April 2020, arsenal cinema

arsenal 3 – week 5 & 6

Absent Present: Our first phase of closure comes to an end on 19.4. It’s still not clear when arsenal 1 and arsenal 2 can be reopened. arsenal 3 has already four weeks of programming behind it. At this point, we’d like to say a big thank you to our audiences, who are scattered across the entire world right now, to all the filmmakers who have been giving their support to arsenal 3, and to everyone who has already made a donation! We would like to welcome all the new Arsenal and Arsenal Freundeskreis members! The majority of films we’re showing at arsenal 3 are from our own distribution range. Curating a program from a pool of films right in front of you is an exciting new challenge, as instead of collating films for a particular series or exhibition, we are placing those already there into relationship with one another. This enables us to take a fresh look at our collection, also with regards to the question of what’s available digitally and what isn’t, and the restrictions faced by digital programming without recourse to analogue films. Still incredibly extensive nonetheless: maybe it’s not even us who does the curating. Maybe it’s the films themselves that group themselves first in one way and then another (in this case, without the analogue ones) and create something new in the process. And then it’s once again us who form narratives. As always, from the present, which currently has a particularly profound effect on how we view cinema. It’s all the more important that we don’t just try draw attention to our own immediate realm of experience but rather try to implement what we’ve learnt from the cinema of resistance: making visible what we otherwise don’t see. As always, when we leave the cinema space, we also do so to grasp the same space in a new way. This equally applies to exhibitions and the Internet. Seen from the outside, there are always good reasons to return to the cinema auditorium, as well as expanded views of cinema and society that will endure. arsenal 3 is an experiment. It explores, for example, the question of whether a temporal restriction can create a cinema space. With a beginning and an end, at which discussions with the filmmakers take place. We still have to adjust the rhythm to this end: for this reason, we are now turning our weekly programs into fortnightly ones. For it’s not just cinema, but also our concept of time that we’re learning afresh. Meetings are currently only possible with many restrictions. In weeks 5 & 6, we would like to make you acquainted a few personalities who we came across during our research, famous and less well-known alike. The focus is on portraits and the difficulties connected with making them, particularly when the lives of those being portrayed are or have been marked by questions of representation and depiction. Those filming are thus just as important here as those being filmed. We meet photographer Abisag Tüllmann (DIE FRAU MIT DER KAMERA by Claudia von Alemann), filmmaker Harun Farocki (HARUN FAROCKI – ZWEIMAL by Ingo Kratisch and Lothar Schuster), artist and musician Tony Conrad (TONY CONRAD DREAMINIMALIST by Marie Losier), performance artist Oskar Dawicki (THE PERFORMER by Łukasz Ronduda and Maciej Sobieszczański), and architect Louis Sullivan (SULLIVANS BANKEN by Heinz Emigholz). We meet actors Soad Hosni in THE 3 DISAPPEARANCES OF SOAD HOSNI (by Rania Stephan), Frances Framer in COMMITTED (by Sheila McLaughlin und Lynne Tillman), and João Carlos Castanha in CASTANHA (by Davi Pretto), as well as telenovela actress and political activist Bete Mendes and funk-carioca musician Deise Tigrona (BETE & DEISE by Wendelien van Oldenborgh). Marwa Arsanios even goes a stage further in HAVE YOU EVER KILLED A BEAR? OR BECOMING JAMILA, which focuses on the difficulties faced by an actress in playing Algerian liberation fighter Jamila Bouhired. ABSENT PRESENT: But it’s not just about well-known names. Benji was brought to East Germany from Namibia as a small child in 1979 and sent back there in 1990 after reunification, where filmmaker Angelika Levi got to know him. When she later wanted to make a portrait of him, he had disappeared. SUSPENDED FREEDOM by May El Hossamy follows a housekeeper who goes door to door in Cairo, does housework, and speaks about her private life in the process. And in JOKINEN, Laura Horelli tells the story of Finnish man August Jokinen, a caretaker and subsequent civil-rights campaigner and Communist Party member, as a piece of historical research and a detective story in one. Thomas Heise says the following about his film MEIN BRUDER. WE’LL MEET AGAIN: “It’s about my brother and I. Everything unspoken between us. Otherwise I wouldn’t have made this film.” Last but not least, revolving around ourselves again, we are showing three special attempts at self-depiction: XÉNOGÉNÈSE by Akihiko Morishita, WITH SOUL, WITH BLOOD by Rabih Mroué, and TOSS IT, BABY! by Justin Time. Dr. Mabuse, boss of a press company, doesn’t create just a portrait, she creates an entire person: with DORIAN GRAY IM SPIEGEL DER BOULEVARDPRESSE, we are bringing Ulrike Ottinger’s Berlin trilogy to a close. arsenal 3 came about because we had to temporarily close arsenal 1 and 2 to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus. Just before we were closing the program, we unfortunately received the sad news that Sarah Maldoror, an outstandingly important filmmaker not just to us, had passed away at the age of 91 after contracting the virus. MONANGAMBEEE is a rallying cry with which the activists of the anti-colonial liberation struggle in Angola convened village meetings. Her short film of the same name is one of the most important works in our collection. We are making all efforts we can to include it in the program.

