‘Like the Iranian oil workers who haunt Pennell, this is a film that refuses to get back in its box.’ Sukhdev Sandhu, Sight & Sound
This remarkable debut feature asks chilling questions about the power of photos to control the fate of nations. While investigating her late parents’ involvement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP), filmmaker Miranda Pennell came across the letters of a petroleum geologist in Iran in the 1930s, who would later embark on a search for the origins of civilisation.
Setting out on its own exploration to decipher signs from the fragmented images buried in the BP archive, The Host interweaves stories drawn from both personal memory and from the records of an imperial history. This latest work from award-winning visual artist Miranda Pennell (Why Colonel Bunny Was Killed) casts a mesmerising spell, using only narration, still photography and soundscapes to raise unsettling questions about the stories we tell, the facts and fictions we live by - and their consequences.
The film was premiered at London Film Festival and internationally at International Film Festival Rotterdam.
"My father had joined the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1946 and our family had lived in Iran during two separate postings. The starting point for The Host was a disorderly mass of materials drawn from BP’s visual archive documenting the company’s origins in Iran.
I was interested in the role of BP and the British government in Iran’s traumatic 20th century. It became apparent that the intersection of an Imperial history and a personal history would provide a way to ground the abstractions of big historical events through living memory and the particularity of personal experience - albeit via the experiences and testimony of the colonisers.