There Was an Unseen Cloud Moving

1988, 61:17 min, b&w and color, sound

There was an Unseen Cloud Moving is part documentary, part personal meditation. The piece is the first in a series of Thornton's projects that focus on the life and work of Isabelle Eberhardt, an explorer who died in 1904 in Algeria while traveling in the Maghreb disguised as a man, and who recounted her journeys in journals published after her death. Thornton composes a collage of theatrical and filmic representations of Eberhardt, including archival photographs and footage, press documents, extracts from Eberhardt's journals, and voiceover narration by Thornton. Scenes from Julien Duvivier's Pépé le Moko punctuate the biography, adding a fictional dimension to the representations. The complex editing, rife with repetitions and digressions, reveals and critiques the univocal nature of historical and biographical narratives. Simultaneously, Thornton considers the role of women as explorers throughout history and investigates her own relationship to these heroines as well as the means by which identity is narrativized by oneself and by others.

Written, directed, shot, and edited by: Leslie Thornton. Isabelles: Su Friedrich, Lisa Yashon, Kathleen Lynch, Kate Doyle. Other Isabelles: Karima Bennoune, Brooke Dammkoehler, Lisa Guay. Moslems Praying: Alex Calingaert, Susan Warren. Trophimovsky, Tom Zummer. Man in Cafe: Hraztan Zeitlian. Outdoor Lover: Michael Vachon. Victorian Woman: Susan Warren. Husband: Alfonso Aparicio. Commentator: Lisa Guay. Lyautey: Doyle Avant. Original Music: Oriental Stars. Thank you: Tom Zummer, Linda Peckham, Jack Mello, Holly Cahow, and Brown Media Services, Karina Bennoune, Brodsky and Treadway, Ruth Cutler, Brooke Dammkoehler, Su Friedrich, Steve Fagin, Robert Horvitz, Bernice Reynaud, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Trinh Minh-ha, Ellen Zweig.


Observatory: Bayley Ledes. Stage: Sarah Boyd. Typing/Interview: David Koosis. Tea Party: Lisa Kors. Suicide Well: Lisa Guay. Garden, Highway, and Death: Noel Wiggins.

This Project was funded by grants from the Jerome Foundation, NEA Interarts and Art Matters.

For T2