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DIE FRAU MIT DER KAMERA (Claudia von Alemann, Germany 2015, OV/English ST, 92 min) A portrait of photographer Abisag Tüllmann (1935-1996). Abisag Tüllmann’s photographs have become deeply engraved into our cultural memory. Using more than 500 black-and-white photos, all of which taken by Abisag Tüllmann, this cinematic tribute places her life and work in the context of the 1960s to the 1990s. Claudia von Alemann tries to get close to her friend via pictures and archival documents, excerpts from films by Carola Benninghoven, Helke Sander, Alexander Kluge, Günther Hörmann, and Ulrich Schamoni, via the music of composer José Luis de Delás, and via letters and memories, such as those of photographer Barbara Klemm, who still vividly remembers her former Frankfurt colleague.

HARUN FAROCKI – ZWEIMAL (Ingo Kratisch, Lothar Schuster, Germany 2019, OV/English ST, 36 min) combines two perspectives on filmmaker Harun Farocki. For his TV documentary “Die Sache mit der Realität. Eine Collage über Dokumentarfilm” (1996), Lothar Schuster had a long conversation with Farocki, whom he had known since the late 1960s. Farocki discusses the idea of the Enlightenment, the compositional patterns of his films, the relationship between image and text. Ingo Kratisch, responsible for the camera in many of Farocki’s films between 1977 and his death, used his photo and film camera to record casual observations during the shooting of “The Creators of Shopping Worlds” (2001), “In Comparison” (2009), “Serious Games” (2009/10) and other films. In HARUN FAROCKI – TAKE TWO, Schuster’s and Kratisch’s footage alternates; discourse and observation comment and complement each other. On the one hand the gradual construction of thoughts during speech, on the other the act of patiently waiting, making pauses and preparing to shoot. (Volker Pantenburg)

TONY CONRAD DREAMINIMALIST (Marie Losier, USA 2008, OV, 26 min) This is a dream portrait of Tony Conrad, the experimental filmmaker, musician/composer, sound artist, teacher and writer. Violin player Tony Conrad was one of the pioneers of New York minimalism. In this portrait, we discover Tony playing in his studio with costumes and wigs, practicing violin in his home town Buffalo, cooking pickled films, performing at Tonic and The Whitney Biennial in NYC, recalling his first hand puppet performances with his mother, his first meeting with Jack Smith and his involvement with Flaming Creatures. „Drawing on Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine, DREAMINIMALIST portrays an artist that always stages the boundaries of the medium.” (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus)

