Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 21, 2024

'Spaces of Exception' Resistance to the Fat Takers, from Native Lands to Palestine


(Above) Spaces of Exception, screenshots by Censored News.

'Spaces of Exception' Resistance to the Fat Takers, from Native Lands to Palestine

Places defined by their historical and spiritual resistance

By Brenda Norrell, Censored News, Feb. 21, 2024

"We might be the ones holding the knife -- but it is the state that is the one who is still killing us." Those are the words of Klee Benally, in 'Spaces of Exception."

"In the Navajo language, there is no word for relocation, it means to disappear and never be seen again."

The film, 'Spaces of Exception,' now being shown around the world, begins on Pine Ridge, with the history of the resistance to the 'fat takers,' and travels to the refugee camps of Palestine, before arriving at the land of Akwesasne Mohawk, and the words shared of true sovereignty.

Then, there are the images of the oil and gas, the fracking, and coal mining on the Navajo Nation, where Dine' say the true literacy once known, talking with the natural world, is being lost. Now, there is the destruction of the burial and sacred places, as asthma takes over lives.

"Our sheep eat it," says a Dine' farmer, who is worried about what is now in the food where the waste of oil and gas wells is strewn in the Four Corners region. "We don't know what we are eating."

On Black Mesa, before he passed, Klee championed his relatives resisting forced relocation brought by Peabody Coal.

"Their greatest form of resistance is being who they are."

"The autonomy that we have is here."

'Places of Exception,' begins with scenes from Wounded Knee 1973, and Palestine refugee camps, and the words, 'Places defined by their historical and spiritual resistance.' 

"The buffalo owns us, we don't own the buffalo," says Alex White Plume, Oglala Lakota on Pine Ridge, sharing the importance of language, and the stories carried by the words, and the impacts of genocide.

"The buffalo shares the same story we share."

The film series, 'The Native and the Refugee' began on Pine Ridge with, "We Love Being Lakota." The latest film, 'Spaces of Exception,' concludes with the image of the flags at Oceti Sakowin Water Protectors Camp on Standing Rock.

Among those in the series of films are Debra White Plume, who talks about the 'Fat Takers,' and Olowan Sara Martinez, Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, now in the Spirit World. Their bold stance as defenders of the water and people was manifest at the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock, during the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Spaces of Exception comes out of the long-term multimedia project “The Native and the Refugee”, profiling Native lands in the United States alongside Palestinian refugee camps, and is directed by Matt Peterson and Malek Rasamny.

Spaces of Exception filmmaker Malek Rasamny said:

After Spaces of Exception’s sold-out theatrical premiere run at the historic Anthology Film Archives in New York City in October 2023 the film will embark on a world-tour of cinemas, art institutions, universities and community centers.

Spaces of Exception is a documentary film that profiles the terrains of the Indian reservation and the Palestinian refugee camp, “spaces of exception” that have become essential in the struggle for decolonization and indigenous autonomy.

Shot between 2014 to 2017, Spaces of Exception observes and juxtaposes the communities and struggles of the American Indian reservation and the Palestinian refugee camp.

It visits reservations in Arizona, New Mexico, New York, and South Dakota, as well camps in Lebanon and the West Bank, “places defined by their historical and spiritual resistance” in order to “understand the conditions for life, community, and sovereignty.”

While the histories are distinct, dispossession and loss unite these communities in solidarity, and the alternating stories highlight both their unique tragedies and their revolutionary commonalities. Mostly eschewing archival footage, Spaces of Exception showcases the present, in which each day lived is itself an act of resistance.

Since its run at Anthology, the film has been shown in Amman, Jordan; at McGill University in Montreal; at the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton, NJ; at La Cueva in Mexico City; the NoMüNoMü gallery in Baltimore, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Twelve Gates Arts in Philadelphia, Konsthall C in Stockholm, Barzakh in Beirut, Cambridge and Oxford University and at the opening of the Artefact Festival at STUK in Leuven, Belgium.

Additionally the Native and the Refugee project has also been presented at e-flux, ArteEast, Sharjah Arts Foundation and Sursock Museum as well as at other universities such as Harvard, Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley. There are upcoming showings scheduled at arts venues and universities in Akwesasne, Buffalo, Gothenburg, Los Angeles, Malmö, New York, Oslo, Paris and Portland with more to be announced soon.


– Enacting Solidarity, From the West Bank to the American West – Dina Ramadan, 2024:

–Spaces of Exception - Caitlin Quinlan, 2023:

“We are, thank God, like the mountains,” says an elderly man from the Balata refugee camp. “Never shook by the wind.”

–Spaces of Exception - A.M. Gittlitz, 2023:

–“In conversation with Kareem Estefan” (e-flux):

–“‘The Native and the Refugee’ Shares Narratives of Resistance” (Andreas Petrossiants, Frieze):

Spaces of Exception comes out of the long-term multimedia project The Native and the Refugee. The project has resulted in more than a dozen short films, a book, radio program, writings and numerous lectures and workshops. The Native and the Refugee project has been presented in Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, England, France, Guatemala, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Portugal, Syria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, within the refugee camps and reservations were the film was shot, and at venues including cinemas, museums, and universities.

Matt Peterson is an organizer at Woodbine, an experimental space in New York City. He previously directed the documentary feature Scenes from a Revolt Sustained (2015), and co-edited the books In the Name of the People (2018) and The Reservoir (2022).

Malek Rasamny is a documentary filmmaker, researcher and writer. He is currently working on a doctoral research project at Paris Nanterre University concerning the social phenomenon of reincarnation within the Druze community of Lebanon.

No comments: