DISSENT ! Abbas Fahdel

homeland

11 June 2016 13:00 Bozar Cinema Brussels. In collaboration with Cinemaximiliaan.

Screening of Homeland: Iraq Year Zero (2015, 334’), followed by a conversation with Abbas Fahdel. Please note that this film will be screened with a 30-minute intermission between Part 1 (Before the Fall) and Part 2 (After the Battle). The conversation will start around 19:00.

“En tant que cinéaste, je pense que le plus important se résume en deux mots : « regarder » et « garder »… J’ai regardé quasiment tous les documentaires irakiens. Le documentaire, c’est quoi ? On interviewe les personnalités qui sont impliquées dans la guerre irakienne : ex-ministre, ambassadeur… Ils racontent des choses, c’est vrai, mais ça ne nous apprend rien sur l’Irak, sur la vie en Irak et le quotidien. Ma démarche est complètement différente de celle d’un documentariste. Je veux montrer ce qui se passe vraiment là-bas, sans commentaire et sans voix off.”

“With this film I wanted to give a face to the Iraqi people,” says Abbas Fahdel about his most recent film, the magnificent Homeland: Iraq Year Zero. What does it mean to give a face to a people? How can cinema accomplish this trying task? Twenty-five years ago, while commenting on the coverage of the Persian Gulf War, Serge Daney remarked that one crucial element was missing: the eyes of the other. This was a conflict, he argued, that was basically a face-off between two ways of not making an image, as both camps pulled back to their own “visual,” consisting of nothing but a calculated flow of clichés and stereotypes which no longer testify to anything “other.” Shots without reverse shot, visualizations without information, winners without losers: nothing but an optical verification of power. In this sphere of pure signalization, nothing resists any longer.

Were things any different when, eight years later, the “coalition of the willing” decided to invade Iraq? Did we get see, here in “the West”, anything else but current event reports that participated in the installment of a palpable sense of insecurity and inevitability, anything else but non-stop non-information expressing the urgency of an invisible threat and the necessity of a calculated response? It’s not that there were no images, it’s that the images we saw were all too often anticipated by their meaning, reduced to illustrations of the words of those who decide which images are valuable and claim the authority to explain what they mean, trapping them in slogans, headlines, captions. It’s that most of these images were already part and parcel of the ubiquitous rhetoric that staged the righteousness of those avengers who waged war against the axis of evil in the name of infinite justice, a war that has cast a whole part of the world in a terrible chaos whose dreadful consequences are still with us. What was missing, what remains missing, are the faces and voices of those who are often spoken about, without being given the space to speak for themselves. Here lies the greatness of Homeland: in giving us to see so much of what is missing, in making us experience how the other is the same, bearing the same capacities of speaking and listening, but also how the same is itself other, always engaged in the measure of distance.

Measuring the distances and proximities between here and there, between now and then: this task might have also been what has led Abbas Fahdel to make the film. Born in Babylon, he moved to Paris at the end of the 1980s, when the war between Iraq and Iran was still raging, to study cinema at the Sorbonne (where one of his tutors was Serge Daney). It was only in February 2002 that he returned to Iraq to capture everyday life as his country prepared for war. Working clandestinely, he zeroed in on the intimate lives, daily activities and domestic conversations of his friends and family members, in particular his 12-year-old nephew, Haider, who would become the heart and motor of the film. A few days after Abbas Fahdel had returned to Paris, the war broke out, on 20 March 2013. When he managed to go back to Iraq a few weeks later, Baghdad had already fallen and hope for change for the better was quickly fainting. Against the grain, he went on filming the struggle for existence amidst turmoil and ruination, an endeavor which came to a tragic end when Haidar was killed by a stray bullet. Saddened by this violent loss, it took the filmmaker ten years to be able to watch the images that he had made and eventually make them into a film. After the work of mourning came the work of memory. The task of testifying to the lived reality of a past that continues to rumble in our present. The responsibility of bearing witness to the recent history of a country whose markers of memory have been systematically demolished. The quest to give the people of Iraq something other than the abstract and reductive identities that have been assigned to them: to give them a face of their own, a face that dazzles in all its persistence and resistance. For this and so much more, Homeland is not only praiseworthy: it is necessary.

