April 2020, arsenal cinema

arsenal 3 – week 7 & 8

Many people have lost their jobs in recent weeks or had their hours cut, others face the same fate and almost everyone's work and therefore life has been fundamentally changed by the measures put in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. So, we have decided to devote our program for weeks 7 & 8, which fittingly kicks off on 1st May, to the subject of work.
Work and industrial action have cropped up in Forum, Forum Expanded and Arsenal programs for decades and we have a number of appropriate titles in our collection. However, many of them are available only in analogue form and thus cannot be shown in our online cinema, arsenal 3.
Nevertheless, we have been able to include two classics: LA REPRISE DU TRAVAIL AUX USINES WONDER (Resumption of Work at the Wonder Factory, États généraux du cinéma, 1968) and FÜR FRAUEN - 1. KAPITEL (For Women – Chapter 1, 1972) by Cristina Perincioli. We will also be showing recently digitized films from the 1980s by the first feminist film collective in India (Yugantar) and AMY! by Laura Mulvey (1980) about a pioneering pilot. Our total of 21 programs span the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s before skipping the 1990s (which feature less in our collection in digital format; one important work for Arsenal during this period was a French co-production about Niger, Éliane de Latour's Contes et comptes de la cour but it only exists in a 35mm copy) and continuing into the 2000s and 10s. The works take us into very recent history (EIN PROLETARISCHES WINTERMÄRCHEN by Julian Radlmaier, EINE FLEXIBLE FRAU by Tatjana Turanskyj or OUT ON THE STREET by Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk) and imagine a future, which in light of the COVID-19 experience has gained new relevance (THE MACHINISTS' LAMENT by Jen Liu and LABOUR POWER PLANT by Robert Schlicht and Romana Schmalisch).
We can only show these films and those listed below at arsenal 3 because filmmakers, artists and producers have put them at our disposal. We are experiencing a considerable loss of income as a result of the temporary closure of arsenal 1 & 2 and the fact that we are currently not distributing films to other cinemas. But we still want to pay royalties to filmmakers and artists, who are particularly hard hit by the COVID-19, while at the same time maintaining our free arsenal 3 screenings. That's why we appreciate your donations and continue to ask all those who can to support us. You can also help maintain our institution's work by becoming members. After all, cinema is one thing in particular – a collaborative project.

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LA REPRISE DU TRAVAIL AUX USINES WONDER (États Généraux du Cinéma, France 1968, OV/English ST, 10 min) On 10 June 1968, students of the Parisian film school IDHEC filmed this ten-minute scene in front of the Wonder Factory in Saint-Ouen. After a three-week strike with factory occupation, work was to be resumed on that day. In front of the factory, a young woman worker and representatives of the French trade union CGT are involved in heated discussions. The worker desperately refuses to end the strike and go back to work because the working conditions and wages are still miserable. The trade unionists talk to her and try to present the small concessions made by the employer to the strikers as a victory.

FÜR FRAUEN – 1. KAPITEL (For Women – Chapter 1, Cristina Perincioli, FRG 1971, OV/English ST, 27 min) Equal pay for equal work! Four female employees at a West Berlin supermarket go on strike to demand the same salary that their male colleague gets. The band Ton Steine Scherben sings along that “Everything changes if you change it / But you can't win as long as you're alone!” With a lay cast, the film fulfils the demand for solidarity that it preaches – “this film was made by saleswomen and housewives. They came up with the story and acted themselves. The film students helped them”.

IDHI KATHA MATRAMENA (Is This Just a Story?, Yugantar, India 1983, OV/English ST, 25 min) This short improvised fiction film is affectionately called Yugantar’s ‘hit’ film. In the midst of the very active autonomous women’s movement in India, Yugantar collaborated with the research and feminist activist collective Stree Shakhti Sanghatana, provoked by an urgency to broaden discourses and political practice on domestic violence. Through an intense period of a consciousness raising style sharing of their own varied and multi-layered experiences of domestic violence, members of both collectives created a script that focuses on isolation and depression while also developing a complex female character in the process of articulating her situation and finding support in female friendship. Given the prescribed screen presence of female characters in other Indian fiction films at the time IDHI KATHA MATRAMENA radically expands the figure of woman as victim and subject. The film travelled extensively, spoke powerfully to diverse female audiences and sparked debates amongst feminist activists. Filmed within one week, with limited resources and enacted by members of the collectives, the film’s capacity to speak to multiple experiences appears equally strong today. (Nicole Wolf)

