The Halfmoon Files
“There once was a man. This man came into the European war. Germany captured this man. He wishes to return to India. If God has mercy, he will make peace soon. This man will go away from here.”
Mall Singh’s crackling words are heard as he spoke into the phonographic funnel on 11th December 1916 in the city of Wünsdorf, near Berlin.
90 years later, Mall Singh is a number on an old Shellac record in an archive - one amongst hundreds of voices of colonial soldiers of the First World War. The recordings were produced as the result of an unique alliance between the military, the scientific community and the entertainment industry. In his experimental search “The Halfmoon Files”, Philip Scheffner follows the traces of these voices to the origin of their recording. Like a memory game - which remains incomplete right until the end - he uncovers pictures and sounds that revive the ghosts of the past. His protagonists’ words intersect along the concentric spirals the story follows. Those who pressed the record button on the phonographs, on photo and film cameras, were the ones to write official history.
Mall Singh and the other prisoners of war of the Halfmoon Camp disappeared from this story. Their spirits and ghostly appearances seem to play with the filmmaker, to ambush him. They pursue him on his path, to bring their voices back to their home countries. Yet the story of these ghosts escapes the control of the narrator. And the ghosts do not disperse.
“When a person dies, he constantly roams about and becomes a ghost. It is the soul that roames about. The roaming soul is like air. So a ghost is like air. It can go everywhere.”
(Bhawan Singh, Wünsdorf 1917 / 2007)
Philip Scheffner, DE 2007, 87 min