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.

Session #3: The Camera: Je, or La Caméra: I, in the presence of Babette Mangolte

Photo © 1977 Babette Mangolte

Saturday 25 March 2017

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

6:00-8:30 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Filmmaker Babette Mangolte will be in conversation with Laura Mulvey

The first of two programmes devoted to the essay films of the great filmmaker, cinematographer and photographer Babette Mangolte, this session focuses on the act of looking through the camera, questioning the notion of “subjectivity”, the role of the spectator, and the relation between vision and power.

The Camera: Je, or La Caméra: I is a self-portrait about the process of taking photographs. Shifting from the artist’s studio to the streets of New York and back into the workshop, the film’s rhetorical structure acts as a form of self-portraiture of the artist during the years 1976-1977. Exploring the technique of “subjective camera”, the film offers a reflection on ways of seeing, and the interpersonal and power dynamics involved in producing images.

The short film Je, Nous, I or Eye, Us is, in Mangolte’s own words, “a mini essay that replies to a question about subjectivity in the 1970s while I was making my film The Camera: Je, or La Caméra: I about taking photographs. The new film from 2014 uses footage shot at the time of The Camera: Je but never used in 1976 and 1977 and adds to the 16mm film a series of titles about a photographer’s subjectivity then and now.”

The Camera: Je, or La Caméra : I , Babette Mangolte, USA 1977, 16mm (on HD video), 89 mins
Je, Nous, I or Eye, Us, Babette Mangolte, USA 2014, HD video, 6 mins 30 secs 



With the support of Open City Documentary Festival.

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.


Session #1: 327 Notebooks + Filmmaker in conversation

Session #1 - Photo © 2015 Andrés Di Tella
Session #1 - Photo © 2015 Andrés Di Tella Session #1 - Photo © 2015 Andrés Di Tella

Photo © 2015 Andrés Di Tella

Friday 24 March 2017

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

6:00-8:30 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Filmmaker Andrés Di Tella will be in conversation with John Kraniauskas (Birkbeck).

A moving and meditative essay film by Argentine writer-director Andrés Di Tella about the diaries of one of the greatest novelists in the Spanish language, Ricardo Piglia (Artificial Respiration), who died in January of this year. In the film, Piglia returns to Argentina after having lived abroad for many years. He comes back with the purpose of reviewing for the first time the 327 notebooks that constitute his personal diary, the record of his life for more than half a century. A kind of cinematic diary about diaries, Di Tella’s film follows Piglia for a year, during which time the writer is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This unexpected turn of events, as critic Haden Guest writes, givesa sudden and sad urgency” to the film, which becomes, as a result, “an important chapter in Piglia’s life and an inspiration for a new, heroic and possibly final diary project”.

327 Notebooks (327 Cuadernos: Los diarios de Ricardo Piglia), Andrés Di Tella, Argentina/Chile 2015, DCP, 76 mins, Spanish with English subtitles.


In collaboration with Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies at Birkbeck, University of London.