April 2020, arsenal cinema

arsenal 3 – week 4

This corona period is one of waiting, waiting for an end without even knowing how to recognize it. Has waiting become an end in itself? Maybe the point is not to change the world, or even our expectations of it, but to change the anticipated. In Bette Gordon's VARIETY, a ticket seller at a porn cinema stops waiting for the next customer and decides to appropriate her surroundings, while a saleswoman at one of the first web shops in Germany appropriates the interactive videotex in Riki Kalbe's DIE OPTISCHE INDUSTRIEGESELLSCHAFT ODER DARF’S EIN VIERTEL PFUND MEHR SEIN? The same director also made HEXENSCHUSS, about three women in a shared Berlin apartment who get fed up with waiting and create a radio disturbance channel to expose sexism in the media. Three decades later, a woman and her children wait in front of the TV for time to pass (ANOTHER COLOR TV by The Youngrrr), while in LILY’S LAPTOP (Judith Hopf) a daughter waits at home alone. Maybe her parents are at work, sitting in meetings and conferences. Stefan Landorf's BESPRECHUNG (Meeting) brings us into the realm of rhetoric and rituals. Chronophobia sounds like a product of this world: It's characterized by an irrational yet persistent fear of time and of the passing of time, and can only be "healed" if time is slowed down or stopped. DIE ZEIT VERGEHT WIE EIN BRÜLLENDER LÖWE (Time Goes by Like a Roaring Lion) by Philipp Hartmann tries to do the impossible. While the coronavirus is not only slowing down our present, but at the same time accelerating it, putting us at risk while also opening up a space for reflection, the waiting is also putting people in urgent mortal danger, and not only since the virus appeared. In LE CUIRASSÉ ABDELKARIM (Battleship Abdelkarim by Walid Mattar) young people wait to receive a visa for Europe. In NOW: END OF SEASON (Ayman Nahle), the audience sees Syrian refugees waiting in Turkey while listening as a phone conversation fails to happen – President Hafiz al-Assad waits for his US counterpart Ronald Reagan who is out riding. LES SAUTEURS (Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner, Abou Bakar Sidibé) is about waiting for the next "jump" from Africa to the EU, from Mount Gurugu, which overlooks the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the Mediterranean coast of north Africa. Meanwhile: THE MERMAIDS, OR AIDEN IN WONDERLAND (Karrabing Film Collective) tells of a future in which Europeans will no longer be able to survive for long periods outdoors in a land and seascape poisoned by capitalism, but Indigenous people seem able to. In PHANTASIESÄTZE (Dane Komljen) the trees are consulted long after the cities on the river have been afflicted by a plague. Back by popular demand: Tamer El Said's IN DEN LETZTEN TAGEN DER STADT, another film about waiting, for a new apartment, a new film, a future. And finally, we will also be showing the long-awaited second part of Ulrike Ottinger's Berlin trilogy: FREAK ORLANDO.

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VARIETY (Bette Gordon, USA 1983, OV/German ST, 100 min) is an attempt to break open male-dominated structures of looking. Christine has a job in New York selling tickets at a porn theater. From her ticket booth, she observes the clientele. Gradually, she develops a fascination for the porn industry. When one client invites her to a baseball game and abruptly leaves, she begins to follow him. Her obsession leads her to dark streets, to fish markers, and perhaps into the world of the Mafia.

DIE OPTISCHE INDUSTRIEGESELLSCHAFT ODER DARF’S EIN VIERTEL PFUND MEHR SEIN? (Riki Kalbe, FRG 1983, OV/English ST, 47 min) The film combines documentary scenes, TV clips, and passages from an interview with the then Postmaster General Christian Schwarz-Schilling in a fictional plot and mixes video and 16mm film. A film on videotext and the brave new media world, in which the – presumably first – female hacker redirects a few things into other channels. It is also a critique of the working conditions in the emerging information service industry.