DISSENT ! is an initiative of Argos, Auguste Orts and Courtisane, in the framework of the research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent), with support of VG.

About DISSENT!

How can the relation between cinema and politics be thought today? Between a cinema of politics and a politics of cinema, between politics as subject and as practice, between form and content? From Vertov’s cinematographic communism to the Dardenne brothers’ social realism, from Straub-Huillet’s Brechtian dialectics to the aesthetic-emancipatory figures of Pedro Costa, from Guy Debord’s radical anti-cinema to the mainstream pamphlets of Oliver Stone, the quest for cinematographic representations of political resistance has taken many different forms and strategies over the course of a century. The multiple choices and pathways that have gradually been adopted, constantly clash with the relationship between theory and practice, representation and action, awareness and mobilization, experience and change. Is cinema today regaining some of its old forces and promises? Are we once again confronted with the questions that Serge Daney asked a few decades ago? As the French film critic wrote: “How can political statements be presented cinematographically? And how can they be made positive?”. These issues are central in a series of conversations in which contemporary perspectives on the relationship between cinema and politics are explored.

Figures of Dissent : Pere Portabella

Informe-General-2

5 May & 12 May 2016 20:30, KASKcinema, Gent. Presented by courtisane.

5 May: Informe General (1976, color, Spanish, Catalan and Basque spoken with English subs, 154’)
12 May: Informe General II. El nuevo rapto de Europa (2015, Spanish, Catalan and Basque spoken with English subs, 126’)

“Politics is inseparable from cinema, in a very obvious way. Even a Doris Day comedy has an ideological charge to do with morals, ethics, behaviour… Rather than lock myself in an ivory tower and peek out only rarely, I jumped into the street right from the start. That’s what you need to do if you really want to get involved and question social codes in a context of change. Codes affect everything.”

For over five decades, Catalan filmmaker Pere Portabella (°1929) has ranked among the most important protagonists of Spanish cinema. He began his career in cinema as the producer of Carlos Saura’s Los Golfos (1959) and Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana (1961), the latter of which was awarded with the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but banned by the Spanish authorities under the Franco dictatorship. After having his passport confiscated as punishment for his involvement in the film’s production, Portabella started to search for ways of making cinema independently, outside of the government controlled system of production and distribution. This led him to explore the possibilities of a film language that would be able to at the same time reflect the political reality of his country and counter the conventionalism of an official cinema that was not prepared to go against the grain. In magnificent films such as Vampir – Cuadecuc (1970) and Umbracle (1972) Portabella set out to deconstruct cinematic myths and codes, in particular pertaining to horror and vampire films, in order to arrive at critical reflections on the monopolies of both political dictatorship and mainstream cinema. Following these investigations into the politics of representation, he went on conducting concrete examinations of the representation of politics in films such as El Sopar (1974), a clandestinely produced observation of a discussion between a group of former political prisoners. Shortly after Franco’s death, Portabella documented the last gasp of the Franquismo regime in Informe General (A General Report on Some Matters of Interest for a Public Screening, 1976), a nearly three-hour inventory of the political situation in Spain during a phase of radical change, bringing to light the debates amongst politicians, labor unionists, activists and artists that centered on one solitary question: How does one go from a dictatorship to a democratic state? The year after, Portabella was elected state senator in Spain’s first democratic election, which led to his participation in drafting the new Spanish constitution. He has also been a member of the Parliament of Catalonia and is since 2001 the president of Fundación Alternativas, a think-tank which aims to act as a channel of political, social, economic and cultural thought. These years of experience in the arenas of politics and culture have doubtlessly informed the making of Portabella’s new film, which serves as a kind of a sequel or companion piece to Informe General, closing a diptych that bridges almost forty years. This second “General Report”, subtitled The New Abduction of Europe, offers a kaleidoscopic fresco-in-motion of another time which in his view is “historic and unrepeatable”, an unhinged time when the institutional political landscape is reconfigured by a diagram of multiple open and changing nodes that respond to the profound systemic crisis that has taken a hold on Europe and beyond.

In the context of the research project “Figures of Dissent (Cinema of Politics, Politics of Cinema)”
KASK / School of Arts

DISSENT ! Kamal Aljafari

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THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED

Conversation with Kamal Aljafari, preceded by a screening of Recollection (2015, PS/DE, 70’).

