Behind the Scenes

Jasmina Cibic — The Gift

31 October 2022

For this Artpost, artist Jasmina Cibic takes us behind the scenes of filming her major three-channel film The Gift (2021). The Gift is part of the exhibition Jasmina Cibic: Charm Offensive, which opened at Dunedin Public Art Gallery on Saturday 29 October.



Filming The Gift involved gaining access to locations which had highly specific conditions of entry but all of which were seminal for the film’s conceptual premise – as they all needed to be architectures gifted with ideas of transnational solidarity. Hence the film continued to have, throughout its production, a level of fear of losing any of them. The first location we filmed at was Oscar Niemeyer’s French Communist Party headquarters PCF in Paris – with a challenging shooting schedule and the most extreme heat that hit Europe that summer. The shoot was superb, but our train on the return did get stuck on the melted tracks of Brexit Britain.



The scene dedicated to the Diplomat’s speech was filmed inside the Palace of Nations in Geneva. This site consistently echoes – within all of its interior decoration, design and art – past case studies of European colonial drive. It is a vast edifice which we needed to cover within a single shooting day. Until the actual day of the shoot, we were not sure if we would have the access to all the spaces that we wanted, or any at all, as the UN continuously holds impromptu meetings that need to deal with the ongoing political and diplomatic crises. We considered ourselves lucky to only have to navigate around tour groups being given access that day. This room is the former World Disarmament Conference room – a gift from Spain in the 1930s when the Palace of Nations was built. The gilded titans of patriarchal power stand as starch reminders of the cyclical nature of history and its nationalistic turns.



The final scene was to be filmed at Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria. As with the other locations, Buzludzha also had a high conceptual specificity as it was the architecture that created the visual link between Niemeyer’s PCF in Paris – pristine and filled with all that utopian potential – and its almost literal-formal-repetition embodied in the derelict dome of the building that was a gift from the citizens of Bulgaria to its Communist Party. We needed a winter scene and we just about managed to fly in before all international borders were shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic. What we did not know was that the top of Buzludzha was one of the windiest parts of the country and filming with a drone in what proved to be arctic wind conditions ended up being the most challenging part of the film.



As the pandemic brought a stop to most international film productions, The Gift followed suit. As soon as borders opened up, we flew to Warsaw to complete the last scene – which is effectively the opening scene of the film. Though due to persistent travel issues, Covid tests and quarantine for some of the crew, we had to reinvent the project and work with local cast and crew in Poland. We were incredibly lucky with the casting of the three young divers, who had to look like potential daughters of the three main characters of the film (the Engineer, Artist and Diplomat) and at the same time be able to dive from the highest platform. As the crew and cast were waiting at the parking lot with a mobile van doing Covid tests, we all just closed our eyes and crossed all fingers and toes we would all be able to walk onto that set…Jasmina Cibic 2022

[images: Jasmina Cibic The Gift 2021, three channel UHD video, 5.1 sound (film still). Courtesy of the artist. Co-commissioned and co-produced by macLYON, FLAMIN - Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (with funding from Arts Council England) and steirischer herbst ’19 and co-produced with Waddington Studios London. Supported by Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Cooper Gallery DJCAD, University of Dundee; Northern Film School; UGM Maribor Art Gallery; Museum of Yugoslavia; United Nations Geneva; Espace Niemeyer and Palace of Youth, Warsaw.]

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