HEXENSCHUSS (Riki Kalbe, FRG 1979, OV/English ST, 30 min) Berlin 1978. The film tells the story of three women who live together and build a jamming transmitter, which they use to highjack the soundtrack of TV news broadcasts. Why they do this is explained through a polemic montage of archival TV footage, which shows how men in leadership positions talk about women and what they do. (from the production note)

ANOTHER COLOR TV (The Youngrrr (Yovista Ahtajida, Dyantini Adeline), Indonesia 2013, OV/English ST, 9 min) is a documentary film that shows a family interaction in front of the television, and how television becomes a major way to escape from reality. The mother is the communicative centre of an Indonesian family living in the suburbs. Because she spends her time alone at home, the television gradually takes on the role of a best friend. This situation causes her to apply the values that she sees in television to her family. But the other family members get their values from different outside sources, and they always reject her values.

LILLY’S LAPTOP (Judith Hopf, Germany 2013, without Dialogue, 5 min)  is an updated adaptation of the suffragette film LE BATEAU DE LÉONTINE (1911). As is characteristic for many suffragette films from the silent era, a bourgeois apartment is thoroughly destroyed by a domestic worker. The relations of power and employment are for a moment led ad absurdum, putting them out of service in a distinctly comic style.

BESPRECHUNG (Stefan Landorf, Germany 2009, OV, 92 min) Meetings are part of everyday life. They have their own dynamic, their own linguistic codes and they reflect the state of a company “The film shows meetings in a wide range of different institutions, placing its focus on the architecture of meeting rooms and the language and gestures of the participants in particular. It leads us into a world of small talk, phrases and rituals and reveals meetings as a stage for (self-) portrayals of all kinds. This becomes most tangible in the performative sequences, in which individual sentences are repeated by the protagonists and then taken up and recited by actors as they move the stage sets around – verbal fragments to be employed at will, liberated of any particular meaning.” (Birgit Kohler)

DIE ZEIT VERGEHT WIE EIN BRÜLLENDER LÖWE (Philipp Hartmann, Germany 2013, OV/English ST, 80 min) Director Philipp Hartmann employs a kaleidoscopic approach to make time the subject of cinema. His film revolves around a filmmaker suffering from chronophobia at the statistical mid-point of his life. A way must now be found to slow down the passing of time so that he may be healed. "DIE ZEIT VERGEHT WIE EIN BRÜLLENDER LÖWE (Time Passes Like a Roaring Lion) – a claim made by the filmmaker's grandmother – is a highly enjoyable, instructive, fantastic and ultimately 'possible' film about the impossible." (Viennale 2013)

LE CUIRASSÉ ABDELKARIM (Battleship Abdelkarim, Walid Mattar, Tunisia 2003, OV/English ST, 8 min) Young people are waiting to obtain a visa to go to Europe. All their applications are refused. But there must be a solution! A revolution? – This black and white silent movie was shot in just a few hours. The Battleship Potemkin was the departure point of the revolution. Abdelkarim’s Battleship is what remains for those who will never revolt. The citation of Eisenstein’s movie is precise; the “décalé” mood prevents the movie from drifting into mannerism and the denouement matches the darkest side of reality.

NOW: END OF SEASON (Ayman Nahle, Lebanon, Syria 2015, OV/English ST, 20 min) While US President Ronald Reagan is out horse riding, the Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad tries in vain to reach him by phone. Ayman Nahle’s short film turns us into witnesses of the phone call with White House staff as we watch Syrian refugees waiting in Turkey. “It’s quiet here, except for the echoes of the noise, the tone of the moment and the sigh of waiting. ‘Time has not passed yet, there’s still some time’. Entire families, elderly, women, children, youngsters, war injured, in addition to the smugglers – all are present here as if they own the location. At Izmir Garage, thousands of migrants are getting ready daily for the journey to the unknown. Some have chosen a café in the area to be the waiting spot, some talk and laugh, while the rest have settled in silence, contemplating the kids. The state: waiting. Everyone here is waiting for the mediator to arrive with the tickets. Will he come today? Or will the trip be postponed to another day? Izmir Garage represents the mid-point in the long journey of the Syrian migration. After the hassle of arriving in Turkey, another trip on the sea still waits for them before they reach Europe.” (Ayman Nahle)