THE PERFORMER (Łukasz Ronduda, Maciej Sobieszczański, Poland 2015, OV/English ST, 65 min) An insight into the contemporary art world, based on the life of performance artist Oskar Dawicki who plays himself. The main theme of his art is the search for an answer to the question of whether... Oskar Dawicki exists at all. The trademark of his performances is his blue shining jacket. We meet Oskar at a turning point in his life, when he learns that his Mentor Zbigniew Warpechowski is dying. Warpechowski has also been mentoring the Dearest, Dawicki’s childhood friend and a rival, who has devoted himself to more commercial art and become the most profitable contemporary artist in Poland. Dawicki has one more complicated relationship in his life: a love affair with his art dealer. As in Dawicki’s previous works, established norms of moral, spiritual, and social order are challenged and put on trial. THE PERFORMER is the first-ever art exhibition in the form of a feature film: Oskar Dawicki’s works are connected on the screen not only by time and space, but also by narrative, drama, and emotion. The film is an unusual mix of performance art with acting, and a fusion of documentary film-making with fictional storytelling.

SULLIVANS BANKEN (Heinz Emigholz, Germany 1993-1999, without Dialogue, 38 min) "All buildings have arisen, have stood, and stand as physical symbols of the psychic state of the people ... throughout the past and the present, each building stands as a social act", Sullivan wrote in the 1906 essay 'What is Architecture'. "In everything that men do they leave an indelible imprint of their minds. If this suggestion be followed out, it will become surprisingly clear how each and every building reveals itself naked to the eye; how its every aspect, to the smallest detail, to the lightest move of the hand, reveals the workings of the mind of the man who made it, and who is responsible to us for it." At the age of thirty-five, Sullivan was one of America's most famous architects. The skycraper trilogy ("Wainwright Building", St. Louis 1892, "Guaranty Building", Buffalo 1896, "Bayard Building", NYC 1899) that he designed together with Dankmar Adler can be found in every dictionary of architecture. The basis of his creations was the separation of construction and facade made possible by the invention of reinforced concrete. He consistently draped his buildings with facades that no longer had a load-bearing function as a form of free expression. From one building to the next, both inside and outside, he varied and perfected his modular ornamental designs in brick, steel, plaster, terracotta, glass, ceramics, mosaic, marble, light, relief, stencil designs, wood and metal.

THE 3 DISAPPEARANCES OF SOAD HOSNI (Rania Stephan, Lebanon 2011, OV/English ST, 68 min) The Egyptian Soad Hosni was born in 1943 and committed suicide in 2001. Hosni, one of the most celebrated Arab actresses, played in 82 features. Rania Stephan reconstructed her life, just using fragments on VHS films in which Hosni was a shining star. The film is divided into three acts, a prologue and epilogue, and not only tells the life story of the versatile film star, but also of Egyptian cinema and society. In the first part, we see the actress sing and dance and a cheerful gathering of boys, girls and family. In the second part, we see Hosni - who in reality had countless affairs - as a desirable woman in sometimes complex relationships. Act three runs parallel to a change in the mood of society: there is violence against and oppression of women. It isn’t only the body of Hosni that disappeared; this form of cinema and VHS as a medium also disappeared - three disappearances.

COMMITTED (Sheila McLaughlin, Lynne Tillman, USA 1983, OV/German ST, 76 min) "COMMITTED is a narrative film that takes as its subject the movie star Frances Farmer, who was committed to a mental institution in the mid-1940s. Not intended as a biography but as a fictional interpretation of parts of her life, COMMITTED focuses on a troubled relationship between a mother and daughter; the social and political environment during the 1930s and 1940s; psychiatry as an increasingly powerful determinant in American life; and a destructive love affair between a woman and a man. (…) COMMITTED presents Farmer as her own narrator. She tells her side of the story. Contrasted to her own perceptions of herself and past events are others' descriptions and judgments of her, particularly those of the legal and psychiatric establishments, and those of her mother. COMMITTED looks at the institution of psychiatry as it developed in America from the 1930s on. In cohort with the government, psychiatry attempted to define what was normal for its citizens, thereby contributing to and defining the quality of American life. (…)" (Sheila McLaughlin)