TAMBAKU CHAAKILA OOB ALI (Tobacco Embers, Yugantar, India 1982, OV/English ST, 25 min) documents, re-enacts, and takes forward one of the largest movements of unorganized labor of its time and context, which sparked unionizing processes across India throughout the 1980s. In the spirit of mobilizing for the leftist labor and the women’s movements the Yugantar collective spent four months with female tobacco factory workers in Nipani, Karnataka in India, listening to their accounts of exploitative working conditions, discussing strategies for unionizing and steps to broaden solidarities for strike actions, and filming previously unseen circumstances inside the factories. The team followed the workers’ leads as to what, where, and how their actions should be recorded, and developed a loose script through the workers’ narratives. Yugantar’s commitment to the complexity of political friendships and how to ‘stand with’ provoked a then pioneering collaborative filmmaking practice embodied in large scale reenactments, a voice-over as pluriverse testimony, and the production of the first screen presence of working-class women ‘speaking to power’. A powerful example of a feminist third cinema. (Nicole Wolf)

AMY! (Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen, GB 1980, OV/German ST, 33 min) is a tribute to Amy Johnson, the aviation pioneer. Far from a conventional biopic, the aviator is used as a symbolic figure, her journey exemplifying the transitions between female and male worlds required by women struggling towards achievement in the public sphere. (Eleanor Burke)

EIN PROLETARISCHES WINTERMÄRCHEN (A Proletarian Winter’s Tale, Julian Radlmaier, Germany 2014, OV/English ST, 63 min) Three young Georgians have to clean a castle in Berlin, where a German armament manufacturer's collection of contemporary art is being set-up for an exhibition. Of course, they are not welcome at the opening party and the three protagonists are banished to a small servants' room in the attic. Downstairs, however, a splendid buffet attracts them – so why not just ignore the unfair prohibition and cross the demarcation line of class society? Didn't the French Revolution start for a piece of cake, anyway? The three protagonists try to find an answer to the question of whether class relations can be overcome when all bequeathed stories say they can't. A proletarian winter's tale.

EINE FLEXIBLE FRAU (The Drifter, Tatjana Turanskyj, Germany 2010, OV/English ST, 97 min) Greta: 40, an architect, mother of a 12-year-old son, separated from her husband, recently unemployed. She starts working in a call center but is soon dismissed once again. She does everything in her power to keep hanging on in there, starts drinking and drifts through the city, torn between the pressure to confirm and the spirit of contradiction. A Woman Under The Influence, in Berlin at the beginning of the 21st century. The so-called New Berlin, moving from the wastelands to the town houses. Flexible, globalized capitalism. Post-feminism. And the respective vocabulary that goes with it: fragments of theory, empty phrases, buzz words, quotes. A woman with a vision of urban space, of herself, of her profession, of her life with her child. But those aren't the actual circumstances. Greta at parties, at the call center, at sessions with a job application coach, with her son, with her ex-colleagues, at the job center, at bars, walking through the city. Fierce, hysterical, stubborn, almost in a trance, fractious, uninhibited, effusive, desperately unhappy. Situations, encounters, performances. More of a trip than a narrative. Snap-shots of a woman’s fragile contemporary life (at work). A FLEXIBLE WOMAN, an All-Around Reduced Personality. (Birgit Kohler)

BARRA FEL SHARE‘ (Out on the Street, Jasmina Metwaly, Philip Rizk, Egypt 2015, OV/English ST, 71 min) A film about a group of workers in Cairo who take part in an acting workshop. During the rehearsals, topics such as unequal treatment at work, police brutality, corruption and exploitation by capitalist employers come up. The participants move in and out of character as they shape the performance that engages their daily realities. This hybrid approach aims to engage a collective imaginary, situating the participants and spectators within a broader social struggle.

