Your guide to the elephant graveyard

Sanctuary - Carlos Casas

It is only in our imaginations that old elephants distance themselves from the herd at the end of their lives to die alone in an elephant graveyard, but that did not stop Catalonian filmmaker and visual artist Carlos Casas from going in search of them anyway.

There is no scientific evidence to substantiate the existence of places where old elephants go when they feel that death is near, but the idea still fascinates us. In Sanctuary, Carlos Casas drops his audience right in the middle of a journey through the dark jungle, on the way to an elephant graveyard. He has incorporated images and sounds from the impenetrable region in a combination of documentary and sound art that stimulates all your cognitive and sensory faculties. The Kunstenfestivaldesarts has had to programme an extra screening of Sanctuary. At Cinematek, Casas is presenting the film that inspired him to go in search of the legendary elephant graveyards. It was not The Lion King but Tarzan the Ape Man, which dates from 1932. That film by W.S. Van Dyke, starring the swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller in the scarcely clad title role, ends at an elephant graveyard.

Cinematek is taking advantage of Casas’s visit to Brussels to screen his film work, which blends documentary and experimental cinema. Casas finds people who brave extreme circumstances in the most remote areas. The contemplative Patagonian Fieldworks takes you to Fireland, one of the least populated and most remote regions in the world. Aral. Fishing in an Invisible Sea and Aral Fieldworks were filmed amongst the fishermen on the Aral Sea, which separates Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Soviet plan to use the water of the Aral Sea to irrigate cotton plantations resulted in a horrific ecological disaster. The Aral Sea is drying up and the last fishermen have to travel very far to find any fish. The (probably vain) hope that the lake will return one day is what keeps them in their native villages, detached from the world. Casas disturbs the synchronicity between image and sound by recording the radio waves at the filming locations and making a soundtrack with them. Who said that cinema in the 21st century can no longer be adventurous?

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