28 April 2016, 20:00 Studio Skoop Gent. In the context of Eye on Palestine (22-29 April 2016, Gent).

“For many years, I have been collecting Israeli fiction films shot in Jaffa as early as 1960. These are films in which Palestinians are disappeared, yet also exist at the edge of frames, visible in traces. Preserved also is a city; alive again in moving images, its gradual destruction over the  decades chronicled film by film. From the footage of dozens of films I have excavated a whole community and recreated the city. Though out-of-focus, half-glimpsed, I have recognized childhood friends, old people I used to say good evening to as a boy; my uncle. I erased the actors, I photographed the backgrounds and the edges; and made the passersby the main characters of this film. In my film, I find my way from the sea, like in a dream. I walk everywhere, sometimes hesitant and sometimes lost. I wander through the city; I wander through the memories. I film everything I encounter because I know it no longer exists. I return to a lost time”.
– Kamal Aljafari

Elias Sanbar once said that “Palestinians have dwelled in two worlds, the world of invisibility and the world of disappearance.” How does one engage with what has already disappeared or is in the course of disappearing? How does one reclaim what is occupied, ruined, erased? How does one articulate the presence of an absence, in defiance of narratives that continue to proclaim the emptiness of a land and deny the existence of a people? For Kamal Aljafari, the space for reclaiming is cinema. In searching for what is lost, it is cinema that comes to resemble a place called “home”. It is cinema that becomes a space that allows to inhabit what is no longer there, or what is readily vanishing. The place that he aims to cinematically reclaim is the city where he grew up, Jaffa. Located in the south of Tel Aviv, Jaffa used to be the most important Arab city in Palestine during the British Mandate. In 1948, most of its houses were either evacuated or destroyed and the ancient city was incorporated within the municipality of Tel Aviv, as the Palestinian population was reduced from 80,000 to 4,000. Today, a violent process of gentrification is taking place, carrying out a systematic demolition of the remaining Palestinian houses to make room for new city developments. In order to counter this continuous undertaking of erasure of presence and identity, Aljafari has paradoxically conducted another act of erasure, on that directly intervenes in the cinematic representation of his city of birth. From dozens of films that were shot in Jaffa between the 1960s and 1990s, the majority of which excluded all Palestinians, he removed the main actors in order to give attention to the figures that have remained in the background: the ghosts and traces that testify to a presence that is declared absent, the presence of those who, as Aljafari says, have been “uprooted twice – in reality and in fiction”. In respons to Jaffa’s disappearance from both geographical and imaginary landscapes, disappearance is redeemed as an act of reemergence, an act of “cinematic justice” reclaiming the territories that have been dispossessed. Gestures of erasing and reframing become a form of recollection, one that resurrects from the landscapes of the past the very traces of an existence that was purged from them: the existence of the Palestinians.

The visit of Kamal Aljafari has been initiated by Eye on Palestine and Menarg- Middle East and North Africa Research Group. On 27 March (17:00-19:00), Kamal Aljafari will also give an Eye on Palestine Keynote Lecture in Cinema Paddenhoek, Gent.

DISSENT ! is an initiative of Argos, Auguste Orts and Courtisane, in the framework of the research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent), with support of VG.

About DISSENT!

How can the relation between cinema and politics be thought today? Between a cinema of politics and a politics of cinema, between politics as subject and as practice, between form and content? From Vertov’s cinematographic communism to the Dardenne brothers’ social realism, from Straub-Huillet’s Brechtian dialectics to the aesthetic-emancipatory figures of Pedro Costa, from Guy Debord’s radical anti-cinema to the mainstream pamphlets of Oliver Stone, the quest for cinematographic representations of political resistance has taken many different forms and strategies over the course of a century. The multiple choices and pathways that have gradually been adopted, constantly clash with the relationship between theory and practice, representation and action, awareness and mobilization, experience and change. Is cinema today regaining some of its old forces and promises? Are we once again confronted with the questions that Serge Daney asked a few decades ago? As the French film critic wrote: “How can political statements be presented cinematographically? And how can they be made positive?”. These issues are central in a series of conversations in which contemporary perspectives on the relationship between cinema and politics are explored.

