This work was developed over four years (2015 -2019) through a variety of practice modalities. Lewin wrote, edited, cast and directed the film and oversaw every element of production; hiring the predominantly female crew, costume and set design, sound design and mixing and the grading of the film for the highest production values. Lewin gave careful consideration to the dissemination of the work. She designed the installation to extend the film into the gallery, utilizing lighting and sound and elements of the films' sets to guide the viewer through the space in which they become part of an expanded frame.
Reserve for an output with double weighting
The film ‘Fez: The Royal Scent’ is the output, supported by a gallery exhibition and monograph. ‘Fez’ completes Lewin’s trilogy of film installations ‘More Than Stories’, the culmination of 12 years of practice-based research. Bringing an autoethnographic lens to Lewin’s own family histories as they interweave with larger historical narratives of displacement, ‘Fez’ responds to Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’ and his reminder of the “conflict of narrative, history and imagination” to open questions of historical context, narrative and place.
The research investigates the fragility of storytelling and the responsibility of representation through allowing multiple references into a narrative structure entangled in imagination and historical evidence, unable to be contained by a singular viewpoint. Shot in Arabic, French, Polish and English, reflecting the multilingual Jewish immigrant society of 1920s Cairo, the film explores identities which are malleable and in translation, reinvented and reperformed.
Sets for the film are reconstructions of actual places and photographs or perfume bottles are offered as objects which might signify proof but the viewer can never be certain if they are viewing a family heirloom, an archival photograph or a constructed film prop. Mediating devices such as the revealing of the film set and the recurrent presence of the director as an off-screen voice are foregrounded so that the construction of the narrative questions itself as it unfolds.
The installation of ‘Fez’ in the gallery further explores the motif of exposing the edges of the narrative by installing aspects of the film sets such that the audience is not fully separate from the screen and can sit or move within elements of the Cairo viewed in the film.
Lewin’s monograph, ‘More Than Stories’, illuminates the research processes used to develop the work, along with parts of the script, storyboards, references utilized and production stills of the film shoot.