"I knew and admired the films of Pasolini, but the one that absolutely enchanted me was his 1970 feature-length documentary Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana (Notes for an African Orestes), which I saw in 2003. In it, Pasolini documents his preparations for a planned but never completed film version of the Oresteia set in Africa. Probably the most eloquent sequence is the one in which Pasolini invites African students in Rome to a large auditorium where he explains to them what he wants to do and why he thinks the only authentic setting for this bloody political family tragedy today (i.e., the 1970s) is in Africa, where there are still states fighting for independence, for the right to determine which direction their countries will take. He then asks the students what they think of his idea. After a painstakingly polite start to the discussion, the African students destroy Pasolini’s notion of Africa and his interpretation of the play. All of a sudden they start talking about an African society that is faced by a nearly insurmountable mountain of problems. I was shocked when I saw Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana in 2003, thirty-three years after it was made. The African students in that nameless Roman classroom described all of the problems African states are still dealing with today and probably will still be dealing with for generations to come. That was the first lesson I took from it: nothing going on in Africa today would have been any surprise to Africans in 1970. The second lesson, however, was an even bigger one. Pasolini listened attentively, answering their questions, and when it was clear the African students had reshaped his vision, he posed a question to them: How do you think this subject should be filmed, and is it even possible? Pasolini took his audience as an equal partner. To this day, the intelligence of that creative debate remains unsurpassed. I had never seen anything like it before, and I fear I never will again. Creative intelligence, defined as absolute openness to other points of view, no longer exists today. All we do is shout over each other. Listening is a vanished art. We haven’t listened for ages. Which is probably why in my weaker moments I believe the emotional insight, intelligence, and precision in describing society attained by cinema in the 1960s will never be surpassed, let alone equaled."
- by Tomáš Zmeškal and translated by Alex Zucker here