Essay Film Festival 2015: Thom Andersen

From our archives we are happy to present four major recordings of acclaimed film-maker Thom Andersen introducing his films and discussing his career.  Thom was a guest of the 1st Essay FIlm Festival held in 2015 and in these recordings he is in conversation with Kodwo Eshun of the Otolith Group and Michael Witt.

EFF 2015: The Thoughts That Once We Had – Thom Andersen Introduction (March 25th, 2015):  https://soundcloud.com/user-952189740/eff-the-thoughts-that-once-we-had-thom-andersen-introduction

EFF 2015: The Thoughts That Once We Had – Q & A Thom Andersen and Michael Witt (March 25th, 2015):  https://soundcloud.com/user-952189740/eff-the-thoughts-that-once-we-had-q-a-thom-andersen-and-michael-witt

EFF 2015: Thom Andersen Shorts – Introduction (March 28th, 2015): https://soundcloud.com/user-952189740/eff-thom-andersen-shorts-thom-andersen-introduction

EFF 2015: Thom Andersen Shorts – Q & A Thom Andersen + Kodwo Eshun (March 28th, 2015): https://soundcloud.com/user-952189740/eff-thom-andersen-shorts-q-a-thom-andersen-kodwo-eshun

 

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 #2: Thinking Cinema on Television: Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), ca. 1975 (Screening 1)

Photo © ‘Filmemigration aus Nazi-Deutschland – Teil 1′ 1975, Günter Peter Straschek


Saturday 25 March 2017

1:00–5:00 | Birkbeck Cinema [Book here]


Contemporary discussions tend to advocate the idea that the “video essay” was born from the felicitous encounter of platforms like YouTube, social media, cinephilia 2.0, inexpensive DIY editing software, and the accessibility of films as data. If a historical (proto-digital) perspective is taken into account, it either conjures up established essayistic masters like Jean-Luc Godard or Chris Marker, or tries to ennoble the genre as the legitimate successor of the found footage tradition in experimental cinema.

However, there are other, less glamorous sites where an investigation of cinema by its own means was pursued with enthusiasm and inventiveness. One important center of activity was the film department of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) in Cologne. Starting around 1970, commissioning editors like Wilfried Reichart, Werner Dütsch, Angelika Wittlich, Helmut Merker, and Georg Alexander produced and commissioned a variety of different productions that devised ways of combining images and sounds to address the aesthetics and history of cinema. Using their production budget to run the film department like a cinémathèque, they organised retrospectives and accompanied them with analytic and contextual programs directed, among others, by Hartmut Bitomsky, Harun Farocki, Helmut Färber, Frieda Grafe, Martina Müller, Enno Patalas.

“Thinking Cinema on Television”, curated and presented by Volker Pantenburg, shows a small selection of three productions from 1975, broadcast in October, November and December of this year, combined with a program by commissioning editor Werner Dütsch and two short films by Peter Nestler. Looking at the WDR productions allows a glimpse at a network of individuals, alliances (like the close link between WDR and the journal FILMKRITIK) and intellectual labour.

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,  Catrina Schwendener, 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)


Introduced by Volker Pantenburg, and featuring Werner Dütsch in conversation

Filmemigration aus Nazi-Deutschland – Teil 1 (Film Emigration from Nazi Germany – Part 1), Günter Peter Straschek, Germany 1975, 16mm (transferred to digital), 60 mins, German with English subtitles

Günter Peter Straschek (1942–2009) belonged to first group of students of the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb). He started studying film in 1966 together with Hartmut Bitomsky, Harun Farocki, Holger Meins, Helke Sander, and others. His student film Ein Western für den SDS was confiscated by the director of the school, and the ensuing occupation of the director’s office led to the relegation of Straschek and other students in 1968.

This is the first episode of a five-part series consisting of comprehensive interviews with people who had worked in the German film industry before they were forced into exile during the Nazi period. Apart from some radio features and articles, this 290-minute TV programme remains the only published trace of Günter Peter Straschek’s lifelong work on the emigration of film personnel. He intended to publish a three-volume book, encompassing all available data about 3,000 emigrants originating from the centre and peripheries of film production. However, this book never materialised.

Fritz Lang, Werner Dütsch, Germany 1974/1990, 16mm (transferred to digital), 45 mins, German with English subtitles

Werner Dütsch was one of the most prolific commissioning editors at the WDR film department, producing work by Helmut Färber, Harun Farocki, Hartmut Bitomsky, and many others. His Fritz Lang is a reworked version of an earlier program on the German director (Die schweren Träume des Fritz Lang, 1974). Like other commissioning editors at the WDR, Dütsch not only organised TV-retrospectives, and initiated and co-produced work by others, but he also worked as an author and director. Fritz Lang is organised as a dialogue between two voices (Dütsch and Martina Müller), addressing the main themes and obsessions of the director. The film is full of concise observations: “There is a lot of killing in Lang’s films; with energy, skill, and arrogance. Images of bodies, falling heavy and helplessly, follow. As if the dead, with their specific weight, wanted block the way of the living.”

Born in 1939, Werner Dütsch was commissioning editor for fiction films, documentaries and programmes about cinema at the WDR (West German Broadcasting Station) in Cologne for over three decades, and for over two decades he taught at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (KHM). He has also worked for the Documentary Film Week in Duisburg for many years. He is the author of Im Banne der roten Hexe – Childhood, Youth and the Magic of Cinema in Postwar Germany (2016) and co-author of Lola Montez – eine Filmgeschichte (2002).

Volker Pantenburg is professor for Film Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. He has published widely on essayistic film and video practices, experimental cinema, and contemporary moving image installations. Recent book publications include: Farocki/Godard. Film as Theory (Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP 2015); Cinematographic Objects. Things and Operations (Berlin: August 2015, Editor); and Screen Dynamics. Mapping the Borders of Cinema (Vienna: Austrian Film Museum 2012; Co-Editor). In 2015, he co-founded the “Harun Farocki Institut”, a non-profit organisation designed as a platform for researching Farocki’s visual and discursive practice and supporting new projects that engage with the past, present and the future of image cultures.

FURTHER EXPLORE THE WDR PROGRAMME