Cause of Death

Jyoti Mistry

South Africa,Austria
Screening format
Shown in Compétition #5.



Women’s bodies are always at risk. An autopsy report describes the physical impact on the body that results in death but hides the structural and recurrent violence on women’s bodies that leads to femicide. Through archival film footage, animation and spoken word poetry an experience of structural violence against women is exposed. (Berlinale catalogue 2020)

Text from the selection committee

The use of found-footage, the reappropriation of images from archives or the Internet is one of the cardinal approaches of the contemporary experimental. Today, it is no longer a question - or not mostly - of revisiting the history of cinema as Matthias Müller or Bill Morrison, among others, did, but of provoking socio-cultural criticism based on the images themselves, based on the pieces of conviction themselves (the images). Cause of Death brings together and assembles a plethora of images (in black and white) from the most heterogeneous sources to (de)show us, with the evidence of the visual as proof, a vast unconscious whose very engine is driven by the “programmed destruction of women”. Enslaved African women, workers of the beginning of the 20th Century in the West, hanged women… a lugubrious and very graphic lethal symphony emanates from this film which is as anguishing as it is thought-provoking.

Translation made by the translator

– R.B.

Critical text

Crushbeatdrownhangburn. Femicide. “Starting point for Cause of Death: Looking at the way in which images of women were marginalised historically in the archive or how they were depicted.” (Jyoti Mistry).

The file card of an anonymous autopsy report documents violent attacks as the Cause of death. Jyoti Mistry constructs five miniature vignettes to the rhythm of evocative spoken word poetry by Napo Masheane, accompanied by an extremely incompatible collection of archival bits and pieces from the EYE-Filmmuseum –­ ethnographic film footage, chorus-line films, and physical culture films. Femicide, witch hunts, stonings. Disciplined and undisciplined bodies, cheerful and exuberant and careful and anonymous. Visual spectacles and impertinence intertwine in an uninterrupted stream of loops and accelerations, circular and collective dance movements, girl group ornaments. Sketchy markings and check marks on the images evoke characteristic and discriminatory power. Flashes or embedded x-rays of skeletal structures that appear among treated and mistreated bodies, accompanied by blows, breaking sounds, clattering stones. Intense gazes into the camera convey pride and broken pride, expectations and the presence of profound experience. Deep scars … Anonymus was once a girl … when nameless unknown anonymous dies …

“The woman with a curious and peering-look on her face at the end of the film is one I find haunting. She is an every-woman in a way and yet she is distinctive and her stare straight into the camera is arresting because she demands to be seen.” (Jyoti Mistry).

– Madeleine Bernstorff