All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes

Done with an experimental mix of clips from across the spectrum of visual media, All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes looks at how light, and the control of light in public spaces, is a weapon of police and state control.

Immediate thoughts were of the feature All Light, Everywhere, from earlier in the festival, and how complementary this is to its themes. But where All Light, Everywhere focuses on photography and videography, All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes focuses on public lighting, like street lighting, floodlights, and using electricity to control what can and can’t be seen by the public and by the police. It’s really interesting, because public lighting is not something I’ve ever given much thought to. It’s just there. Like, pavement and roads. But like everything else, it’s political, where it is and why it is.

The film opens with these beautiful shots of whales sleeping lying upright in the sea. Over this image of stillness, peace, and freedom in this open expanse, comes narration of how whale oil was harvested for lamps in the 19th century. In direct contrast to the harmony of the image, the narrator says, “Whalemen turned creatures of darkness, these God-spited vicious monsters, into the sources of light.”

The analogy doesn’t have to be taken any further. Later in the film we see whale lamps burning, and 19th century police lamps, which could be used to illuminate the patrolled neighbourhood, or be covered to plunge it back into darkness. The rest of the film is full of examples of police invading communities to use force against their vilified inhabitants, in the name of producing civilising results.

A central thread of recurring footage is from the filmmaker’s own Lebanon, where corruption and kleptocracy has led to a shutdown of the national grid, leaving people in total darkness. In the protests that followed, government repression was swift. And you see the same images from protests the world over, protestors holding up their mobile phones like a light in the dark, multiplied across a sea of people. As the police and tanks roll in, you get green laser pens shining at them, and fireworks kicked in their direction.

Meanwhile we all know the iconic images of police use of light and darkness, the torch shone in the face of a suspect, a bright lamp use during an interrogation, a pitch black cell. But the film goes further, making us see that it’s not simply the moments of action, but the status quo which is highly politicised. Where street lighting goes, who gets it, and what it’s for are all decisions that are made by those in power to serve their own interests, long before an innocuous street lamp is turned on in your neighbourhood. Lights that watch you back is like the stuff from rejected Twilight Zone ideas, but smart lights are increasingly being brought in under the guise of being energy saving. Making them seem benign through greenwashing, these lights are monitoring the spaces they are put in for activity, and reacting accordingly.

The title is from a clip of a woman speaking from her hospital bed. She says, “We do not scare nor do we cower. All of your stars are but dust on my shoes. To that dog of Brigadier General, to that deposed Minister for the Interior, we will take our revenge with our own hands.” Like a fucking badass. While this film might be about the structures of control and repression, it is named for these words of defiance, and the inextinguishable spirit of those who fight it.