The Host, dir. Miranda Pennell, United Kingdom 2015, DCP, 59 minutes 11 seconds, colour/B&W, 16:9, stereo
Filmmaker and visual artist Miranda Pennell will present her latest film The Host and discuss the archival research that went into the making of it. She will show some archive films about Iran sponsored by British Petroleum – Persian Story (1952), Full Circle (1954), Oil: The Two-Way Benefit (1970) – and she will discuss oil narratives and the cultural politics of oil with Mika Minio-Paluello (researcher at Platform, co-author of The Oil Road) and Morad Montazami (research-curator for the Middle East and North Africa, Tate Modern, supported by Iran Heritage Foundation).
“While investigating her late parents’ involvement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP), filmmaker Miranda Pennell came across the letters of a petroleum geologist in Iran in the 1930s, who would later embark on a search for the origins of civilisation. Setting out on its own exploration to decipher signs from the fragmented images buried in the BP archive, The Host interweaves stories drawn from both personal memory and from the records of an imperial history. Pennell’s immensely compelling film is about the stories we tell, the facts and fictions we live by – and their consequences.” (Independent Cinema Office)
Peter Taylor, 2016 Rotterdam International Film Festival:
“The seven things I know about Iranian oil” that opens Miranda Pennell’s film cut a sharp swathe through our knowledge of British colonial history in Iran. The Host is much more than this, however. It’s a film that benefits from Pennell’s deep immersion in British Petroleum’s archives, where ancient geologies are mapped out amongst stunning photographs of mid-twentieth-century oil fields. What these images leave out tells just as much as what they endeavour to represent. Family histories, Polaroids, table settings and science fiction begin bubbling to the surface as Pennell looks over the shoulders of her mother and father as they try to make sense of their own experiences in pre-revolutionary Iran. The Host becomes ever more sticky a tale, animating a twentieth-century colonial encounter which resonates through to the present day.
This event is organised in collaboration with the Independent Cinema Office, with support from Birkbeck School of Arts.
With thanks to the British Film Institute.