics, justice, and memory, Director Vincent Meessen oscillates between documentary and filmed essay to question the Senegal of yesterday and today, and the not-so-subtle neo-imperialism of a China that uses education and culture as forms of soft power.

Screening at Row House Cinema.

Qabla Zahf el-Zhalam (Before the Dying of the Light)

Directed by Ali Essafi (Morocco/France, 2020, Color/B&W, 70 minutes)
Language: Arabic
Saturday, March 4 at 7 p.m. (at Row House Cinema)
Sunday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. (at Carnegie Museum of Art)

Weaving together a collage of rare posters, magazine covers, archival footage, and graphic novels, Before the Dying of the Light looks back to the artistic scene of 1970s Morocco, giving voice to its artists and protagonists. Culling footage from About Some Meaningless Events, an experimental film by Mostafa Derkaoui that had been censored in 1974, in which a group of young filmmakers explore the role new Moroccan cinema should play in society, the film revives the counterculture of resistance that arose from Marxist student movements and envisioned cinema as a means of politicizing the public. Dedicated to victims of censorship and oppression, Before the Dying of the Light employs riotously edited fragments and evokes a time of excitement about the future, before it was extinguished under the repressive rule of King Hassan II.

Screening at Row House Cinema and Carnegie Museum of Art.

About the Curator

Rasha Salti is an independent film and visual arts curator and writer, working and living between Paris and Berlin. She has co-curated several film programs including Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s until Now, with Jytte Jensen (2010-2012), showcased at MoMA, New York; The Calm Before the Storm (2009) and The Road to Damascus (2006-2008) (both with Richard Peña). Salti has collaborated with different festivals as a programmer, including the Toronto International Film Festival (2011-2015) and Abu Dhabi International Film Festival (2009-2010). She has also curated film programs for the Musée Jeu de Paume, Paris (2012, 2013, and 2015) and Tate Modern, London (2011). She co-curated Past Disquiet: Narratives and Ghosts from the Exhibition of International Art for Palestine (Beirut, 1978), Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona (2015), and Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin (2016) with Kristine Khouri; Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2015) with Koyo Kouoh; and the 10th edition of the Sharjah Biennial for the Arts (2011). She was a founding board member of the Network of Arab Alternative Screens. Currently, she is the commissioning editor for La Lucarne, the experimental documentary program for Arte France.

About the Directors

Ali Essafi

ALI ESSAFI studied Psychology in France. His directorial debut titled General, Here We Come! (Général, nous voilà!)(1997), a documentary about Moroccan veterans in the French army, was awarded the Special Jury Award at the Namur Film Festival. His films include The Silence of the Beet Fields (Le Silence des champs de betteraves) (1998), Ouarzazate the Movie (2001), Cheikhates Blues (2004), Wanted (2011), and Crossing the Seventh Gate (Ubur al-Bab al-Sabe‘h) (2017). He moved back to Morocco in 2002 and worked as an advisor to the Moroccan public television channel for three years before returning to film directing in 2009.

Ben Salma

BEN SALAMA is an author and filmmaker, who studied filmmaking at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques (IDHEC) in 1973. He was born in Algeria but settled in France from the age of 20. He has written several books, including Au Nom de l’Islam: Enquête sur une religion instrumentalisée (2009), and directed several documentary films, such as Une Histoire algérienne (2012), 1954, la fin d’un monde (2013), and Nasser du rêve au désastre (2016).

Don Kent
DON KENT is a Scottish film director with a long career directing films for television. He gained recognition for directing Metallica’s last live video, Français pour une nuit, in the Nîmes arena in 2009. He has directed numerous recordings of shows at the Comédie-Française. His filmography includes Goodbye Britain? (2016); Juste avant l’orage (2013); Ballade pour une reine (2011); Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui—Rêves de Babel (2009); Jirí Kylián—Mémoires d’oubliettes (2008); Les Enfants de l’Opéra de Pékin (2007); Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (2006); Bill. T. Jones (2004); Kabuki- La voie du geste (2003); Jeff Buckley (1999); Pierre Bourdieu (1998); and Salut polar… (1985).

Ephraim Asili
EPHRAIM ASILI is a filmmaker, deejay, and radio host whose focus is the African diaspora as a cultural force. His films have screened in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and Ann Arbor Film Festival where he received the Most Promising Filmmaker Prize. He has served as instructor and technical director at Bard College and at the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia.

