June 2020, arsenal cinema

arsenal 3 – week 13 & 14

How to Reappear*: arsenal 3 enters the final round in its existing form! On March 13th, we had to close our two cinema halls at Potsdamer Platz. A week later, we already opened arsenal 3, our virtual cinema, to audiences. Since then, we have presented seven programs, each consisting of around 20 films from our collection, as well as the Goethe-Institut’s Latitude festival. Filmmakers whose works are represented by arsenal distribution have made their films available for online presentation and discussed them with audiences in comprehensive Q&As on jitsi. Thanks to the donations collected, we can now pay out the licensing fees to them – you can continue to donate until 30.6. to ensure that the kitty ends up as full as possible! All your lively participation and great encouragement have carried us through the last months and we would like to express our deepest gratitude for this, also with respect to the huge learning curve we currently find ourselves in! We’ve always grasped cinema as something that is reinvented with each new program. We’ve also now experienced once again just how big a role collaborative work plays in this process. This applies first and foremost to the filmmakers and our audiences, but also to the production companies, distributors and our partner institutions. We would like to give special thanks here to Filmgalerie 451, who made several titles available to us, as well as silent green Kulturquartier and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt for their support in realizing arsenal 4 and arsenal 5. The exhibition space at silent green and the open-air cinema at HKW make clear how cinema can be in motion as a social and cultural practice. Instead of the arsenal 3 Q&As that took place at the end of each program, we would like to bring things to a close by inviting you all to a big joint wrap-up session: visit us on jitsi on June 30th and tell us your experiences with arsenal 3. We’d like to know whether your idea of cinema has changed over the last weeks and months, what you liked or disliked about our programs, and what you think the next stage for arsenal 3 might look like For the next stage is coming: from July 1st, we’ll be reopening arsenal 1 and 2 bit by bit and arsenal 3 will continue to exist, but will have to reinvent itself. At the moment, we’re working on what relationship our virtual cinema auditorium can have with the analogue ones. In any case, we won’t be able to offer the program on a donation basis in the future, but would like to keep payment options as affordable as possible! And now on to the program for weeks 13 & 14: seldom have our own (and vulnerable) bodies been felt so clearly in relationship to cinema as they have been in the last months, whether via presence or absence, being alone or part of a collective. We are therefore dedicating our last program to exactly this theme. It was inspired by a small book entitled “How to disappear” first published in 2013 as part of the “Kayfa ta (How to …)” series edited by Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis. The text it contains by author Haytham El-Wardany is based on the experience of the invisible listener: usually only the person speaking can be seen. This doesn’t just apply to video conferences. The arsenal 3 audience were not visible to us. They were simultaneously there and not there, like a spirit, a memory from the past or a voice from the future. In 2010, Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri showed a film at Forum Expanded for the first time that was shot and edited live in arsenal 2 while being screened in arsenal 1 (The Meaning of Everything). The artist duo didn’t appear for the Q&A after the screening. The audience never found out that they were actually attending an act of performative production. In 2018, a second film of the same type was brought to the screen: AN UNTIMELY FILM FOR EVERYONE AND NO ONE. This time, Ayreen and Rene appeared for the Q&A after the screening without letting on that the film had been made directly beforehand in the room next door. It was only in 2020, following the screening of BORN OF THE ***. ON ZARATHUSTRA’S GOING UNDER FROM CAIRO TO ORAN, that this most particular form of production was revealed, followed by a further screening in silent green where production and editing took place in full sight above the heads of the audience in the gallery of the Kuppelhalle, while the film was being shown on the screen at the same time. With the two-part screening of AN UNTIMELY FILM FOR EVERYONE AND NO ONE (which also features philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy) at arsenal 3, we are taking one of the films created in this way out of the world of the ephemeral and presenting it to an invisible audience. To accompany it, we are showing the first five parts of the duo’s new film CONTAGIOUS NEW YORK, which they are currently producing on the edge of Manhattan. The audience and artists can then still get together for a Q&A on jitsi. In addition, we are showing a program in which a queer performer speaks through his film images (ESCAPE FROM THE RENTED ISLAND: THE LOST PARADISE OF JACK SMITH), an invisible suicide travels the world’s realm of shades (SUICIDE), film characters can’t die (CRASH SITE: MY NEVER ENDING BURIAL PLOT), the voices of long-dead prisoners can be heard on shellac records (HALFMOON FILES) or colonial resistance appears behind the images and in sounds (LA ZERDA ET LES CHANTS DE L’OUBLI). “And for those who suffer from invisibility, the camera would be their weapon.” is how Elias Sanbar is quoted in the announcement for OFF FRAME AKA REVOLUTION UNTIL VICTORY. The absent speak through images, sounds, objects, and bodies and thus manifest their absence. They can be spirits or projections. They can be those silenced by political power, by disease and death, by separation. They are simultaneously there and not there. And to round things off, we’re screening a new beginning that also shows the audience: In POR PRIMERA VEZ by Santiago Álvarez.

