figure/GROUND – 6:20m., © 1991
"figure/GROUND" is an examination of the
transformative moment between a hostage
and his captor when these distinctions
become blurred. Through fictional narrative and
visual metaphor the viewer is asked to consider
the loss of humanity when individuals are used
as pawns in a larger political arena.
voice over script:
Until this moment, the man he faced he saw
as a terrorist. Until now, this man was the
enemy, his actions inexcusable. He looked
at this man with contempt through the eyes
of a hostage. Until now, there was a fundamental
difference between them. Until now, the man
he faced was in control. Now things had changed.
Now, as he licks the sweat from his upper lip,
He catches sight of the sweat drenched shirt of his
captor. Until now, he hadn't noticed this.
The captor turns his back to the hostages and adjusts
the noise of the radio. As the taste of salt fills his
mouth, as he stares at the darkened shirt of the man
at the radio, it occurs to the hostage that some
fundamental has changed. Now he sees him
differently. In fact, now he realizes that he identifies
more with this man's ideology than with what he
perceives to be his own, or at least that of his
Now he knows why they are here.
At this moment he is filled with an urgency to tell
this man what he is feeling. At this moment, he
overhears a voice on the radio, the taste in his
mouth neutralizing. The site they are occupying has
been targeted for an air strike by his own country's
airforce and will be destroyed within minutes.
Now things have changed.
Now he is expendable.
Now control is out of the hands of his captor.
At this moment, his captor slowly turns from the
radio and faces him. Then, with dignity, he
announces that as an act of protest, his last act,
he will execute the hostages; an act of defiance to
recover control of his own destiny; an act both
futile and necessary.
Now the hostage is paralyzed.
Not as much with the thought of his own death,
but more with the thought that his motives might be
mistaken and dismissed as a desperate attempt
to save his own life. This renders him silent,
his hopes for a genuine exchange gone.
The taste of salt, a memory.
Now they are at an impasse.
In these few remaining seconds he considers what
will become of him and what will survive this
moment. Suddenly it is important someone else
know what he believes to be true. It becomes clear
that his captor's act, as well as the thoughts in his
own head, will go unnoticed in light of the greater
destruction at hand. What will survive this exchange
will not be his reconciliation, but the spectacle of
power. What will be noted will not be the desperation
in this room but merely another punctuation in the
historical record assigned a time and a place;
the victory of one, the massacre of another.
In these terms an effective anesthesia.
The man he sees is a victim through a victim's eyes.