Guillermo Escalón
GUILLERMO ESCALÓN is a Salvadoran filmmaker living and working in Canada. He directed his documentary Guatemala, dos religiones in 1973 and collaborated with Baltazar Polío as cameraman for the film Topiltzín (1975). In 1980, he worked as a cameraman in the film Morazán, where he committed to record the genesis of the first Central American guerrilla fighters. The film won the main prize at the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary & Animated Film. After that, Escalón established a production team with Manuel Sorto, called Zero to the Left, that joined the System Radio Venceremos to help with the production of films for the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) (Revolutionary Army of the People). He directed Carta de Morazán (1982) and Tiempo de audacia (1983), a narrative feature film about US support of the Salvadoran army. When peace was made in El Salvador, he committed his efforts to rescuing the country’s film heritage and created the documentary Alejandro (1993), which used film by Alejandro Cotto that he restored which had been discovered in rusted cans at the Apollo movie theater in San Salvador. Since 1998, Escalón has worked on several Brazilian, Guatemalan, and Italian co-productions as a cinematographer, director, and producer. His filmography includes The Illuminated of the Volcano (2002), What Sebastian Dreamed (2001), Le pays hanté (2000), Princess (1999), Miguel Angel of Asturias (1999), Antonio et Hélène (1999), In the Company of Fear (1998), Ixcan (1998), Alexander (1993), and The Decision to Win (1981).

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige

JOANA HADJITHOMAS and KHALIL JOREIGE are Lebanese filmmakers and artists, who have directed several films together and created numerous photo and video installations shown in museums, biennials, and art centers around the world. They are also university teachers, board members of Metropolis Cinema, and co-founders of Abbout Productions (with Georges Schoucair). Their films have received international critical acclaim and won several awards. They include Al Bayt el Zaher (Around the Pink House)(1999), El Film el Mafkoud (The Lost Film)(2003), A Perfect Day (2005), Je veux voir (I Want to See)(2008), Khiam 2000- 2007(2008), and Memory Box(2021).

Luis Argueta

LUIS ARGUETA is a Guatemalan-American film director and producer whose work has been focused on transnational immigrant stories since 1977. His feature film, The Silence of Neto was the first Guatemalan film met with international acclaim. His film series on immigration (abUSed: The Postville Raid; Abrazos; and The U Turn, 2010) valorized the true human face of immigrants, their resilience as a community, and celebrated the contributions immigrants have brought to American society. Argueta produced and directed Collect Call (2002), and Los orígenes del silencio (2005), a documentary about the 20 years leading up to the production of The Silence of Neto.

Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez
MERCEDES MONCADA RODRÍGUEZ was born in 1972 in Seville to Spanish and Nicaraguan parents. She has lived in Spain, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Mexico. After studying sociology, she worked as a researcher. From 1996 to 2001, she worked as a producer of advertising, documentary, and feature films. In 2003, she made her first full-length documentary film, La pasión de María Elena. El Inmortal is her second film.

Mohanad Yaqubi

MOHANAD YAQUBI is a filmmaker, producer, and one of the founders of Idioms Film. Yaqubi is also one of the founders of the research and curatorial collective Subversive Films as well and a resident researcher at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Gent, Belgium. Yaqubi’s first feature film Off Frame AKA Revolution Until Victory (2016) made its premieres at TIFF, Berlinale, Cinema du Reel, Dubai IFF, and Yamagata, he is presently finishing his second feature essay non-fiction film, The Tokyo Reels.

Tatiana Huezo Sánchez

TATIANA HUEZO SÁNCHEZ is a Salvadorian-Mexican filmmaker who graduated from the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica in Mexico. She earned a graduate degree at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Her first feature, El lugar más pequeño premiered in 2011, traveling to 50 international film festivals and winning several international awards. Her second feature, Tempestad (2016), also a festival success and award winner, depicted a Mexican women unjustly accused of human trafficking and another woman searching for her missing daughter. Her third film Noche de fuego (Prayers for the Stolen), a narrative feature, premiered at Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section in 2021.

Vincent Meessen
VINCENT MEESSEN is a visual artist and filmmaker whose artistic and filmic frameworks interrogate narratives of history, colonial legacies, and the westernization of imaginaries. Meessen uses procedures of collaboration that emphasize the intelligence of collectives. His films have been screened at numerous museums and art centers including Centre Pompidou (Paris), HKW (Berlin), MUMOK (Vienna), Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid), and in film festivals including IFFR (Rotterdam), IDFA (Amsterdam), FID (Marseille) and FESPACO (Ouagadougou). Main solo exhibitions have taken place in Montreal, Toronto, Paris, Basel, Brussels, Bordeaux, Mexico, Amsterdam. Meessen represented Belgium at the 56th Venice Biennale with Personne et les autres, a group show with ten invited artists from four continents. He is a member of Jubilee-platform for research and artistic production.

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