Session #13 : Critique, Protest, Activism and the Video Essay, a lecture-performance by Kevin B. Lee

Photo © 2016 Kevin B. Lee


Thursday 30 March 2017

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

8:30–11:00 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]


The current social and political environment demands a moment of urgent reckoning for the audiovisual essay, whether it is practiced by artists, scholars, or everyday video-makers: How can or should it address the current crises facing the world? Kevin B. Lee’s work has pondered this question, in the past, through video essays on filmic forms of social protest and dissent. But at what point do audiovisual studies of works of activism become activist works in their own right? How do criticism and activism co-exist, and possibly inform and nurture the other? In this special lecture-performance, Lee will explore these questions by showing and discussing a range of recent audiovisual essays that engage with a social and political consciousness, including Steven Boone’s Snake Oil for N—–town Fever, which uses Roger Corman’s The Intruder as a blueprint for diagnosing the prevailing logic of Trumpism; Kiera Sandusky’s Problems with the Gendered POV Shot in Lilya 4-Ever, which examines the problematic outcome when a mainstream film is used for social education purposes; and extracts from Lee and filmmaker-scholar Chloé Galibert-Laîné’s ongoing research project about videos produced and circulated by the Islamic State.

With the support of the Department of Film, Theatre & Television, University of Reading, and the Goethe-Institut, London


Sight & Sound Film Poll: Nicole Brenez on La hora de los hornos / The Hour of the Furnaces, Kevin B. Lee, 2012, digital video, 8 minutes
Produced for Sight & Sound magazine’s international poll of the greatest films ever made, this video adapts Nicole Brenez’ argument for the poll to give greater consideration to political films, as well as to the politics of filmmaking.

Real Film Radicals, Kevin B. Lee, 2013, digital video, 6 minutes
A recontextualization of “radical” cinema, this video critiques how the use of the term “radical” has been applied to certain contemporary films. It then pays tribute to films, many of which have been neglected or marginalized from film history, that attest to a legacy of radical resistance filmmaking.

State of Emergence: The Wall, Anti Banality Union, 2016, digital video, 3 minutes
Who is the enemy, exactly? Dozens of clips from Hollywood zombie films are interwoven into a single sequence depicting how societal paranoia is propagated by mainstream entertainment. An excerpt from State of Emergence, a work-in-progress feature by Anti-Banality Union, a New York based media activist collective

Snake Oil for N—–town Fever, Steven Boone, 2016, digital video, 10 minutes
The 1960s Roger Corman B-movie The Intruder is used as a blueprint for diagnosing the prevailing logic of 21st century Trumpism and the enduring racial dynamics of the United States.

Problems with the Gendered POV Shot in Lilya 4-Ever, Kiera Sandusky, 2017, digital video,  6 minutes
The 2004 Swedish film Lilya 4-Ever depicted the problem of sex trafficking so powerfully that it was used by governments, NGOs and educators as an awareness raising tool. This video examines the aesthetic choices that make the film so powerful, as well as the problematic outcomes when it was used for social education purposes.

My Crush Was a Superstar, Chloé Galibert-Laîné, 2017, digital video, 10 minutes.
This desktop documentary follows a single image of an ISIS fighter through a trail of messages, videos and postings to uncover his existence in both social media and reality. An excerpt from an ongoing research project by Galibert-Laîné and Kevin B. Lee investigating videos produced and circulated by the Islamic State.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT KEVIN B. LEE

Kevin B. Lee is a filmmaker and critic who has made over 300 video essays exploring film and media. His award-winning Transformers: The Premake was named one of the best documentaries of 2014 by Sight & Sound Magazine and played in several festivals including the Berlin Film Festival Critics Week. In 2017 he is the first-ever Artist in Residence of the Harun Farocki Institute in Berlin.

 

Session #12: Screening of Tongpan (Euthana Mukdasanit, Surachai Janthimathorn, 1977) with introduction and discussion

Photo © 1977 Euthana Mukdasanit/Surachai Janthimathorn


Thursday 30 March 2017

Birkbeck Cinema,  43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

3:30–5:30 | [Free event: Book here]

Tongpan will be introduced and discussed by May Adadol Ingawanij (Westminster), Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn (Queen Mary London)


