Sanaz Sohrabi: Scenes of Extraction, Essay Film
Scenes of Extraction, Original title in Farsi: صحنه های استخراج , ”Sahnehaye Estekhraj,” Essay Film, 43 minutes, DCP with 5.1 sound, Canada/Iran, 2023
Between 1901 and 1951, the British controlled oil operations in Iran expanded their geological expeditions and geophysical methods for locating commercially viable oil reserves across its entire oil concession. “Scenes of Extraction” takes the viewer on an archival stroll into the British Petroleum Archives to unearth the still and moving images that documented this expansive colonial network of geological explorations that spanned across Iran, but also reached other British oil concessions in Papua and South East Asia. The film traces the technical and social entanglement between the infrastructures of oil and the camera during the operations of British Petroleum across the Iranian oil belt. “Scenes of Extraction” weaves through decades of archival documents to parse out the visual history of the “Reflection Seismography” method for oil exploration which was heavily tested across the Iranian oil belt despite its destructive and probable nature. A technical legacy that is still heavily utilized in fracking and deep-sea mining enterprises globally and is the backbone of the global energy complex.
“Scenes of Extraction” focuses on the parallel production of geological and ethnographic surveys, both through amateur geological footage and official film surveys produced by BP. Situated at the nexus between science and technology studies and media archaeology, the film creates an archival constellation with previously unseen images and film footage taken during these seismographic tests. “Scenes of Extraction” creates CGI maps and spatial renderings by inputting the early geological aerial survey photographs and panorama films taken across the Iranian oil concession in an AI software. By blending the archival and speculative modes of representing the geological past, the film reveals the gaps and discrepancies between the archival and lived histories of extraction and the ecological ruination of its aftermath. Reading the political economy of images in relation to extraction of crude oil, “Scenes of Extraction” evokes the history of imperial and colonial extractive industries in relation to the history of photography and archives, both as embodied technologies of extraction and dispossession in and of themselves.
Scenes of Extraction is the second episode of a trilogy of essay films that unpack the relationship between political economy of photography, archival technologies, and visual history of resource extraction in Iran. The first episode is "One Image, Two Acts" (2020) which has been screened in over two dozen film festivals and has won seven awards since its World premiere at Montréal International Documentary Film Festival in November 2020.
Scenes of Extraction is a film commission by VOX Centre de l'image contemporaine, Montréal.