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).


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

Session #8: About The Island, curated by George Clark

Photo © 2015 George Clark

Tuesday 28 March 2017

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

2:00-5:00 | [Free event: Book here]

Sea of Clouds / 雲海

George Clark, UK / Taiwan, 2016, 16mm film transferred to DCP, sound, colour, 16min, dialogue in Mandarin & English

The Pursuit of What Was/物的追尋

Ya-Li Huang, Taiwan, 2008, digital, sound, colour, 22 min

The Boat-Burning Festival / 王船的祭典

Chang Chao-Tang, Taiwan, 1979, 16mm transferred to video, sound, colour, 20 min

Spanning the Tropic of Cancer, the island of Taiwan is located south of Japan with the East China Sea to the north, the Philippine Sea to the east, the Luzon Strait directly to the south and the South China Sea to the southwest. The history of the island can be read in its complex landscapes. Filmed across central Taiwan Sea of Clouds / 雲海 approaches landscape as a contested terrain marked by changing histories of interpretation and occupation. The film is structured around an interview with contemporary artist Chen Chieh-jen. In order to describe the approach to his work, Chen recalls the tradition of using screenings as a means of covert political assembly during the Japanese colonial period. In bringing these materials together the film attempts to map the contours, slippages and broader resonances within the mountain landscapes in order to find ways into the complex history of labour, colonisation and cinema in Taiwan.

For this screening artist George Clark will present and discuss his film as part of his broader research into Taiwanese politics and moving image culture. The illustrated talk will range from the Japanese colonial period to the avant-garde journal Theatre Quarterly and the work of artists such as Chen Chieh-jen and Kao Chung-li, ethnographer Hu Tai-Li and independent filmmaker Huang Ming-chuan.

The talk will include rare screening of Chang Chao-Tang’s The Boat-Burning Festival / 王船的祭典 (1979) and conclude with the film The Pursuit of What Was / 物的追尋 (2008) by Ya-Li Huang (director of Le Moulin). Ya-Li Huang will join George Clark and take part in a discussion on cinema in Taiwan chaired by researcher and curator Julian Ross.

George Clark is an artist and curator from the UK. His solo exhibition A Planter’s Art featured new film works and garden installation at Soulangh Cultural Park, Tainan, June-July 2016. Recent works include his feature film A Distant Echo which premiered in competition at Jihlava Film Festival 2016 and his short film Sea of Clouds / 雲海 (2016) made in Taiwan and structured around interview with the artist Chen Chieh-jen. Prior to this he collaborated with various artists including Luke Fowler and Beatrice Gibson. His curatorial projects have focused on expanding the histories of film and video practice globally. Through his work at Tate Modern (2013-2015), and in independent projects, he has explored histories of expanded cinema, ethnographic film and artists film across the Asia Pacific region and curated retrospectives of Ute Aurand, Julian Dashper, Lav Diaz, Camille Henrot, Luis Ospina, Chick Strand and thematic surveys of the L.A. Rebellion and Japanese Expanded Cinema among other projects.

Julian Ross is a Leverhulme postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Westminster. He holds a PhD on 1960-70s Japanese expanded cinema at the University of Leeds, which has led to curatorial projects at Tate Modern, Eye Film Institute, BFI, Art Institute Chicago and BOZAR. He is a Programmer at International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Huang Ya-Li is an independent filmmaker in Taiwan, who is interested in the linkage between and extension of images and sounds. In recent years, he has been involved in documentaries concerning Taiwan during these Japanese colonial period, hoping to explore the possibility of interpreting reality in the form of documentaries through historical research and examination, and to reflect on the relationship between Taiwan, Asia, and the world. His experimental works include The Unnamed (2010) and The Pursuit of What Was (2008). Le Moulin (2015) is his first feature film.

Session #6: Thinking Cinema on Television: Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), ca. 1975 (Screening 2)

Photo © ‘Telekritik: Über zwei Filme von Peter Nestler’ 1975, Rainer Gansera

Monday 27 March 2017

6:30-8:00  | Goethe-Institut | [Book here]

Introduced by Volker Pantenburg.

