Sarah Wood

28 August – 31 August

For Cultural Purposes Only

2009, 8’16″

Courtesy Animate Projects and Sarah Wood.



In an age dominated by the moving image what would it feel like to never see an image of the place that you came from?

The Palestinian Film Archive contained over 100 films showing the daily life and struggle of the Palestinian people. It was lost in the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982. Here interviewees describe from memory key moments from the history of Palestinian cinema. These scenes are drawn and animated. Where film survives, the artist’s impressions are corroborated.

“When you say to someone ‘you’re history’ it doesn’t mean that you’re part of it; it means that you’re obliterated. That’s what history means.” From For Cultural Purposes Only.



*Dazed Digital: Why ‘For Cultural Purposes Only’?
Sarah Wood: ‘For cultural purposes only, no commercial value’ is the phrase that is written on customs forms when films prints are sent internationally. The declaration is intended to speed a film’s journey through the customs process. Some time ago, I came across an article that the filmmaker Annemarie Jacir had written about her experience of curating a festival of Palestinian film in New York. In the article she talked about the practicalities of curating, and the difficulties of physically getting material across the world to screen in the US. Films sent from Palestine were simply going missing in transit. One film lost in the post might seem like a mistake but after a little detective work she realised films that she was certain had been sent from Palestine weren’t making it through Israeli customs. She realised that what singled the missing films out was their customs declaration. Instead of being something that facilitated movement, the simple statement ‘for cultural purposes only’ was being read and used as a means of gauging the content of the package and preventing their movement out of the country. I was very struck by this story, not only for the inhibition of the movement of art but also the added layer of meaning that the phrase had gathered. One of the striking things about the conflict between Israel and Palestine is the use of language by both sides to blur understanding and control the narrative of the conflict. I’m thinking, for instance, of the use by Israeli officialdom of ‘targeted killing’ to mean an assassination, or the use of ‘martyr’ by Palestinians to describe the same event. Both are euphemisms, both are used to control the effect of the act. Seeing the phrases ‘for cultural purposes only’ reinterpreted in this conflict made me question how hard it would be to create any art in the context of this double-think…”

The full interview can be read here.

Courtesy Dazed Digital.



“I am an artist who works with found footage, making films from other people’s films – an act of reclamation and reinterpretation. In the west, this footage is ubiquitous. It wouldn’t be hard for me, for instance, to find an image of the place I come from to show to a stranger; I just have to know where to look. So imagine what it would be like if every image of 1960s London, or of pre-war France, or Soviet Russia, vanished overnight. Imagine there was no footage of your home town. In an age dominated by the moving image, how would that vanishing act make you feel?…”

The full article can be read here.

Courtesy The Guardian.



I’m sitting indoors, looking out of the window at the whited-out world. A sudden snowfall has shocked Britain to a standstill. Everyone’s complaining. Trains don’t work, buses don’t work, things are going wrong. Commentators are scandalized on television as it’s revealed that Britain is running out of salt to grit the roads. More salt will have to be mined! Standstill!

Outside the snow world looks still and calm. Sound is muffled by the snow. Outside sounds like a thud. The language of TV panic seems entirely at odds with this stillness.

It’s only a few weeks ago since I watched Tzipi Livni announce on TV that Israel was to ‘change the reality’ of Gaza. As suddenly as this snowfall altered Britain, the lives and landscape of Gaza were altered by military action. Reality was ‘changed’. The snow has now nudged Gaza off the headlines. TV landscape has been whited out too.

The full update can be read here

Courtesy Animate Projects.



Sarah Wood has been working for the last ten years in film. Her latest film projects have all been an exploration into ideas of the archive using found footage. I Want To Be A Secretary won best film at the Halloween Film Festival 2007, The Book of Love (2008) tours with a live soundtrack performed by the Exploits of Elaine and most recently The Angel of History (2008) (a collaboration with Jersey Film Archive) played in the Jersey War Tunnels with live soundtrack performed by Zan Lyons, as part of the first Brancharge Film Festival. Sarah is currently in development for Swingin’ Dors a video piece about Diana Dors and the British studio system.



The Angel Of History, 2008
The Book Of Love, 2008
I Want To Be A Secretary, 2006
Surrender, 2005
Manifesto For Love, 2003
Living Space, 2003



Sarah Wood’s Website

Dazed Digital Interview 

Little White Lies interview

Sight & Sound article 

Animate interview

Animate – For Cultural Purposes Only film page 



A film by Sarah Wood

Illustration – Woodrow Phoenix

Animation – Kate Anderson

Photography  -Ruanne Abou-Rahme

Cartography – Simon Deeves

Soundtrack – Basel Abbas

Editor  -Lucy Harris

Research – Kate Daniels

Camera – Campbell

Online Editor – Sue Giovanni

Sound Andy Coles

Extract from Children Nevertheless © Khadijeh Habashneh

Extract from Far From the Homeland © Kais Al-Zubaidi

Extract from Leaving Jerusalem by Railway (Louis Lumiere, 1897), Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, (

Extract from Screen Traveller: Damscus and Jerusalem (1926), Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, (

Text – Mustafa Abu Ali, Palestinian Cinema Group Manifesto, Edward Said

Title – Courtesy of Annemarie Jacir taken from her essay of the same name

Executive Producers Jacqui Davies & Gary Thomas

Thank you:
Mustafa Abu Ali, Abigail Addison, Sonia Bridge, Nick Denes, Nicky Haire, Bridget Hannigan, Shadia Nasralla, Idit Nathan, On Sight, Judy Price, Ali Smith





Carroll / Fletcher would like to thank Abigail Addison and Animate Projects for their collaboration in the programming of this season of films


Sarah Wood, still from For Cultural Purposes Only (2009), image © Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Sarah Wood, still from For Cultural Purposes Only (2009), image © Ruanne Abou-Rahme