DISSENT ! Charles Burnett

KILLER OF SHEEP (1977)

A conversation with Charles Burnett, preceded by a screening of Killer of Sheep (1977, 81’).

25 April 2016 20:00, STUK / Cinema Zed, Leuven.

“I think that, as I was growing up, disillusionment was inevitable. Growing up was nothing but battling dreams, hopes, expectations of what life would be. Responsibilities, also, had a lot to do with it, and the time allotted to us to do things played a part in it. I do not think that disillusionment is a bad thing. I think that you have to be able to get on your feet and make a choice—either you agree with the current trend or you don’t. You see, illusions are one thing and convictions are something else. Sometimes convictions and illusions get confused, sometimes they inform each other. Illusions and dreams may be lost, but convictions remain. I think that my convictions have been intact.”
– Charles Burnett

At the University of California in the late sixties and early seventies, at a time when the Black Muslims and Black Panthers were making their presence known on and around campus, a small group of filmmakers decided to make visible what had previously remained unseen in cinema: the experience of growing up black in America. They made films that followed neither the blaxploitation strain, with its pimps in platform shoes defying the white establishment, nor the sterile educational strands aimed at providing sociological explanations of inequality and difference. What emerged instead were cinematic portraits of everyday hardship and resistance, showing slices of life in the throes of precarity and discrimination. Of all the remarkable films that were made by this group, which was later designated as the “L.A. Rebellion” movement, one film stands apart for its captivating, timeless vision of a community finding ways to get by and live life in the dusty lots, cramped houses and concrete jungles of South Los Angeles. This film, which was made by Charles Burnett as his master’s thesis at the UCLA film school, is titled Killer of Sheep. It takes us down the corridors of everyday lives in the black ghetto of Watts, where past and future memories of riots are festering, where the brightest light seems to be coming from the shimmers of the “no way out” signs. But rather than setting out to uncover a socio-political reality that lies beyond the surface of what is present, it makes sensible what is too close up to see: the internal ghetto of emotional devastation, suffocation, exhaustion, disorientation. Desperation is always round the corner, but its looming threat is met with resilience, indicative of a capacity to escape from the slipstream of imposed realities and identities. Just like the blues lullabies that drift in and out of the frame, the film draws its strength from its oscillation between disillusionment and promise, between vulnerability and waywardness. Drawing inspiration from Jean Renoir’s The Southerner (1945) and James Agee’s Let us now Praise Famous Men (1941), Killer of Sheep manages to convey a heartfelt sense of dignity and possibility by the agency of nonprofessional actors and location shooting. Although the film was finished in 1977, it took thirty years before the music rights were cleared for commercial distribution. Since then, this tender humanist ode to urban existence is shining more brightly, and perhaps more urgently, than ever before.

In collaboration with STUK, Lieven Gevaert Centre and Hoger Instituut voor Wijsbegeerte (KU Leuven). The visit of Charles Burnett has been made possible by PlayDoc – International Documentary Festival. On 26 April Charles Burnett will also give a masterclass at KASK/School of Arts in Gent, accompanied by screenings of Several Friends (1969, 23′), The Horse (1973, 13′) and When It Rains (1995, 13′).

DISSENT ! is an initiative of Argos, Auguste Orts and Courtisane, in the framework of the research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent), with support of VG.

About DISSENT!

How can the relation between cinema and politics be thought today? Between a cinema of politics and a politics of cinema, between politics as subject and as practice, between form and content? From Vertov’s cinematographic communism to the Dardenne brothers’ social realism, from Straub-Huillet’s Brechtian dialectics to the aesthetic-emancipatory figures of Pedro Costa, from Guy Debord’s radical anti-cinema to the mainstream pamphlets of Oliver Stone, the quest for cinematographic representations of political resistance has taken many different forms and strategies over the course of a century. The multiple choices and pathways that have gradually been adopted, constantly clash with the relationship between theory and practice, representation and action, awareness and mobilization, experience and change. Is cinema today regaining some of its old forces and promises? Are we once again confronted with the questions that Serge Daney asked a few decades ago? As the French film critic wrote: “How can political statements be presented cinematographically? And how can they be made positive?”. These issues are central in a series of conversations in which contemporary perspectives on the relationship between cinema and politics are explored.