Aufsätze (Essays), Peter Nestler, Germany 1963, 35mm (transferred to DCP), 10 mins, German with English subtitles

Von Griechenland (From Greece), Peter Nestler, Germany 1965, 16mm (transferred to DCP), 28 mins, German with English subtitles

Telekritik: Über zwei Filme von Peter Nestler (“Telekritik”: About two films by Peter Nestler), Rainer Gansera, Germany 1975, 16mm (transferred to digital), 29 mins, German with English subtitles

Telekritik (commissioning editor: Angelika Wittlich) was a series of programs that aimed at formulating a critique of TV within TV itself. It started in 1973 with Farocki’s The Trouble with Images, a fierce and polemic dissection of the TV feature format. Like other Telekritik episodes (Bitomsky on Humphrey Jennings, Farocki on Basil Wright) Rainer Gansera’s presentation of two short films by Peter Nestler introduces the work of a documentary filmmaker as an antidote against the sloppy and thoughtless way text and image are treated in conventional TV journalism. Thoughts and words in process: Gansera sits at a desk browsing through journals, describing scenes from Aufsätze and Von Griechenland, emphasising moments of attention and labor with stills from the films.

The screening of Rainer Gansera’s film will be preceded by two short films by Peter Nestler: Aufsätze (1963) and Von Griechenland (1965). Aufsätze, shot originally in 35mm and made in collaboration with Kurt Ulrich and Marianne Beutler, is a short film showing us the daily routine of a primary school in the snowy Swiss Oberland Headlands, as told by the words and drawings of the children. In Von Griechenland, conceived in collaboration with Reinald Schnell, images of Greece during the summer crisis of 1965 are accompanied by a voiceover reflecting about the anti-fascist struggle and the history of Greek resistance in the 1940s, as a stark warning against the re-emergence of fascism. The reading of a letter by Konstantina Petru, the mother of Georgius Petru, a fighter from the Democratic Army of Greece who was executed during the Greek Civil War, forms the centrepiece of the film.


In collaboration with the Goethe-Institut London, and with special thanks to Christhart Burgmann, Martin Brady, Werner Dütsch, Antje Ehmann, Ingemo Engström, Rainer Gansera, Joanna von Graefe, Anke Hahn, Maren Hobein, Annelen Kranefuss, Peter Nestler, Matthias Rajmann, Karin Rausch, Felicitas Rohrmoser,  Birol Teke, Klaus Volkmer, and Angelika Wittlich.

With thanks to Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Filmmuseum München, Harun Farocki GbR, and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)

Session #5: Illustrated talk by Zoe Beloff, including screenings of three films, and conversation with Esther Leslie & Laura Mulvey

Photo © 2015 Zoe Beloff

Monday 27 March 2017

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

1:30–4:30 |  [Free event: Book here]

In these three recent films, A Model Family in a Model Home, Two Marxists in Hollywood, and A Glass House, Zoe Beloff returns to and resurrects the greatest exponents of dialogue between radical politics and radical aesthetics: Bertolt Brecht and Sergei Eisenstein.

The pair come together in Two Marxists in Hollywood, which tells the very different stories of their paradoxical, and ultimately unsuccessful, aspirations to collaborate with the Hollywood film industry. But, as Beloff, points out: if their utopian projects ended in failure, “what if they did not [fail], what if their ideas were merely lying in wait for us?” As she interweaves the two men’s histories, anecdotes of their Hollywood experiences, with their theoretical principles, Beloff also interweaves visually and cinematically different levels of time. The film is shot in its Hollywood ‘now’ of 2015, emphasised by the presence of DJ Rapture in the soundtrack, but the ‘interviews’ with the two characters are played out against Beloff’s exquisitely painted backdrops of Hollywood ‘then’, also juxtaposing theatricality with the actuality of the locations. These distanciation-effects are accentuated by the casting of Brecht and Eisenstein as twelve-year-old boys.

In Two Marxists in Hollywood, both Eisenstein and Brecht mention projects that were inspired by their time in the USA: Brecht describes ‘A Model Family in a Model Home’; Eisenstein describes ‘A Glass House’. Beloff’s film reconstructions of these ‘failed’ projects will also be screened as part of this special event. Both projects revolved around very different mediations of the politics of architecture, but, through Beloff’s films, they have found a dialectical relation to each other.

