Scenes of Extraction
Official competition                   

Scenes of Extraction

Sanaz Sohrabi

Scenes of Extraction creates an archival constellation with the still and moving images of British Petroleum Archives, documenting the expansive colonial network behind the British energy complex that spanned across Iran, but also reached other British oil operations in South East Asia. It 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. “Scenes of Extraction” unpacks the relationship between the political economy of photography, archival technologies, and the visual history of resource extraction in Iran.


«Over the past five years, I have been researching the early geological surveys and seismic mappings that were done extensively in the South Western provinces of Iran wherein the majority of the oil fields were discovered and developed in the onset of the 20th century. Photographs, films, and magazines used in “Scenes of Extraction” are drawn from the British Petroleum’s film library and photographic collections along with my personal archive gathered over a meticulous 5 year-long archival research process. As a filmmaker and researcher working at the intersection of documentary media practice and visual arts research, this film is guided by the archive as a conceptual prism, material object, and imaginative practice. I examine the archival temporalities and evidentiary aesthetics enmeshed in the ethnographic photography practices in the early colonial explorations of oil in Iran. In doing so, I consider the archive as a portal to an elsewhere and to an elsewhen, wherein the archival material are both the evidence and the crime scene. “Scenes of Extraction” further navigates the archive as a modality and threshold to develop tactical, speculative and experimental artistic strategies to refuse, animate, and disavow the orientation of time and space in the colonial episteme.»

— Sanaz Sohrabi










Origin of archival materials

British Petroleum Archive


Sanaz Sohrabi


Sanaz Sohrabi


Sanaz Sohrabi


Showan Tavakol, Chris Leon

Director’s biography

Sanaz Sohrabi is an Iranian researcher of visual culture and filmmaker. She works with essay film and installation as her means of research to explore the shifting and migratory paths between still and moving images, situating a singular image in a continuum of historical relations and archival temporalities.  Sohrabi’s works have been shown widely in exhibitions and festivals, including Berlinale Forum Expanded, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Iran Cinéma Vérité Festival, IndieLisboa and others.