Khonsay: Poem of Many Tongues


Bob Holman
2015 | 15 minutes | U.S.A.
Director in Attendance 

Both a celebration of the world’s languages and a call to action to preserve global linguistic diversity, Khonsay is a unique document: a motion poem written in 50 endangered languages, from Yiddish to Nuer (South Sudan) and Adnyamathanha (Australia). Compiled by the poet and activist Bob Holman, who calls it “a cento in film,” the work is tour de force of poetic styles and cinematic techniques, and its effect is at once delightful, melancholic, and mesmerizing.

Co-presented by the Endangered Language Alliance and City Lore

Plays with Bering. Balance and Resistance

Thresholds, My Perspective

Film is the art of our time; poetry is the art of the ages. Making a poetry film – not just a film about poetry, but a film that is a poem – illuminates the borderless nature of the arts, how all arts meet at a place that is the heart of being human. This idea is expressed in Khonsay's multilinguality – each language so different, each culture unique, but all joined in a single poem. If it weren't for the borders between these mutually unintelligible languages, the essence of our project would be lost. And the loss of any language is a loss to us all, a diminution of the planet’s collective consciousness. Linguists estimate that half the languages on our planet will disappear this century. In Khonsay, we criss-cross all borders to get the word out – and what better way to do that than through film?

- Bob Holman | Director, Khonsay: Poem of Many Tongues