An exemplary work of collective filmmaking, Tongpan is a re-staging of a seminar which took place in Isan, North East Thailand. The seminar was initiated to discuss the proposed construction of the Pa-Mong Dam along the Mekong river in 1975, two years after the Thai popular uprising in 1973. The seminar was attended by government officials, well known intellectuals such as Sulak Siwalak and Sane Jammarik, local farmers, students, and foreign experts, and it was held at Thammasat University, a space closely associated with leftist student activism. The footage of the re-staged seminar is interwoven with sequences of the daily life of Tongpan, a farmer whose land had been lost due to the construction of a previous hydroelectric dam. The film juxtaposes the event of the seminar with Tongpan being approached by students who try to convince him to tell his story and to join their struggle. Shot in 16mm with a largely non-professional cast, Tongpan fragments and disrupts our sense of realism to present the distance between the intelligentsia and the lives of the rural peasants. The film was created by a group known as the Isan Film Collective, whose student members had emerged from the mid-70s moment when leftist Thai counter cultural activists had inspired several uprisings and student activists continued to promote socialist ideals and support the pro-democracy movement.

“Filmed in the direct manner of the early Soviet silent cinema, the reconstruction of this simple incident has a quiet, unexpected force.”
(David Robinson, The Times)

Tongpan, Euthana Mukdasanit, Surachai Janthimathorn, Thailand 1977, 63 mins, ProRes, Thai with English subtitles.

With thanks to Euthana Mukdasanit, Paijong Laisakul, Pathompong Manakitsomboon, and the Thai Film Archive.

Session #11: Le Moulin, introduced by Luke Robinson

Photo © 2016 Huang Ya-Li


Wednesday 29 March 2017

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

8:30-11:30 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]


Le Moulin deals with the work of a group of Taiwanese and Japanese intellectuals and poets gathered around Le Moulin Poetry Society and the short-lived magazine Le Moulin [The Windmill] that they founded in 1933, when Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule. Strongly influenced by the European avant-garde, and by surrealism, whose principles they followed and adapted, the group developed a refined and seemingly detached aesthetics that went against the prevalent literary social realism of the time, subtly defying the cultural and linguistic hegemony imposed by decades of Japanese rule. The film finds an equivalent to the group’s sensual aesthetics with its richly weaved tapestry of imagery and sounds, readings of texts, photography, calligraphy, music, excerpts of radio broadcasts, and beautiful re-enactments evoking the gestures, objects and voices related to Le Moulin. The film provides a fundamental contribution to understanding the importance of how transcultural intellectual exchanges and global modernism helped to shape counter-discourses under colonial rule in Taiwan in a period of emerging political awareness and dissension.

Le Moulin (Ri yao ri shih san pu zhe), Huang Ya-Li, Taiwan 2016, DCP, 162 mins, Japanese/Mandarin with English subtitles

With the support of Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture.

Session #10: Perfidious Albion, a programme curated by Catherine Grant and Sarah Wood

Photo © 1984 Derek Jarman


Wednesday 29 March

Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

1:00–6:00 | [Book here]


What does it say about British identity that from as early as the 13th century foreign states have shared a single Anglophone slur to describe British double-dealings overseas? Perfidious Albion: the name for Britain when its government operates dishonourably, is treacherous, or betrays a promise.

The promise of British identity has been much discussed in the last twelve months. Two versions are in competition. Britain in the world, outward looking and open. Britain as an island nation, insular, self-interested, maybe closed. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, as Britain floats off the coast of mainland Europe and dreams its future, this programme looks at how essay filmmakers have analysed the promise represented by modern Britain and estimated to what degree the country lives up to its perfidious reputation. Curated by Catherine Grant and Sarah Wood, it features two recent works by Wood, alongside works by Derek Jarman, Humphrey Jennings, Margaret Tait, Isaac Julien and the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, and Cordelia Swann.

In collaboration with the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex


1:00-3:00

The Last of England, Derek Jarman, UK, 1984, 35mm, 87 mins

3:30-6:00

The Dim Little Island, Humphrey Jennings, UK 1949, 35mm, 10 mins

Colour Poems, Margaret Tait, UK 1974, DVD, 11 mins

Territories, Isaac Julien/Sankofa, UK 1985, 16mm, 25 mins TBC

Perfidia, Cordelia Swann, UK 2002, digital video, 13 mins

Boat People, Sarah Wood, UK 2016, digital video, 22 mins

Azure, Sarah Wood, UK 2017, digital video loop, 7 mins, text by Ali Smith.


The Last of England, Derek Jarman, UK 1984, 35mm, 87 mins

England in the future: a nightmarish journey through a dark landscape of totalitarianism and despair.

