New Documentary Forms In The Digital Age
Through May 5
Lecturer: Daniel Eisenberg
From January 23 through May 5, we offer a series of fourteen programs entitled “Instant Histories: Documentary in the Digital Age,” with weekly Tuesday lectures by Daniel Eisenberg, internationally renowned filmmaker and Professor of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Additional screenings of the films on Friday or Saturday do not include Prof. Eisenberg’s lecture.
The series is presented in cooperation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.
— Martin Rubin
As digital technology has transformed each and every aspect of daily life, our conception of time, space, event, and document has transformed as well. We no longer look to authorized sources for news or the verification of events, and the speed at which we expect to see evidence has become virtually instantaneous, often synchronous to events themselves. The portability and ubiquity of cameras has made every moment and every place subject to our potential gaze, and every event subject to new conventions of scrutiny and truth. This series examines the ways film and video-makers have changed the conventions of non-fiction filmmaking through the signal works produced during the digital turn over the last decade, and considers the future prospects for explorations of the real, the political, the repressed, and the forgotten.
— Daniel Eisenberg
Admission to all “Instant Histories” programs is $5 for Film Center members; usual admission prices apply for non-members.
THE ACT OF KILLING
2012, Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark, 115 min.
“Unique and unforgettable.”
— J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
More terrifying than any horror film, and more intellectually adventurous than just about any 2013 release so far.”
— Nick Schager, Village Voice
A pair of aging thugs, members of a mid-1960s death squad responsible for the massacre of more than a million accused Indonesian communists under the dictator Suharto, take center stage in this eerily bizarre documentary in which they are invited to reenact their deeds for the camera. With unnerving glee, they demonstrate murder techniques and improvise horrific dramas, gangster skits, and even a musical number complete with costumes and extras. The filmmakers outlast the bravado, allowing the creep of guilt to surface. In Indonesian with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
FIVE BROKEN CAMERAS
2011, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, Palestine, 94 min.
“Gripping from the get go… a powerful act of witnessing.”
— J. Hoberman, Artinfo
“A modest, rigorous and moving work of art.”
— A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Witty and yet profoundly serious in its audacious guerilla filmmaking, this first Palestinian documentary to be nominated for an Oscar charts a family man’s transformation and a child’s growing awareness. In 2005, Palestinian villager Emad Burnat acquires his first video camera to take home movies of his newborn son. As the boy grows, so does the Israeli incursion on village lands, and Burnat soon becomes a cameraman-activist recording the non-violent struggle over five years through a series of cameras that succumb to the cause. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles. DigiBeta video. (BS)
THE MISSING PICTURE
2013, Rithy Panh, Cambodia/France, 92 min.
"Unlike anything I've ever seen... so immediate, so vital, it practically breathes."
— Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice
The problem of representing atrocity and genocide is a crucial and all too necessary one in modern art and history. Director Panh (S21), himself a childhood survivor of the Cambodian killing fields, revisits the regime of terror that exterminated his family and millions of others in the name of ideological purity. Little documentation exists, so Panh uses only snippets of archival footage while visualizing the past primarily through childlike dioramas peopled with clay figures. This haunting device both distances and intensifies the events, as the “missing picture” is handed over to our own imaginations. In English and French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
2012, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, France/USA, 87 min.
“A watery knockout... LEVIATHAN explodes the antiquated paradigm of the documentary.”
— Melissa Anderson, Village Voice
Innovative and immersive, this highly unconventional documentary has been compared less to other documentaries than to horror films, David Lynch, Gaspar Noé, “Moby Dick,” and Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS. Using an array of tiny waterproof cameras, filmmakers/artists/ethnographers Castaing-Taylor and Paravel take us aboard a fishing trawler out of New Bedford and hurl us into a disorienting, hallucinatory, often startlingly beautiful vortex of clanking machinery, roaring wind, roiling waves, back-breaking labor, screeching gulls, and slithering viscera. DCP digital. Note: Squeamish viewers might find the film unpalatable. (MR)
THIS IS NOT A FILM
(IN FILM NIST)
2011, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi, Iran, 75 min.
A subtle, strange and haunting work of art…a masterpiece in a form that does not yet exist.”
— A.O. Scott, The New York Times
“Ignore the title…this is a great film, and a triumph of creativity and courage over repression.”
— Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
Smuggled out of Iran in a cake for its world premiere at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, this self-declared non-film (call it a reality show) captures Iranian director Panahi (THE CIRCLE, OFFSIDE) in sly passive-resistance defiance of the authorities that have shackled him with a six-year prison term and a 20-year ban on filmmaking. With the help of documentary filmmaker Mirtahmasb and consumer-grade cameras, Panahi becomes the artist-alchemist who converts the long hours of his house arrest into an arresting cinema of the mind plotted out in words and gestures in his living room. The film’s finale, set on the night of Persian New Year’s Eve, is breathtaking in its resonance. In Persian with English subtitles. HDCAM video. (BS)
THE FORGOTTEN SPACE
2010, Noël Burch and Allan Sekula, Netherlands, 112 min.
Leftist photographer Sekula (“Photography Against the Grain”) and film theorist/historian Burch (“Theory of Film Practice”) team up for an incisive essay film that combines politics, place, and personal vision in the spirit of Chris Marker and Thom Andersen. The subject is the sea, not as a traditional domain of romantic adventure, but in its modern (and often invisible) role as a bulwark of global capitalism. Focusing on the harbors of Los Angeles, Rotterdam, Bilbao, and Hong Kong, the film shows how cargo containers have transformed maritime shipping into an instrument of labor exploitation and environmental devastation. In English, Dutch, Indonesian, Mandarin, Spanish, and Korean with English subtitles. HDCAM video. (MR)
HOW TO LIVE IN THE FRG
(LEBEN--BRD) (aka HOW TO LIVE IN THE GERMAN FEDERAL REPUBLIC)
1990, Harun Farocki, Germany, 83 min.
“Incredibly funny ... In a just world, HOW TO LIVE IN THE FRG would hold as prominent a place in German film history as Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS.”
— Jessica Ellicott, 4:3
A master of the politically engaged essay film and many unclassifiable variations thereof, the late Harun Farocki (IMAGES OF THE WORLD AND INSCRIPTION OF WAR) was called “Germany’s best-known unknown filmmaker” by German film studies guru Thomas Elsaesser. Made shortly before reunification, HOW TO LIVE IN THE FRG challenges political assumptions by compiling excerpts from West German training exercises that instruct subjects in everything from crossing the street to making sales-pitch small-talk to performing a striptease. Life in the “free” west is reduced to a series of absurdist skits, in which citizens rehearse their roles rather than experience their lives. In German with English subtitles. Pro-Res digital file courtesy of Video Data Bank. (MR)
Image copyright of the Artist's Estate, courtesy of the Video Data Bank, www.vdb.org