March 2020, arsenal cinema

Arsenal 3 Open To All

On Friday, March 13th, we suspended all events at Arsenal 1 + 2 until April 19th, cutting short both our anniversary program for the 50th Berlinale Forum and the Forum Expanded exhibition, to combat the further spread of the Coronavirus. Suddenly, “Part of the Problem”, the motto of this year’s Forum Expanded, had become self-explanatory to a far greater degree than we’d hoped: as event organizers, we are always part of what we are engaged with, not least because of our unique approach. It’s not just about having a stance on films, but also one on the world. The places where we negotiate this, the cinema auditorium and the exhibition space, may no longer be accessible for the moment, but the filmmakers, artists, films, audiences and Arsenal itself are all still there, at least the institution and its staff. And we’re still working, also to remodel the cinema into a social space. Yet without the protection of three walls and a screen, there’s a problem: anyone can see the film, which not everyone necessarily agrees with. That’s why we got in touch with the filmmakers and artists whose films form part of our distribution range. We were totally overwhelmed by their reaction: without any hesitation, they immediately made enough films available for online viewing to enable us to put together a program for the next few weeks. And not just that: everyone who agreed to take part also made an unconditional expression of solidarity. We need the filmmakers but they also need us. arsenal 3 is therefore even more what cinema always actually is: a collaborative project.

arsenal 3 isn’t supposed to cost anything, as money is scarce for many right now. As those who make films often earn little from them anyway and are particularly affected by the current crisis, we are now calling for donations so that we can make appropriate licensing payments. 

Account for donations:
BFS / Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
IBAN DE39 1002 0500 0003 344306
BIC: BFSWDE33BER
Title: arsenal 3 

arsenal 3 is new for us too and we will now be collecting experiences with it live. To start with, we will be showing a different program each week. We will maybe then add additional films later. It’s a dynamic process and we ourselves are excited to see how arsenal 3 will develop. 

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For everyone who didn’t hear about it already: we already launched arsenal 3 for our members in 2019 and are now removing this “exclusive” status for the time being. But maybe it’s an occasion for others to become members too – or perhaps even premium members? That would be a great help to us once the Corona period is over. More information can be found here. Your membership will be extended for the period for which Arsenal’s physical cinemas are closed, so you can enjoy discounted entry to Arsenal 1 and 2 for a full six months once they reopen. We’ll be happy to welcome you as a member!  

But now on to our program for the first week. It includes films about empty squares and mass events, about spaces and their surroundings, about intimacy and distance, about the body and how it can be shaped. Films that become new films in the face of the current situation. That is cinema too. At a distance and in contact nonetheless. No rescue, but rather transformation. 

For the “opening”, we are presenting a film that is not actually part of arsenal distribution, but rather belongs to the distribution range of Filmgalerie 451, who we value highly and with whom we have been releasing DVDS for many years now: umsonst (For Nothing, 2014) by Stephan Geene. It’s seldom to have a clearer example of how texts can be read differently under different circumstances. The director describes the film as follows: “Unannounced, Aziza is once again standing in her room – internship, Portugal, everything canceled. But her room is occupied. Her mother, Trixi, has rented it out. Zach lives there now, a twenty-something from New Zealand, who came to Germany on a one-way ticket. Starting from this situation, the film develops an almost documentary-style portrait of a Kreuzberg ‘situation’: everything is readily available, time, people, summer, streets. And in the end a crash, the film itself: ‘for nothing’? Clustering together in a neighborhood, sitting on the street doing nothing or very little, does this have a method? Is there something ‘meant’ by the Kreuzkölln situation of sitting-in-the-sun, using the streets like a bar, and singing on the streets - even if no one is even trying to ‘mean’ or ‘say’ anything? And yet: this use of the city, persisting on getting by without money, insisting on having time, this ‘demonstrates’ something. And what if it were just a way of reacting to the word ‘crisis’? To film the condition and to capture a story in it. People that live here, others that have joined them, stay for an undetermined time, leave, interrupt, also just to end this story altogether.”

