Passports and life-saving documents slip like play money through the hands of unscrupulous string-pullers and corrupt border officials.
People are moved around like chess pieces. Not only do impenetrable clouds issue from steam locomotives and aeroplanes, but a thick haze of smoke hangs
around the noses of those in transit who wait in fear and who are the objects of business and merciless games. Dar-el-Beida intensifies the threatening
clutches of an omnipresent power which lies in wait for refugees in train stations, waiting rooms, police stations, embassies and offices.
In a short but insistent re-working of picture and sound material from Curtiz’ Casablanca, Tim Sharp has produced figurative
and acoustic threads in which unease reigns as the subtext of the narrative. The repetitive structure and occasional disassociation of sound and picture
parades powerlessness before the eyes of cinematic figures, the key to which is listening and being seen.
While Casablanca has much to do with male power and friendships, propaganda morality
and adventure, Dar-el-Beida concerns
the harried feelings of being a refugee/outsider, the experiences of those in the background of the Hollywood film. They exist in an atmosphere of threat,
always on the move but never getting anywhere; their identity is violated and their nationality arbitrarily changed. In short they are the powerless,
dependent on chance, corruption or sexual favours to save them. In Dar-el-Beida (the Latinised Arab name for Casablanca), Bogie asks, “do you want
my advice?” His
cynical answer (in Casablanca) is the unspoken reality of Dar el-Beida.