March 2020, arsenal cinema

arsenal 3 - week 2

The first week was a great success! Not only did many people make use of our digital program, but we also hosted very interesting discussions between filmmakers and audience members. We are aware that our online presence is not yet perfect, but we are working on it and learning as we go along. But it goes without saying that we can’t wait to have you back in person at Arsenal 1 and 2 and we’re constantly thinking about the future about which we have major concerns. In order to continue to show online films for free and also pay filmmakers for the licenses if would be great if you could donate to Arsenal Another possibility to support us is to become members of Arsenal!

And please share this fantastic video that the artists Mareike Bernien, Alex Gerbaulet and Susanne Sachsse made with our Arsenal team members!

"This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do.“
(David Bowie)

The agoraphobic protagonist of THE TIME WE KILLED is lost and trapped in time and space, as are the filmmakers in Cairo just before the Egyptian Revolution (IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE CITY) or passengers on a cargo ship crossing the Atlantic (Muito Romântico), as are a thinker and tinkerer within his own four walls (IM GEHÄUS) or housewives (DIE SCHLÄFERIN), and the people trying to cross a border at their peril, whether in a field in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (REVISION) or in the Mexican desert (EL MAR LA MAR). Others try to overcome time and space with superhuman forces, like in TELEPATHIE EXPERIMENT 1 and COFFEE or with the magic of the media (Today is 11th June and Peril of the Antilles) or with soliloquies (DER OPTIONIST). Two experimental films (KOSMOS and ENERGIE!) provide the finale: “Planet Earth is blue / And there’s nothing I can do” questioning it at the same time.

This week we would like to thank the filmmakers Sylvie Boisseau & Frank Westermeyer, Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki, Melissa Dullius & Gustavo Jahn, Ayşe Erkmen, Tamer El Said, Thorsten Fleisch, Alex Gerbaulet, Eva Heldmann, Jennifer Reeves, Philip Scheffner, Fern Silva, Isabel Spengler and Clarissa Thieme.

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THE TIME WE KILLED  (Jennifer Reeves, USA 2003, engl. OV, 95 min) is a black-and-white experimental feature that portrays the life and imaginings of a poet unable to leave her New York City apartment. Robyn Taylor tries to comprehend and fight her growing agoraphobia by looking into her own past and confronting the world events of the present (from terrorist attacks on the US to the war in Iraq). Robyn's obsessive ruminations threaten to drive her deeper into the solitude of an illusory world, until a personal encounter with death prompts her to leave the safety of home once again. Jennifer Reeves: ”Many films that deal with mental illness depict the afflicted characters as freakish and mysterious. I have sought to create a unique cinematic form that will bring the viewer closer to identifying with a person they might at first find illogical or disturbing. Documentary material, scripted and improvised scenes are interwoven to create a hybrid of true fiction in this subjective and poetic film. As Robyn gets lost in reveries of another time and place, an intricate film montage flashes before the eyes: abstracted impressions of once-loved people, places and animals. The talking cure of psychoanalysis is evoked as Robyn's history and unconscious struggles unfold in a freeassociative voice-over of her thoughts. Robyn's fixation with the past takes on new meaning when we learn about a fall from a bridge which left her with amnesia at the age of 17. Recollections of time spent in a mental institution indicate her compulsion to lock herself away from society. The Time We Killed uses stark high-contrast b&w 16mm scenes to represent the frail beauty and deteriorated memories of Robyn's inner world, and DV-Cam scenes depict her more confined present life.”

AKHER AYAM EL MADINA (In The Last Days of the City, Tamer El Said, Egypt 2015, OmU, 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: One left Baghdad and is now living as a refugee in Berlin, another stayed there, a third lives in troubled Beirut. 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.

MUITO ROMÂNTICO (Melissa Dullius, Gustavo Jahn, Deutschland, Brasilien 2016, OmE, 72 min) The adventure of Melissa and Gustavo starts aboard a red cargo ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It takes them from Brazil to Berlin, a city of perpetual movement, where the old constantly has to give space to the new. The couple finds a home and transforms it into the center of their own universe. As time passes and seasons change, life and cinema become interchangeable and their apartment evolves into an ever-changing stage, where friends are invited to play their own roles and reality and fiction merge. Until one day a cosmic portal appears in their home, opening connections between the past, the present and the future. Drawing from autobiography as well as fantasy, Melissa Dullius and Gustavo Jahn weave their experiences in Berlin into a colorful tapestry of memories, encounters, and dreams. The duo poses filmmaking as a communal as well as a personal endeavor, and themselves as travelers between distant places, both geographically and temporally, on a journey transcending space and time.