“In The Last of England, Derek Jarman’s memories, thoughts and fantasies are assembled in a collage of styles (quasi-documentary chronicle, home movies and video), to vent his fury at Thatcher’s England. The use of dream-like imagery, superimpositions and different colour hues express Jarman’s nostalgic yearning for the past, and the film has been compared to Humphrey Jennings’ poetic documentary Listen to Britain (1941), which hymned wartime Britain.” (Kamila Kuc, BFI Screenonline)

The Dim Little Island, Humphrey Jennings, UK 1949, 35mm, 10 mins

“Humphrey Jennings’s latest film is in effect an anthology of four meditations on the present state of England. These are contributed by an artist (Osbert Lancaster), a naturalist (James Fisher), an industrialist (John Ormston), and a composer (Vaughan Williams). “Ichabod, Ichabod”, Lancaster remarks in the opening sequence, “our glory is departed.” The little island is growing dim; looking at it we feel rather like the émigrés in Ford Madox Brown’s picture The Last of England, sad but resigned.” (Monthly Film Bulletin)

 Colour Poems, Margaret Tait, UK 1974, DVD, 11 mins

“Nine linked short films. Memory, chance observation, and the subsuming of one in the other. The titles within the film are: Numen of the BoughsOld BootsSpeed Bonny BoatLapping WaterInsenceAhaBrave New WorldThingsTerra Firma.” (Margaret Tait)

Territories, Isaac Julien/Sankofa, UK 1985, 16mm, 25 mins

“Sankofa’s Territories looks at the Notting Hill Carnival and the 1976 riots. Juxtaposing original footage with archival news reports, Isaac Julien films the carnival as a subversive site for resistance in Afro-Caribbean culture, in direct opposition to mainstream white British society and an increasingly hostile police patrol.” (Cinema Project)

Perfidia, Cordelia Swann, UK 2002, digital video, 13 mins

“A contemporary fable, set in the streets, parks, edifices and firmaments of Paddington and West London, about the day to day life of a woman named Perfidia and her neighbours. Featuring jet trails, a canary, a student, an archbishop, Marlene Dietrich, and the London Fire Brigade.” (Cordelia Swann)

“‘Perfidia’…is also the name of a woman with no particular faith or allegiance. As the soundtrack reminds us she is, like Marlene Dietrich in the film ‘Morocco’, a ‘suicide’, a ‘one way ticket’ who has stepped off the ship never to be seen again. In Swann’s film, she becomes an ‘itinerant and a tourist’, immersing herself in a kaleidoscope of London sights and sounds which manage to allude to a multitude of experiences and beliefs but adhere to none in particular.” (Sotiris Kyriacou, Luxonline)

Boat People, Sarah Wood, UK 2016, digital video, 22 mins

Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world’, suggested Martin Heidegger in 1946, in the immediate aftermath of the mass movement of people created by WWII. In 1946, this displacement was a shocking legacy. Sixty years on, with the escalating movement of people escaping conflict and environmental catastrophe across the world, has Heidegger’s prediction come true? Has displacement become the norm rather than the exception?

Boat People is an essay film that explores this question. Taking as its starting point the historic version of Britain as a seafaring nation the film counterpoints the surety of this assertion of identity with the contingency of movement. Boat People also questions the role the moving image itself plays in the representation of human movement and the migration of ideas. Just as the invention of the telescopic lens brought near and far together for the very first time, Boat People is about the way in the twenty-first century the near and far are mediated and transformed by the new ‘perception accelerator’, the digital image.

 Azure, Sarah Wood, UK 2017, digital video loop, 7 mins, text by Ali Smith.

Azure is the colour of the sky on a clear summer’s day. Azure is a colour that suggests openness, ease, possibility. Azure is the name of the card given to the people who arrive in Britain seeking asylum. This short essay film accompanies Boat People in a questioning of the meaning of hospitality.

Session #9: The Illinois Parables with filmmaker Deborah Stratman in conversation

Photo © 2016 Deborah Stratman


Tuesday 28 March 2017

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

6:30-8:30 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Filmmaker Deborah Stratman will be in conversation with critic and film essayist Kevin B. Lee.


Described by the artist as “a suite of Midwestern parables that question the historical role that belief has played in ideology and national identity”, The Illinois Parables proposes a critical and timely reflection on history and the landscape. Arranged into 11 chapters, spanning migratory settlements in 600CE to European colonisation and the political struggles of the 1960s, this exemplary essay film excavates fragmentary histories and collective memories of exodus, forced displacement and natural disaster. Stratman unearths the metaphysical themes of the American sense of self, to reveal the tangled, but rearticulated histories of the dispossessed buried deeper in the layers of the Midwestern soil. “A dense weave of found and original sights and sounds, […] at once an experimental documentary, a work of historical excavation and an insistently moral ideological critique” (Manohla Dargis).

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT DEBORAH STRATMAN

The Illinois Parables, Deborah Stratman, USA 2016, 16mm, 60 mins