In Between Times

InBetweenTimes

In the context of the Courtisane Festival 2016 (23-27 March).

“I believe people accept there is no real alternative.” Thus spoke the Iron Lady. After the freezing Winter of Discontent came the long-awaited ‘winter of common sense’. An era is drawing to a close, she claimed, meaning that the time for foolish dreams and misguided actions was over. There were to be no more diversions from the one and only course worth pursuing: that leading to the triumph of global capitalism and liberal democracy. While those in power started to pursue vigorous reform programs of neoliberal economic policy and regressive social agendas, some of those who lost their bearings blamed the ‘bloody-minded’ commoners for having invited the ravages brought upon the dreams of another future. As the memories of struggle faded, counter-forces retreated to a defensive position, where they could merely see fit to protect the freedoms and entitlements that had been acquired with so much grit.

“Wanting to believe has taken over from believing,” a filmmaker observed. But the uncertainty did not stop filmmakers from making films, just as it didn’t stop movements from occupying the spaces that the traditional counter-forces had excluded and abandoned. Instead of holding on to the plots of historical necessity and the lures of an imagined unity, they chose to explore twilight worlds between multiple temporalities and realms of experience, situated in the wrinkles that join and disjoin past futures and future presents, memories of struggle and struggles for memory.

This program presents a selection of British films that have documented and reflected on the changing political landscape in a period that stretched from the mid-1970s to the beginning of the 1990s. At its core is the work of a filmmaker who was pivotal within Britain’s independent film community: Marc Karlin (1943-1999). He was a member of Cinema Action, one of the founders of the Berwick Street Film Collective, director of Lusia Films, and a creative force behind the group that published the film magazine Vertigo. Described by some as ‘Britain’s Chris Marker’(with whom he was befriended), he filmed his way through three decades of sea change, wrestling with the challenges of Thatcherism, the demise of industrial manufacturing, the diffusion of media and memory, the crisis of the Left and the extinguishing of revolutionary hopes.

The work by Marc Karlin and the other filmmakers in this program allows us to feel the pulse of an era of transition, whose challenges and transformations are still with us today. At the same time that the Iron Lady is being immortalized as ‘a force of nature’, while the arguments for the austerity policies that she championed are crumbling before our eyes, a time when the present is declared to be the only possible horizon, it may be worth our while to revisit this era, if only to discover that history is not past – only its telling.

In the framework of the research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent).
Special thanks to Andy Robson and Federico Rossin

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THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2016 – 12:30 – KASKCINEMA
Nightcleaners
Berwick Street Film Collective, UK, 1975, 16mm, video, 90′

Nightcleaners was originally conceived by members of the Berwick Street Film Collective as a campaignfilm about attempts to unionize women working at night as contract cleaners in large office blocks. But in the process of making the film, it became, as Marc Karlin observed, a film “about distances”.
“The film was about the distance between us and the nightcleaners, between the women’s movement and the nightcleaners, and was choreographing a situation in which communication was absolutely near enough impossible. I mean, there were these women who were in the offices at night who would wave, or sign or whatever, and sometimes we had to get into offices through very, very subterfuge-like means. The women’s movement came mainly from a kind of middle-class background, and I got in terrible trouble for even saying there were distances, or making a film about distances, and that is what I wanted to do, by and large… The nightcleaners haven’t changed, and it always comes back to this idea, you know, of W.H. Auden and all those people who say: “Well, you know, a poem won’t stop a tank.” Maybe not, but a poem can actually reveal a tank and… I think with Nightcleaners what we did was we revealed the situation of the nightcleaners on the one hand and on the other, the impossibility of capturing those lives.” (Marc Karlin)

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THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2016 – 22:30 – SPHINX
‘36 to ‘77
Marc Karlin, Jon Sanders, James Scott, Humphrey Trevelyan, UK, 1978, 16mm, video, 85′