THE MACHINIST’S LAMENT (Jen Liu, USA 2014, OV/English ST, 18 min) When economists and politicians talk about bringing industrial production back to America, dream logic permeates the discussion: Everything will work properly again – society, economy, family – if only the factories would come back. THE MACHINIST'S LAMENT speculates on this wish and at the same time examines one of its flip sides: the alienation of the workers. The video imagines an non-specific future populated by female factory workers. Here, alienation is implicit in putting on a welder’s mask – a separation between performer and viewer, past and present, what is possible and what must remain unattainable fantasies. The footage was taken in Ohio, part of the Midwestern Rust Belt region. The Voice-over texts are taken from industrial operating manuals, Monique Wittig’s „Les Guérillères”, and Adorno’s „Minima Moralia”

LABOUR POWER PLANT (Romana Schmalisch, Robert Schlicht, France/Germany 2019, OV/English ST, 85 min) A new production center, maybe set in an undetermined future. What is being produced here? We shall find out by following the given traces. Two pairs of hands trying to untangle themselves. A human sheep virtually cut into pieces. A warm welcome to the authors and actors of their lives. Stories being told, their narrators dissected. When the gates open, those leaving LABOUR POWER PLANT have been made fit for the demands of the labour market. The next production cycle begins… People with their own wills, interests, and desires are being equipped with the different physiological, cognitive, psychological, and social core competencies to transform them into human resources. Meanwhile, the management is introducing new methods to enrich the products with the innovative features of ‘self-evaluation’, ‘self-optimisation’, and, most importantly, ‘self-fulfilment’. A series of interventions are performed, leading to an assembly that may appear strange at first sight.

IN ARBEIT (In the Works, Germany 2012-2019, Longitudinal project by the film collective cinéma copains = Arne Hector, Minze Tummescheit)
I SICALIANI (Part 4) (Arne Hector, Minze Tummescheit, Germany 2018, OV/English ST, 40 min)
FREIE SCHULE AM MAUERPARK (Part 5) (Arne Hector, Minze Tummescheit, Germany 2018, OV/English ST, 52 min)
9TO5, LUX UND KONSORTEN UND DIE VIELEN (Part 6) (Arne Hector, Minze Tummescheit, Germany 2018, OV/English ST, 55 min)
The longitudinal project IN ARBEIT by the film collective cinéma copains sees itself as carrying out research on the conditions, possibilities, and boundaries of collective action. The communicative research process also becomes the content of the film. A chain of interviews links together collective projects across Europe where working together is at the heart of their endeavors. In this way, an image of cooperative practice in different areas of society comes into view. The last three parts of the projects will be screened. Part 4: I SICALIANI (Germany 2018) shows the Sicilian social cooperative “I Sicaliani”, which has spent many years building up a ludoteca, a safe space for children, and thus reveals the changeable history of the oldest anti-Mafia cooperative in Palermo. Part 5: FREIE SCHULE AM MAUERPARK (Germany 2018) takes a look at the ideas and reality of free alternative schools. In the last part, part 6: 9TO5, LUX UND KONSORTEN UND DIE VIELEN (Germany 2018), the collective becomes porous. Teachers at the free school speak with the members of the Hamburg “9to5” group about political work from their own perspective and their experiences with mobilizing society with respect to precariousness, autonomy, and a base income.

IN DIE ERDE GEBAUT (Ute Aurand, Germany 2008, without Dialogue, 43 min) From the groundbreaking ceremony in May 2004 till the opening in February 2007, the film follows the construction of the new building for the Rietberg Museum in Zurich. „Aurand‘s staccato style creates a formal echo with the construction we see taking place. Her ability to find new visual surprises in the myriad details of the building – using holes in the walls as frames, considering the shadows of a slatted stairwell, compressing the perspective on a series of latticed walls – moves this well beyond a document of a building into a passionate call to look.” (Chris Kennedy)

SCHICHT (Shift, Alexandra Gerbaulet, Germany 2017, OV/English ST, 29 min) Salzgitter: A city that is a cyborg with an iron skeleton and a heart beating 1000 meters deep under layers of soil and concrete. Mining, steel factory, model city. Pulsating, sometimes breathless, the film follows the exposed stories. The filmed locations are attacked with archival material: propaganda, news, photos from family albums. Everything is subjected to the filmmaker's interpretation. A film between analysis and imagination, composed of the punk of the filmmaker's youth, accompanied by the roar of the steel mill and the noise of the highway. Interrupted by the cutting silence of abandoned mines, in which from the mid-2020s nuclear waste will be dumped.