IM GEHÄUS (Eva C. Heldmann, D 2017, OmE, 27 min) Dennis and I live together. One year ago I started to explore his 30.8 square meters with my camera. This portrait of a man in his workroom emerged. Papers cover the floor, mixed up – a lot of contradictory details. In between noted thoughts, mathematical formulas, graphic sketches, and receipts there are novels, scientific books, issues of ‘The New York Review of Books,’ tools, lenses, pieces of wood, cardboards, plastic bags, and dust. In the mysterious chaos a self-willed world of a mathematician, thinker, art historian, and handyman becomes visible. He believes that his two kinds of work – handcraft and intellectual – support each other. Dennis spent half a year working on a small geometric surprise inside Dürer’s engraving ‘Jerome in His Study,’ and confessed: “Jerome’s room is my room.” How does he see that? The camera tracks down the details in the room. I don’t really trust his working methods – little gets done – but they draw me in, affecting my own method in this film. At the same time, when I start filming, Dennis starts cleaning up the room. (Eva C. Heldmann)

DIE SCHLÄFERIN (Alexandra Gerbaulet, D 2018, OmE, 17 min) Two newspaper articles, ten years apart, two different women, the same wording. In 2001 the “Göttinger Zeitung” wrote that Margit (69) had lived a secluded life as an inconspicuous woman. In 2011 the “Hamburger Abendblatt” stated that Irina (65) had lived in seclusion, a non-descript woman. Up to the moment of their appearance in these newspaper lines, both women were invisible, forcefully concealed by their roles as wives and homemakers. Only for a brief moment did they claim visibility. Through acts of violence. The short film THE SLEEPER reconstructs and imagines the stories of these two women who were extrinsically determined throughout their lives, struggling to express themselves in vain until the only way for them to end the spiral of every-day violence was to resort to violence themselves. The cinematic narrative, too, oscillates between documentation and fiction. Everyday scenes, translated into animated still lives in the film, suggest that something is about to happen or just took place. The character of the homemaker seems omnipresent though she never appears on the scene, just as the actual protagonists Margit and Irina remain invisible.

REVISION (Philip Scheffner, D 2012, OmU,106 min) In 1992, two men were shot in a field near the German-Polish border. The circumstances which led to the death of Grigore Velcu and Eudache Calderar have not been clarified even today. According to official reports, they were victims of a hunting accident, a tragic mix-up over wild boar. The hunters were never convicted, as the protracted trial failed to pursue many of the most decisive questions and eventually ended in an acquittal. Nearly 20 years later, Philip Scheffner carries out the painstaking investigation that never took place back then. He seeks out the dead men’s relatives in Romania and records the statements they were unable to give until now. As with the other witnesses and different experts he returns to question, he gives them the opportunity to listen to their own statements and reassess them as necessary – unlike standard practice, which elevates statements to fact the very moment they are made. In this way, Scheffner performs a cinematic revision of the case and the medium simultaneously. His diligent handling of material and reports creates a web of landscapes, recollections, case files and German political sentiment all of an increasingly oppressive complexity.

EL MAR LA MAR (Joshua Bonnetta, J. P. Sniadecki, USA 2017, OmU, 94 min) The sun beats down mercilessly on all those who cross the Sonoran Desert between Mexico and the United States. Aside from the few people who live here, it’s the poorest of undocumented immigrants that make the crossing, who have no choice but to take this extremely dangerous route, followed by border guards both official and self-appointed. The horizon seems endlessly far away and deadly dangers lurk everywhere. It’s best to move under the cover of darkness; during the day, being exposed to the heat and sun is enough to make animals and humans perish. Their traces and remains accumulate, fade, decompose and become inscribed into the topography of the landscape, making the absent ever-present as life and death, beauty and dread, hostile light and nights aglitter with stars and promise all continue to exist alongside one another. EL MAR LA MAR masterfully weaves together sublime 16-mm shots of nature and weather phenomena, animals, people and the tracks they leave behind with a polyphonic soundtrack, creating a cinematographic exploration of the desert habitat, a multi-faceted panorama of a highly politicised stretch of land, a film poem that conjures up the ocean.

