A screening room for programming about media arts, activism, and mediated experience


The Neighbor Before The House

A film program with Shaina Anand about surveillance systems, critical documentary filmmaking, and community participation

Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Politics / Economics
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Center for Experimental Ethnography

Contributing Institutions

Cinema and Media Studies, Price Lab for Digital Humanities


Nikhil Anand

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce The Neighbor Before The House, a film program on Tuesday, September 24, 2019 from 4-6pm about surveillance systems, critical documentary filmmaking, and community participation. The event will begin at 4pm with Shaina Anand (CAMP) introducing the film and their practice around documentary images, surveillance, subjectivity and distribution, followed by a special screening of Al Jaar Qabla Al Daar (The Neighbor Before the House) (60 min, 2011). This will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Shaina Anand (CAMP) and Deborah A. Thomas about the film. The program is free and open to the public, and is presented with the Center for Experimental Ethnography, the Cinema and Media Studies, and the Price Lab for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Neighbor Before the House is a series of video probes by CAMP (Shaina Anand, Ashok Sukumaran, and Nida Ghouse, with Mahmoud Jiddah, Shereen Barakat, and Mahasen Nasser-Eldin) into the landscape of East Jerusalem. The film centers on Eight Palestinian families who use their TV screens to look out into their neighborhood. Shot with a PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) CCTV security camera mounted on the rooftops of their homes, these images show the before and after of instrumental "surveillance."

Instead of bearing witness in the usual way, these families control the cameras from their homes, a voice finds an image, an image is probed beneath its surface, and thoughts withdraw or rebound, as Palestinians evaluate the nature of their distance from others. They observe nearby archeological digs, their homes, the West Bank barrier, both near and far settlement activity, and other seemingly mundane aspects of the relentless occupation of East Jerusalem. Inquisitiveness, jest, memory, desire, and doubt pervades the project of watching. At other times, narrative spills out first and the live camera operator seeks an image that might provide evidence. The project, produced with the support of Al Mamal Foundation for Contemporary Art, unfolded over a month in neighborhoods and homes in the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah, and Silwan, and in other areas of Greater Jerusalem, including Beit Hanina and Azariyah. It was made possible without permission from the Israeli state, and by re-orienting both operational images and subject-positions of citizens.

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Shaina Anand is a filmmaker and artist who has been working independently in film and video since 2001, and since 2007 as CAMP, a Mumbai-based studio for transdisciplinary media practices, which she co-founded with Ashok Sukumaran. CAMP's provocative, ethnographic work in video and film, electronic media and public art forms over the past decade have shown how deep technical experimentation and artistic form can meet while extracting new qualities and experiences from contemporary life and materials.

Their artistic work has been exhibited internationally, including at film venues such as the Flaherty seminar, the BFI London Film Festival, the Viennale and Anthology Film Archives, and in art contexts such as the Biennials of Liverpool, Sharjah, Kochi-Muziris, Gwangju, Taipei and Shanghai, the Tate Modern, MoMA and Ars Electronica, Documenta 13 in Kassel and Kabul, the Kiemena project at Documenta 14, and the 2017 edition of the Skulptur Projekte Münster.

From their home base in Chuim village, Mumbai they run the online archives https://Pad.ma and https://Indiancine.ma, and the community space R and R, among other activities including their long-running rooftop cinema. Shaina is also founding trustee of The Indian Cinema Foundation and curator of THE NEW MEDIUM, at the Mumbai Film Festival.

Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography. She is the author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Entanglement, Witnessing, Repair (forthcoming).

"Al Jaar Qabla Al Daar (The Neighbor Before the House) sets out to reverse engineer the neighborhood as a machine for self-monitoring and surveillance, one that normally turns contingency into consistency and the visible into the sensible.

Here the neighborhood can only be encountered through a technological device that produces closeness and remoteness, which would otherwise remain entirely abstract."

-- Florian Schneider