A FLEA’S SKIN WOULD BE TOO BIG FOR YOU (Anja Dornieden, Juan David Gonzales Monroy, Germany 2013, OV/English ST, 47 min) In the summer of 2009, a new theme park was inaugurated in China. It was called “The Kingdom of the Dwarves”. From all over China recruits were brought in to live in the park and entertain its visitors. There were only two stipulated requirements for employment: the performers had to be between 18 and 40 years old and be shorter than 130 cm. Twice a day they take the stage singing and dancing for the paying crowd. A FLEA'S SKIN WOULD BE TOO BIG FOR YOU quotes a late Roman epigram in which people of short stature are degraded.

ALS LANDWIRT (As a Farmer, Stefan Hayn, Anja-Christin Remmert, Germany 2007, OV/English ST, 65 min) What is it about? About agriculture, conventional agriculture, about work, about the seasons and about a different, non-urban perspective on tradition, which has long considered backward-looking and which the film explores as conscientiously as possible, with distance, solidarity and a regional concretness. After a blaze in Burgstall in July 2003, the farmers of Geißendörfer were faced with the question: To quit or take the major risk of expanding? We started shooting our film when the new stable opened in September 2005, coming back four times within the year. (Stefan Hayn & Anja-Christin Remmert)

DER LETZTE KUSS (Sweet Sticky Stuff, Riki Kalbe, FRG 1977, OV/English ST, 25 min) The initial idea was to make a children’s film about chocolate-covered marshmallows. How they are made, what they are made of, where they are made, who manufactures them under what conditions. The women who work on the assembly line are happy to tell us all about themselves. We are a welcome diversion. We noticed that the men have the better jobs and also earn more money. The women don’t entirely let themselves be taken in by the meritocracy. Talking, goofing off, and singing, they help each other to get through their 8-hour day. We like that. We drop the idea of a children’s film. In this film we tried out a documentary film form that deliberately does without interviews, relying instead largely on the effect of the images. (dffb information material) From today's perspective the film alsooffers a glimpse into the history of migration in West Germany.

MICROBRIGADAS – VARIATIONEN EINER GESCHICHTE (Microbrigadas – Variations of a  Story, Florian Zeyfang, Alexander Schmoeger, Lisa Schmidt-Colinet, Germany 2013, OV/English ST, 31 min) Aside from health care and education, the housing was one of the main pillars of the Cuban revolution. In view of the continuing housing shortage, self-build groups of varying intensity, the "Microbrigadas", were set up in Cuba in 1971. To this day, these groups continue to build their own apartment buildings as well as municipal buildings throughout Cuba. Architectural images, archive material and interviews are combined to create an experimental collage on this phenomenon of a revolutionary modernity.

ZUM VERGLEICH (In Comparison, Harun Farocki, Germany 2009, OV/English ST, 61 min) Bricks are manufacured in Africa, India and Europe and used to erect clinics, children's homes, schools and residential buildings. Harun Farocki observed the different steps of the manufacturing process. Bricks are cast, fired or pressed by hands, machines or robots. Depending on the country of production, this involves a single worker or a large group. The film's title communicates a decisive aspect: Farocki merely offers material to the viewer, who has to draw the actual comparisons between traditional, early industrial, and fully industrialized societies himself. The brick is the smallest unit and the sole focus of the film. The interconnecting elements are title cards displaying some brief information about the place and the construction method. Another comparison is evoked: The smallest unit of the 16mm image is the grain. It has a connection with the pixel generated on a computer in Switzerland to represent a brick and also with the pencil drawing of a European architecture student in India. Analog and digital imagery are more than mere information carriers, they are part of the production. (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus)