CASTANHA (Davi Pretto, Brazil 2014, OV/German ST, 96 min) ‘What have I become? Me, a true 80’s creature?’ is what the character played by João Carlos Castanha asks on stage, which could just as easily be directed at he himself: 52-year-old actor and transvestite João has his best years behind him. He’s ill, has lost both lovers and companions along the way and appears weary, even if none of this stops him from living the way he always has. João shares two rooms with his mother in a lower middle-class housing complex closed off to the outside; at night he performs in small theatres and gay bars. The film makes just as much time for solitary moments in shabby backstage areas as it does for João’s performances and his unforgettable face, exploring a milieu at once tender, brutal and cruel with precision, its fleeting glamour only skin-deep. Its complex layers of documentary observation, staged sequences and fictional elements coalesce into a story of life and death: while João imagines himself as having one foot in the grave and is haunted by the ghosts of his past, he doggedly continues to celebrate life. ‘I think I might go to hell. Hell is a rave. An eternal rave.’ (Hanna Keller)

BETE & DEISE (Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Brazil, Netherlands 2012, OV/English ST, 41 min) shows the encounter between two women in Rio de Janeiro, who each give the public a voice in their own individual way. Bete Mendes is a veteran telenovela actress and political activist, Deise Tigrona one of the key voices of baile funk, whose song "Injeção" formed the starting point for M.I.A.'s song "Bucky Done Gun". The film came about while Van Oldenborgh was carrying out research on Brazilian cinema and examining the use of gestures in public space as an expression of social conditions.

ABSENT PRESENT (Angelika Levi, Spain, Germany, Senegal 2010, OV/Englisch ST, 85 min) Benji was brought from Namibia to the GDR in 1979 as a young child and sent back in 1990 after German reunification. Levi got to know him there in 1991. Two years later, he hitchhiked back to Europe disguised as a tourist. But "in this film there is no main character. Benji, who should have been it, has disappeared," it is stated at the beginning of the movie. On her search for traces, Levi associatively links the story of the refugee with the stories of flight of those she meets underway. The journey leads from Germany to Namibia, to the Spanish mainland and the Canary Islands, all the way to Senegal. Without wanting to draw a geographical or political map, an essayistic documentary on the various forms of traveling emerges: vacation and migration, voluntary and forced return.

SUSPENDED FREEDOM (May El Hossamy, Egypt 2011, OV/English ST, 11 min) The film follows a housekeeper in Cairo who goes from house to house performing household chores, while talking about her personal life. The woman’s husband was imprisoned for seven years but was released during Egypt’s January revolution, when Egyptian prison inmates were released en masse.

MEIN BRUDER. WE’LL MEET AGAIN (Thomas Heise, Germany 2005, OV/English ST, 59 min) "My brother is a cook. He left the city and his favorite bar in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district. He has been living in France for the past year, in the mountains, in the garret of Micha and Yvonne's guesthouse. Andreas thought he would die here: three heart attacks, an operation, his heart, and nothing left, but he can think again. My big brother has suddenly fallen in love. With Vanina, the wife of the blacksmith with the three sons. Micha finances the little guesthouse with his work in cardiac wards in Switzerland and Germany. He is a cardio-technician; Yvonne used to be one. Now she is taking time for the children. My brother works for Micha and Yvonne. He cooks for them and for the few summer guests. Now it is October, and my visit is short. I want to talk with my big brother about Micha, his friend. The man who spied on us for the Stasi. The point here is not secret intelligence agencies. It's about my brother and me. What we don't talk about. Otherwise I wouldn't have made this film." (Thomas Heise)

HAVE YOU EVER KILLED A BEAR? OR BECOMING JAMILA (Marwa Arsanios, Lebanon 2014, OV/English ST, 25 min) A video that uses the history of a magazine – Cairo’s Al-Hilal ‘50s and ‘60s collection – as the starting point for an inquiry into Jamila Bouhired, the Algerian freedom fighter. An actress designated to play her role is showing the magazine’s covers to the camera. From the different representations of Jamila in cinema to her assimilation and promotion through the magazine, the performance attempts to look at the history of socialist projects in Egypt, anti-colonial wars in Algeria, and the way they have promoted and marginalized feminist projects. The clear gender division used to marginalize women from the public sphere was overcome for a short moment during the Algerian war of independence (Jamila becoming its icon). Different voices and film and print material are used to explore this history. What does it mean to play the role of the freedom fighter? What does it mean to become an icon? Between role playing and political projects, how does the constitution of the subject serve certain political purposes?