Two Marxists in Hollywood, Zoe Beloff, USA 2015, HD video, 26 mins, with Bryan Yoshi Brown, Ben Taylor
A Model Family in a Model Home, Zoe Beloff, USA 2015, HD video, 22 mins
A Glass House, Zoe Beloff, USA 2015, HD video, 21 mins, with Kate Valk, Jim Fletcher

Two Marxists in Hollywood, Zoe Beloff, USA 2015, HD video, 26 mins, with Bryan Yoshi Brown, Ben Taylor

In 1930 Russian avant-garde filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein spent six months in Los Angeles under contract with Paramount. A decade later German playwright and theatre director Bertolt Brecht, a refugee from Nazi Germany, lived there from 1941 to 1947. Both set out to make films in Hollywood on their own terms. Working in the world’s most famous factory of dreams, they believed that artists must call into question the way we understand our world. They wanted to make art that was both radical and popular.

A Model Family in a Model Home, Zoe Beloff, USA 2015, HD video, 22 mins

Fleeing from the Nazis, Bertolt Brecht arrived in Los Angeles in 1941. This film is inspired by notes for movie that he based on an article in Life magazine called A Model Family in a Model Home. It explores Brecht’s ideas about working people and the home as a stage upon which larger political and social forces are played out.

A Glass House, Zoe Beloff, USA 2015, HD video, 21 mins, with Kate Valk, Jim Fletcher

A film based on Sergei Eisenstein’s notes and drawings for a science fiction movie that he pitched to Paramount Studios in 1930. Its theme is the architecture of surveillance.


Zoe Beloff works with a wide range of media including film, projection performance, installation and drawing. She considers herself a medium, an interface between the living and the dead, the real and the imaginary. Each project aims to connect the present to past so that it might illuminate the future in new ways. Her most recent completed project is A World Redrawn: Eisenstein and Brecht in Hollywood. Through films, drawings, architectural models and archival documents, Beloff explores their unrealised film scenarios ‘Glass House’ and ‘A Model Family in a Model Home’ and reimagines their ideas for today.

Session #4: Three Landscape Films by Babette Mangolte + Filmmaker in conversation

Photo © 1982 Babette Mangolte

Sunday 26 March 2017

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

2:30-6:00 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Filmmaker Babette Mangolte will be in conversation with Laura Mulvey and Lucy Reynolds

This second programme devoted to the work of Babette Mangolte focuses on her trilogy of films about landscape: There? Where?, The Sky on Location and Visible Cities. These essay films are both studies of specific locations and a sustained reflection about the art of landscape cinematography.

The filmmaker describes the first film, There? Where?, as “a naive look at Southern California by an outsider, and/or an essay on displacement through the disjunction of Californian images and off screen voices. Where is the location of these voices, here or there? Are the images near or far in relation to the voices? Are the images commenting on the images or vice versa?”

Documenting seasonal changes across the American West, from Wyoming to Oregon, the second film, The Sky on Location, is an affecting meditation on untamed nature and the atmospheric effects of climate on the landscape. Weather and ambiance, the wilderness and the Sublime, Mangolte articulates the shifting ways of looking at Nature, from the nineteenth to twentieth centuries, and her keen cinematographer’s eye captures an awe and reverence for the American wilderness. The Sky on Location confronts us with a vision of the natural world, translated into a palette of ambient colour and visceral mood.

Finally, in Visible Cities, two women looking for a home in Southern California realise, in Mangolte’s words, that “the single-family home [is] the locus of the exclusion of the other. It is also unaffordable. They both feel as if they are invisible citizens. They witness how the architectural landscape imposed on the California desert appears as a reversal of nature, where exclusive living, gated communities and segregation go hand in hand. They dream of escape.”

There? Where?, Babette Mangolte, USA 1979, 16mm, 8 mins
The Sky on Location, Babette Mangolte, USA 1982, 16mm, 78 mins
Visible Cities, Babette Mangolte, USA 1991, 16mm, 31 mins


With the support of Open City Documentary Festival.