ORBITALNA (Marcin Malascsak, Poland 2014, OV/English ST, 25 min) In the first shot, the place depicted by Marcin Malaszczak looks like a space station on a foreign planet. The camera approaches it from above, identifying only a few islands of light in a sea of darkness. Outside the film, it is - one can assume - part of a quarry: a conveyor belt on which earth and rocks are transported. There is a machine that runs the conveyor belt and a woman with tinted glasses who seems to be in control of the process. The film makes this handful of elements absolute: the conveyor belt, the machine, the woman and the dusty, deserted and unreal seeming horizon. The machine is not a functional tool in a process based on the division of labour, but the world’s motor. Without it, the conveyor belt, and thus the film’s conveyor belt, i.e. the entire world, would come to a standstill. The woman is, therefore, not a wage-earning employee, but the spirit of film and the world. The difference between work and its product, which is the basis of capitalism, is suspended. Of course, it is only suspended in images and sounds. ORBITALNA is a great film because the documentary core, which in all probability underlies the film, is not completely lost. (Lukas Foerster)

AZZIARA (The Visit, Nadia Mounier, Marouan Omara, Egypt, Germany 2015, OV/English ST, 42 min) The film observes a TV crew accompanying the visit of an inspection team from the World Bank to an Egyptian village a few years after the revolution. The team of inspectors wants to find out about the progress of the agricultural management since the political upheaval. A drainage channel and a local museum are being built. Everything seems to be as it should be. However, the documentary’s authors leave the camera on even after the TV crew has finished their work. The film tries to explore the role of the mass media in a society where the media have become the main tool for creating and reshaping the public opinion.

AL WADI (The Valley, Firas Taybeh, Jordan 2011, OV/English ST, 13 min) is a comedy that takes place in the future where things go back to a primitive set in a desert where there has been a river that has gone dry. Two characters inhabit the valley: a digger and a valley crosser whose work is to make people pass to the other side of the valley. A conspiracy creates a conflict between the two men and they leave the valley. Inspired by folk stories from the Middle East, this experimental work in progress is a study for a feature-length version.

DIDI MTSWANE WELI (Great Green Valley, Merab Kokotschaschwili, Georgia 1967, OV/ German ST, 86 min) is a drama influenced by Italian Neorealism that follows an outsider who is torn between tradition and progress. Shepherd Sosana works on a collective farm, looking after the livestock in a remote mountain valley. Deeply rooted in the land of his fathers, he thrives on being close to nature and lives according to its laws. Yet his wife Pirimse is drawn to those who follow the rhythm of the new era and wants to separate from her husband, who has become a stranger to her.

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.

MONANGAMBEEE (Sarah Maldoror, Algeria 1969, OV/English ST, 16 min) “Monangambeee” was a rallying cry used by activists during Angola’s anti-colonial liberation struggle to gather villages together. MONANGAMBEEE is also the title of a short film by Sarah Maldoror that addresses Portuguese arrogance towards Angolan culture. The filmmaker draws on a novella by José Luandino Vieira, the story of a political prisoner, to make a film about humiliation, solidarity and resistance.

This week we would like to thank the filmmakers and right owners Jacques Willemont, Cristina Perincioli & Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek & dffb, Yugantar, Laura Mulvey & Peter Wollen, Julian Radlmaier, Tatjana Turanskyj & Filmgalerie 451, Jasmina Metwaly & Philip Rizk, Jen Liu, Romana Schmalisch & Robert Schlicht, Minze Tummescheit & Arne Hector, Ute Aurand, Alexandra Gerbaulet, Anja Dornieden & Juan David Gonzales Monroy, Stefan Hayn & Anja-Christin Remmert, Dr. Matthias Kalbe, Florian Zeyfang & Alexander Schmoeger & Lisa Schmidt-Colinet, Antje Ehmann, Marcin Malascsak, Nadia Mounier & Marouan Omara, Firas Taybeh, Merab Kokotschaschwili and Annouchka de Andrade.