Nightcleaners was originally conceived as the first of an ongoing series. Material subsequently shot for Part 2 eventually became ‘36 to ‘77, in which Myrtle Wardally, one of the cleaners in the earlier film, reflects on the strike and on her life, then and afterwards.
“To me ‘36 to ’77 is very important for the way it changes the understanding of how you live with representations. The normal film or television experience leaves you without any trace. It doesn’t hurt you at all to look at it. With ‘36 to ‘77 I realised how people desperately desire a certain normality for film. It’s such an obsessive need, and when for instance political people see the idea of rendering their politics visible, it completely breaks them apart. A film does test how real your politics are, to the extent of confronting you with something that breaks the very boundaries in your writing. Film acts as a sort of dislocating lever. There’s a lot of left rhetoric about personal politics which is actually a refusal to take personal politics seriously – it’s a refusal to dismember yourself, to re-think, re-phrase, re-constitute yourself in the light of your actions and the things in front of you. It’s a refusal to see age, to see change, to see distances, always taking the same photograph of yourself, wherever you are…The representation of workers on film is normalised because it’s always surrounded by and held in the situating of them as workers in a recognisable political situation, and which a lot of people might not be sharing. The idea that they might have other things that would contradict your idea of them never obviously comes into play now.” (Marc Karlin)

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FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2016 – 13:00 – KASKCINEMA
For Memory
Marc Karlin, UK, 1982, 16mm, video, 104′

Produced between 1977 and 1982, this film remained on the shelves until the BBC finally broadcast it in a sleepy afternoon slot in March of 1986. For Memory is a contemplation on cultural amnesia, written as a reaction to Hollywood’s Holocaust film, a serialisation of the genocide. Karlin asks: how could a documentary image die so soon and be taken over by a fiction? Seeing that an enormous amount of documentation exists, why did it take a soap opera to have the effect that it did?
“The film came out of a showing of a Hollywood series on the Holocaust. I was deeply shocked by it because of its vulgarity and stupidity… And yet, and yet…! In a sort of Auden-tank sense, it had an enormous effect! In Germany, for instance, where children saw it and were given history books or packages to do with the camps, and so on. I was really disturbed that something like this Hollywood series established some kind of truth, and I just wondered where another kind of truth had disappeared, which was that of the documents. The documents had died to the point where, much later on, in Shoah, Claude Lanzmann would not use a single document. So, I was interested in kind of pursuing them. That led me to think out how, in the future, an imaginary city would remember – because it was the very convenient thing to say that modern times are totally to do with amnesia.” (MK)

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FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2016 – 15:30 – KASKCINEMA
So That You Can Live (For Shirley)
Cinema Action, UK, 1981, 16mm, video, 83′

So That You Can Live developed from a project called The Social Contract, which the Cinema Action collective began in the mid-1970s. When filming in Treforest, South Wales, the filmmakers met Shirley Butts, a union convenor who was leading a strike by women demanding equal pay. In the subsequent five years, they documented the impact that global economic changes had on her and her family. As Marc Karlin remarked, So That You Can Live is “a film of and in transit – from city to countryside, from employment to the dole, from generation to generation, from power to powerlessness”.
“The most important British independent film since Berwick Street Film Collective’s Nightcleaners, Cinema Action’s So That You Can Live (For Shirley) is in many ways a very simple film, about a family in a South Wales valley community which has been struck down in the last five years – the period over which the film was made – by the socially destructive consequences of pit and factory closures and the resulting unemployment… Slow and beautifully controlled, a poetry unfolds in this film of enormous depth of feeling and lucid intelligence, and in this way it becomes a passionate plea for the voice of conscience to be heard again in the labour movement. For the word and the idea to become once again part of our vocabulary, as it was for previous generations. For us all to look around and see, in the shapes and forms of our environment, what parents and grandparents tell to those who ask of what is only recently past, the history of Living memory.” (Michael Chanan)

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FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2016 – 17:00 – KASKCINEMA
The Year of the Beaver
Poster-Film Collective, UK, 1985, 16mm, video, 78′

The Year of the Beaver documents the strike at the Grunwick film processing factory in North London in 1976-‘78, which was then described as “a central battleground between the classes and between the parties”. The film, which incorporates a lot of the material from the reporting that was being produced at the time, is not only a documentary of a strike, but a portrait of an historical period, as it underwent transition to the modern ‘civilized’ state under Thatcherism.
“It wasn’t until the early eighties that a film called The Year of the Beaver emerged and I first really met Marc Karlin as he hugged me on seeing it. A film which had, for all the efforts of the inexperienced people who had worked on it, managed to create layers of meaning and make connections between the myriad of things it had had to take on board. It showed what had come to be viewed as the seeds of Thatcherism developing long before her reign. This mammoth work had been years in the making, years in editing rooms struggling for ways and means to illuminate a story that needed to be told, to find an adequate form in which to tell its tale.” (Steve Sprung)

Followed by a DISSENT! talk with Ann Guedes (Cinema Action) and Steve Sprung (Cinema Action, Poster Collective).