TELEPATHIE EXPERIMENT I (Isabell Sprengler, D 2007, OF, 31 min) The installation documents a 30-minute experiment in telepathic communication between two close friends who have known each other all their lives: the filmmaker Isabelle Spengler and the choreographer, performer, and singer Antonia Baehr. During the experiment the two test subjects were in two separate soundproof rooms. The rooms each contained a table, chair, paper, pen, and two video cameras to document the people and the surfaces of the desks. In an order established beforehand and by lottery, one of them was instructed to send thoughts to the other for the first 15 minutes, while the other was to try to receive the thoughts. During the second 15 minutes, the thought transference was to be attempted the other way around.The test subjects received no further instruction, directions, training, or technological support. The installation presents the video footage of the subjects and their drawings unabridged in a four-part split screen projection. Telepathie Experiment I was presented at the 2007 Berlinale as part of the program Forum expanded in the exhibition "Interior Expansion" at Büro Friedrich.

COFFEE (Ayşe Erkmen, Türkei 2007, engl. OF, 25 min) is a short film about coffee grounds reading. The film starts with an image of a dog, announcing the start of the entertainment, who also witnesses everything that is told during the film. The coffee grounds reader tells a woman (the artist herself whose fortune is being read in the coffee grounds) what is happening at the time and could happen in her life in the near future. The story is full of strange, obscure characters, objects, events, rumors, gossip, all constructing very visual, imaginative, and colorful imagery through the cool, dry, literate language of the film. (Ayse Erkmen) COFFEE constructs with and in its classical talking heads framing a cinematic space - the spatiality of the cinema - between a coffee grounds reader and his client. The coffee grounds becomes the projection screen of a film that is made up of wishes, memory, speculation, processes of naming, interpretation and refusal. COFFEE was part of the programm Forum expanded at the Berlinale 2007, curated by Anselm Franke and Stefanie Schulte Strathaus. There it premiered at Cinema Arsenal within the Laborsituationen.

TODAY IS 11TH JUNE 1993 (Clarissa Thieme, Deutschland, Bosnien und Herzegowina 2018,  bosnisch, engl. OF, 15 min) “Today is 11th June 1993. The war has been going on for very long. I've tried everything to get out, to save myself, nothing worked. The only thing left is to make this videotape that I will give to my son, he to his, and so on, until a time machine is invented and someone watching this will come and get me out of this.” TODAY IS 11TH JUNE 1993 was developed on the basis of intensive investigations in the Library Hamdija Kreševljaković Video Archive in Sarajevo, a private collection of amateur videos in which the residents of Sarajevo document their lives during the siege. In this collection Thieme found a short science-fiction film in which a group of young people uses black humor to imagine fleeing the enclosed city by means of a time machine. Using simultaneous translation Thieme again formulates the call from the past to the present. How will we react to it?

PERIL OF THE ANTILLES (Fern Silva, USA, Haiti 2011, OmE, 6 min) „“PERIL OF THE ANTILLES was filmed at the beginning of November 2010 while visiting a friend in Haiti. At this specific time, the cholera epidemic was on its way to Port-au-Prince, Hurricane Tomas was on the horizon, presidential elections were in a couple weeks and the first Gede (day of the dead) since the January quakes took place. Along the way I acquired a very curious copy of Michel ‘Sweet Micky’ Martelly’s (Haiti’s newest president and once bad boy of Compas) music video from his early ‘90s heyday... shot in a familiar location... ajé gain´zoreille...” (Fern Silva)

DER OPTIONIST (Sylvie Boisseau, Frank Westermeyer, D 2004, OF, 5 min) „I am a free person. I want to know, it’s like this now, but it could also be different. Everything’s possible for me. I could go everywhere, I can do anything, all woman suit me...“, says the daydreaming protagonist. He sits on a stone sculpture in a park and talks to himself, talks to an absent opposite: no contractions, everything is wonderful: The possibilities opening up, the imaginary as a phantasmatic cloud, hovers as a perfect state around this optionist, since a realization is not an option anyway. What is phantasmatic thus cannot be disturbed by the real.

KOSMOS (Thorsten Fleisch, D 2004, without dialogue, 5 min) consists of crystals grown directly on the film material. The crystals refract the light, the fundamental ingredient of cinema, creating a rich visual texture, reflecting both the mythical aspect of the crystals as well as their mineral, physical and chemical elements. This film is also a direct, haptical cinematic experience.

ENERGIE! (Thorsten Fleisch, D 2007, without dialogue, 5 min)The TV / video screen comes alive by a controlled beam of electrons in the cathode ray tube. For ENERGIE! an uncontrolled high voltage discharge of 30.000 volts exposes photographic paper which is then arranged in time to create new visual systems of electron organization