LES SAUTEURS (Those Who Jump, Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner, Sidib, Abou Bakar Sidibé ,Denmark 2016, OV/English ST, 82 min) Mount Gurugu overlooks the Spanish enclave of Melilla on northern Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The European Union and Africa are separated here by a high-security border facility consisting of three fences. Refugees, mostly from the sub-Saharan region, live in the tree-covered foothills, from where they try to cross the land border between Morocco and Spain. One of them is Abou Bakar Sidibé from Mali, who in LES SAUTEURS is both the protagonist and the one doing the documenting. After 14 months in the informal camp and numerous failed attempts to beat the fence system, Abou starts filming – his daily routine, his surroundings, the mind-numbing wait for the next "jump". His footage gives insights into the social organisation of the refugee community and provides a mournful look at the supposed El Dorado of Europe. LES SAUTEURS carries out a unique shift in perspective: the abstract, anonymous thermal images of the surveillance cameras stand in contrast to the subjective gaze of an individual. After meeting Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner, Sidibé takes on the responsibility for their camera, tirelessly documenting his living conditions on the sidelines of an EU under lockdown. (Caroline Pitzen)

THE MERMAIDS, OR AIDEN IN WONDERLAND (Elizabeth Povinelli, Karrabing Film Collective, Australia 2018, OV/English ST, 26 min) In the not so distant future, Europeans will no longer be able to survive for long periods outdoors in a land and seascape poisoned by capitalism, but Indigenous people seem able to. A young Indigenous man, Aiden, taken away when he was just a baby to be a part of a medical experiment to “save the white ‘race’”, is released into the world of his family. As he travels with his father and brother across the landscape he confronts two possible futures and pasts. THE MERMAIDS, OR AIDEN IN WONDERLAND is a powerful intervention in contemporary debates about the future present of climate change, extractive capitalism, and industrial toxicity from the point of view of Indigenous worlds.

PHANTASIESÄTZE (Dane Komljen, Germany, Denmark 2017, OV/English ST, 17 min) Many years ago, the cities by the river were gripped by a contagion. Things started to change and everything slowly became something else. It was not clear if transformation was a symptom of the disease or a way to escape it. The contagion touched everything and everyone: animals and plants, stones and soil, men, women and children, their thoughts, their dreams, their memories. An old woman once told me how all memories turn into trees, I could hardly make out what she was saying. She said she could hear the trees singing: To be a body, to be any body. After the years of contagion ended, the cities appeared untouched. One had to look hard to see the traces of the previous time. If one could listen to the trees, what would they say? A way out, a way out? (Dane Komljen)

FREAK ORLANDO (Ulrike Ottinger, FRG 1981, OV/English ST, 126 min) In the form of a "small theater of the world", a history of the world from its beginnings to our day, including the errors, the incompetence, the thirst for power, the fear, the madness, the cruelty and the commonplace, in a story of five episodes. (Ulrike Ottinger)

AKHER AYAM EL MADINA (In the Last Days of the City, Tamer El Said, Egypt 2015, OV/German ST, 118 min) Downtown Cairo is an organism that still seems alive back in winter 2009/10, but is becoming increasingly alien even to those born there. Khalid is looking for a flat. He’s a filmmaker. He looks at his images over and over again, as if he were waiting for them to produce some sort of meaning. The stories of his protagonists seem to come from somewhere inside him, he seeks points of reference in the outside world. The more he looks for them, the more they seem to disappear; not abruptly though, but in lengthy moments full of tenderness, such as when he bids farewell to his girlfriend who is leaving him, to his ill mother, to friends who have come to the city to premiere their films. For them, Cairo is a fixed reference point. When they decide to send Khalid video material from their cities, it's not so much about helping him with his film than preserving something they still associate with Cairo via this bond, fully aware that it’s already a fantasy. An almost noiseless film in which time is overtaken by history.