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.


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 #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)