'Territory': the other dispute over Gibraltar

Par Tënk & Mediapart

Gibralter, the British-ruled territory on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, is home to a human population of about 30,000, but also several hundred Barbary macaques, the only wild monkeys to be found in Europe, who regularly descend from the wild reserve of the Rock to jump and scurry around the densely-populated town underneath. Humans and monkeys live a tense relationship, fought with peashooters and guile, for the monkeys are blissfully unbound by - and mocking of - human notions of territory, as illustrated in this award-winning short documentary, Territory, by Eleanor Mortimer.

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They have lived on the famous Rock that dominates Gibralter since well before the British arrived there three centuries ago, but the more than 200 wild Barbary macaques, who originally came from North Africa, are having a hard time of cohabiting with their human neighbours. Their incursions into the streets of Gibralter’s town are met with peashooter-armed municipal staff whose job is to chase them back up into the wild reserve on the mountain, but the humans are often made a monkey of by the growing population of macaques.

In this 17-minute video entitled "Territory" and shot by British director Eleanor Mortimer, the conflict is portrayed from the monkeys’ angle, prompting questions about our definitions of territory through the underlying comedy of a man-versus-monkey game of hide-and-seek, but which ends on a sobering note: deportation.

“I was drawn to Gibraltar because of the strange notion of British territory in the Mediterranean - territories and borders always interest me,” explained Mortimer in an interview with video-sharing website Vimeo. “On my first visit to the rock I came across a monkey, strutting along an old fortress wall, looking down at people below. That was when the film was born in my head - with that image: walls and a monkey. What if I could explore this idea of ownership of land through the eyes of monkeys?”

“Then I started researching and found that this group of monkeys had an amazing history of tenacity on the rock, and that half of them were due to be ‘removed’ because of their daily visits into town. They don’t give a damn about our rules and walls! From that moment there was no way I wasn’t going to make this film.”

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"Territory": United Kingdom, 2014. Length: 17’47. Shot and directed by Eleanor Mortimer. Editor: Nina Rac. Produced by Jacob Thomas and the National Film and Television School (NFTS).

This video is presented by Mediapart in partnership with the online video platform Tënk, one of a series of films showcased by Mediapart every two weeks. Also currently available in the series is Uzu by Gaspard Kuentz.

Tënk is an online video platform whose contents are available through subscription (6 euros per month, 60 euros per year). It was launched in the summer of 2016 and offers subscibers ten new documentaries every week, presented by theme, including the environment, politics, the arts, festivals, and major interviews on different issues.

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