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SATURDAY, MARCH 26, 2016 – 13:00 – PADDENHOEK
Nicaragua: Voyages
Marc Karlin, UK, 1985, 16mm, video, 42′

The first film in Marc Karlin’s four-part series on the Nicaraguan revolution that brought down President Somoza’s regime in 1979, Voyages is composed of five tracking shots, gliding over blown-up photographs that Susan Meiselas took during the insurrection. The film takes the form of an imagined correspondence, which interrogates the responsibilities of the war photographer, the line between observer and participant, and the political significance of the photographic image.
“Photographs are in a way far ahead of our ability to deal with them – we have not yet found a way of dealing, living with them. We have appropriated them in a channel – ‘language’, ‘papers’, ‘magazines’, ‘books’ – all of which seem the only tools by which we can give them an earthbound gravity. We brush past them, flick them, demand of them things they cannot give… Liberate photographs from its priests and jujumen – including myself. We do not need interpreters. We need looks – and thus the task is up to the photographer to renew his or her contract i.e. what can photographs and their arrangement do to defy the prison house interpretation à la John Berger – and make us think of ourselves in relationship to Nicaragua.” (MK)

TWILIGHT-CITY-4467

Twilight City
Black Audio Film Collective / Reece Auguiste, UK, 1989, 16mm, 52′

“A love story about the city and its undesirables,” this third film by the Black Audio Film Collective evokes the New London – in the filmmakers’ words “a fading world of being and unbelonging, invisible communities, the displaced and the rise of redevelopment.”
“The film presents an imaginary epistolary narration of a young woman’s thoughts as she writes to her mother in Domenica about the changing face of London, then in the throes of the new Docklands development. She fears it is a city that her mother would not now recognise should she return. The film cuts between this narrative voice and interviewees bearing witness to their youthful experience of the city as a territory mapped by racial, cultural, sexual, gender and class boundaries, a place ‘of people existing in close proximity yet living in different worlds.’ This polyvocal narrative moves restlessly back between past and present, reflecting on the loss of roots and erasure of history caused by the demolition of old established neighbourhoods. The further displacement of already marginalised communities falls under the shadow of the films’s recurrent motif of the public monument to a heroic British imperial history notable for its effacement of its disruptive descendants.” (Jean Fisher)

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SUNDAY, MARCH 27, 2016 – 17:00 – PADDENHOEK
Scenes for a Revolution
Marc Karlin, UK, 1991, 16mm, video, 110′

Revisiting material of his earlier four-part series, Marc Karlin returns to Nicaragua to examine the history of the Sandinista government, to consider its achievements and assess the prospects for democracy following its defeat in the 1990 general election.
“For ten years, the Sandinistas had tried to make democracy mean access to education, health, nationhood, and the sense of collective responsibility. Now in one swift move Nicaragua found itself suddenly transplanted to the political events of Eastern Europe. It was as if differences, identities, separate histories, could all be electronically and democratically jammed. But then in this day and age, anyone and everyone could speak the word ‘democracy’. What it meant, what it felt like, what it could be as opposed to what it was not no-one would dare say. As if a democracy to really work had to be by definition valueless, orderless, heard but not seen. As if democracy could be about nothing else but the right to be left alone… For ten years Nicaragua had hardly been out of the headlines. Now that it was officially declared a democratic nation it was hardly ever heard of. As if democracy instead of making voices heard was there to silence them. A confirmation after all that history and all its wrongdoings had officially ended. But these images, so often seen in films on the Third World, to the point of invisibility, were the product of a bitter poverty which had not been erased. If in 1983 we had come to film a socialism that had hopefully learned from its past mistakes, in May 1990 we were still filming the reasons why that dream would simply not go away.” (MK)