AL-KHOROUG LEL-NAHAR (Coming Forth By Day, 2013) by Hala Lotfy shows interiors and exteriors in Cairo to capture one day in the life of Soad. Her mother works nights in a hospital and has barely any energy to spare during the day. Soad has resigned herself to caring for her incapacitated father and putting her own life on hold, with her longing palpably directed to the world outside. But when she leaves the flat in the evening and wanders alone through Cairo by night, it becomes clear just how far she has already distanced herself from her own needs. At the end of the night begins a new day, however, that may still bring change. 

Isabell Spengler’s film is also about the relationship between a grown-up daughter and her parents. VATER, MUTTER, WAS SOLL ICH HEUTE FILMEN? (2012) was made while the director visited her parents in the seclusion of their vacation house in southern France.

Juliane Henrich’s essay film AUS WESTLICHEN RICHTUNGEN (2016) proceeds from the childish question of what “the West” can be above and beyond a point of the compass. It reveals the traces of how this concept has inscribed itself into West German post-war history and architecture as a model for society. 

WAS BLEIBT (What Remains, 2009) by Clarissa Thieme is the film which formed the starting point for Was bleibt | Šta ostaje | What remains / Re-visited, which screened at this year’s Forum. WAS BLEIBT is about the empty spaces left behind in the wake of war and violence. The film is composed of long static wide shots of places and landscapes in present-day Bosnia Herzegovina. WAS BLEIBT is a cinematic memorial beyond the ordinary limits of representation and understanding. 

Constanze Ruhm also showed her new film GLI APPUNTI DI ANNA AZZORI at this year’s Forum. Her earlier work X LOVE SCENES (2007) is the fifth part in a project series that examines contemporary and historical forms of female identity and representation: an actress, a female director, and a script girl are at a film set, with the leading male actor absent. He is replaced by a mark – a white chalk X on a black flag.

Physical distancing, the same experience of physical distance to which we are all currently subject, recalls numerous short films. We are showing some of them now, while others will be added to the arsenal 3 program later on. 

In Susanne Sachsse’s SERIOUS LADIES (2012), the standard interlocutor is also absent - an actress plays all roles and herself, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the corridor of the apartment, and in the streets of Berlin. 

In their video CAIROGRAPHY (2013), choreographer Dalia Naous and video artist Kinda Hassan try out the possibilities of the body to resist social restrictions. They examine the visible and invisible barriers between public and private space in Cairo. What is it like to walk through the streets there? What is permitted and what is forbidden?

Shown at the 2019 Forum Expanded exhibition, TRANSFORMATION SCENARIO by Clemens von Wedemeyer is about artificial crowds. The speculative narration on the impact of emulated group behavior on societies places a focus on different images of society, how crowds are controlled, and their potential. 

NAMIBIA TODAY (2018) was filmed by Laura Horelli in an underground station below Karl-Marx-Allee in the former East Berlin. Passengers stand around and wait. Billboards line the walls, each combining a front page of “Namibia Today”, a magazine of the Namibian liberation movement. Tracking shots filmed from the underground train reveal the difference between memories and narrated stories.

BÜHNE by Daniel Kötter (2011) examines a moment of fundamental change in the understanding of public space in post-communist Bulgaria. The Palace for Sports and Culture in the Bulgarian Black Sea coastal town of Varna was built as a prestige project of modernist architecture for the communist understanding of theater and sport. The film stages the “theater” itself as an allegoric space of encounter.

The Al-Azhar park in Cairo is a popular meeting point for young couples. That’s where SHOOTING STARS REMIND ME OF EAVESDROPPERS (2014) was shot, in which Maha Maamoun examines the act of listening and the status of the listener. 

For its part, O QUAM TRISTIS (O How Sad, 2009) by Maite Abella does away with dialogue entirely. Mother and Daughter have always been fighting. In William Wyler’s “The Big Country” (1958), actors Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston are fighting in the middle of a vast landscape the whole night long until the next day – that was the way to solve their problems. This physical battle was the inspiration for a family home movie.

BLÄUE (Blueness) by Kerstin Schroedinger (2018) juxtaposes images of the production sites of the pharmaceutical-chemical industry with speculations on the historical, social, and material conditions of Cyanotype photography. The film follows a figure who moves through the stages of exposing and developing a Cyanotype. While waiting, she seeks to define her body as both a commodity and a consumer of pharmaceutical products. She remains stuck between the roles of researcher, scientist, athlete, pharmacist, patient and woman, working against chemical substances and the neo-liberal appropriation of her movements. 

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