JOKINEN (Laura Horelli, Finland 2016, OV/English ST, 45 min) In 1931, the so-called Yokinen Trial, organized by the Communist Party of the USA in Harlem, New York, brought the Finnish immigrant August Jokinen to public attention. Jokinen, a janitor at the Finnish Worker’s Club, was accused of not defending three African-American communists who had been mistreated at one of the club’s dances. Following his admittance of guilt, Jokinen became an outspoken civil rights advocate until he was arrested for membership in the Communist Party and subsequently deported to Finland. Laura Horelli tells Jokinen’s migration tale as a mixture between historical research and detective story. Arranging her archival findings – ranging from newspaper articles to books and historical photographs – on a physical desktop, she constructs a narrative by positioning, highlighting, cutting out, masking, and coloring. Her ‘analogue desktop-documentary’ follows August Jokinen’s public story all the way to the present, to a mailbox message on a Russian mobile phone.

XÉNOGÉNÈSE (Akihiko Morishita, Japan 1982, without Dialogue, 7 min) An experimental film that focuses on the duality of its medium: material and image. A figure dressed in shirt and tie – the filmmaker himself – walks in circles around what appears to be a junkyard and confuses this duality as more and more vertical scratches are introduced to the surface of the image. The film employs tactics of trompe-l’œil to comically allude to the circular nature of human life and, in its function as the artist’s self-portrait, gently mocks the home movie genre.

WITH SOUL, WITH BLOOD (Rabih Mroué, Lebanon 2006, OV/English ST, 5 min) In WITH SOUL, WITH BLOOD, Rabih Mroué scans a grainy newspaper photograph of a massive crowd at a political protest in a futile effort to find any trace of his own presence at the event.

TOSS IT, BABY! (Justin Time,USA 2007, without Dialogue, 6 min) A blonde woman tosses her hair at a Californian beach. The well-known stereotypical gesture at first looks like a shampoo advertising, but turns out to be robot-like endlessly repeated. The seemingly innocent gesture gets tantalizing in the repetition and reveals its normative structure.

Berlin Trilogy: DORIAN GRAY IM SPIEGEL DER BOULEVARDPRESSE (Ulrike Ottinger, FRG 1984, OV/English ST, 151 min) From the panoramic, historical revue of the many faces of social prejudice and ostracism, Ottinger turns her attention to the mechanism of exclusion invested with the necessary power to make or break people. Frau Dr. Mabuse, whose illustrious precursor is Fritz Lang's psychopathic, counterfeiting boss of the underworld, derives her power from the fabrication of reality based on the seduction of images and words. Her perfect object and victim is the Bauhaus-dandy Dorian, whose relation to Oscar Wilde's prototype is as marginal as his relation to power. The fairy-tale framework of Ottinger's feature compositions asserts itself strongly in this film as Dorian replaces the evil tycoon and becomes king of the media conglomerate.

This week we would like to thank the filmmakers Claudia von Alemann & the distributors Jürgen Lütz eK, FilmKinoText, Ingo Kratisch & Lothar Schuster, Marie Losier, Łukasz Ronduda & Maciej Sobieszczański, Heinz Emigholz & Filmgalerie 451, Rania Stephan, Sheila McLaughlin & Lynne Tillman, Davi Pretto, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Angelika Levi, May El Hossamy, Thomas Heise & Deckert Distribution & Ma.ja.de. Filmproduktions GmbH, Marwa Arsanios, Laura Horelli, Akihiko Morishita, Rabih Mroué, Justin Time and Ulrike Ottinger.