* How to Reappear is a text by Haytham El-Wardany that was printed in the Kayfa ta series (the How to Disappear edition) edited by Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis (Sternberg Press 2028). Book is available for purchase at: Hopscotch Reading Room (Berlin): e: media.hopscotch@gmail.com. t: 03023962967. i: hopscotchreadingroom. ebook available soon by Kayfa ta: w: kayfa-ta.com e: kayfa.ta@gmail.com. i: kayfa_ta

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Film Program arsenal 3 – week 13 & 14, 12. until 30. June 2020

AN UNTIMELY FILM FOR EVERY ONE AND NO ONE (Ayreen Anastas, Rene Gabri, Palestine, Armenia, USA, Germany 2018, OV, Part 1: 93 min, Part 2: 61 min) In 2007 Ayreen Anastas made a journey through Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia, collecting materials for a film with the working title A Film for Every One and No One. The film was intended as an adaptation of Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” in the contemporary Arab world. Since that initial material was collected, much of the region and the world have been thrown into ever-greater tumult. The relevance, force, and meaning of the materials have also shifted significantly. The film remains unfinished. In a collaboration with the artist Rene Gabri and the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, an attempt is made to approach the material and make an untimely version of it. For Nietzsche, untimely meant, among other things, something not belonging to the order of the tastes, expectations, and procedures of its time. If the original film was to stage an encounter between the writing and thinking of Nietzsche and the contemporary conditions of life as manifested in the Arab world, then this film stages that encounter in the lapse and disordering, in the historical black hole which has opened up in the ten years since the meeting was staged. AN UNTIMELY FILM FOR EVERY ONE AND NO ONE was shot and edited on January 18th and on February 21st 2018 in Arsenal 2 and simultaneously projected in Arsenal 1. Part 1 with Jean-Luc Nancy was produced during the Berlinale press screening in January. 20 minutes from part 1 opened the premiere of the film in February. Part 2 includes the subsequent 60 minutes.

CONTAGIOUS NEW YORK (Part 1-5) (Ayreen Anastas, Rene Gabri, USA 2020, OV, 53 min) is a video diary of two protagonist living at the fringes of Manhattan in 2020 during a global pandemic. The film is a poem, a political treatise, a question, an utter, a stutter, a shudder, a whisper, a note, a pause, a break, an attempt to actualize the forgotten, to open up the feeling to the infinite, to re-establish severed relations, to touch in words their meanings. It is a film made within the folds and ambiguities of this epoch of the virus.

ESCAPE FROM RENTED ISLAND: THE LOST PARADISE OF JACK SMITH (Jerry Tartaglia, USA 2017, OV, 88 min) In his essay film, Jerry Tartaglia, longtime archivist and restorer of the film estate of queer New York underground, experimental film, and performance legend Jack Smith, deals less with Smith’s life than with his work, analyzing Smith’s aesthetic idiosyncrasies in 21 thematic chapters. “Therefore, the film does not present a rational, linear, and detached explanation of his work. Instead, it asks the viewer to sympathetically experience the aesthetic choices behind the work of Jack Smith. This strategy that I have chosen creates a challenge for the viewer, particularly those who are reliant upon external commentary or non-diegetic material in the documentary film form; I have no apology to offer those who cannot bear the unmediated vision of Jack Smith; only an invitation to join him in his lost paradise.” (Jerry Tartaglia)

THE HALFMOON FILES (Philip Scheffner, Germany 2007, OV/English ST, 87 min) A complex audio-visual investigation of the interconnections between politics, colonialism, scholarship, and media – using image and sound documents of Indian and North African prisoners of war from the "Halfmoon Camp" in Wünsdorf near Berlin from the period of the First World War. In other words: a ghost story. Since the invention of the phonograph it has become possible for the dead to speak. Their voices haunt the film. The voice of the Indian colonial soldier Mall Singh, for example, played from an old record. The "exotic" prisoners became research objects for ethnologists, anthropologists, and linguists. Recordings were made; they were photographed, filmed, measured, numbered, registered, classified. THE HALFMOON FILES, however, doesn't just present the archive material and examine the conditions of its creation and usefulness for political goals, it releases it into the freedom of the narrative. Small stories and big history. This is how the loose ends of research become independent, which has surprising consequences – and itself produces historical moments that contribute to the writing of history. Don't images and sounds, conveyed these days by internet-telephone, have something ghostly about them? (Birgit Kohler)

LA ZERDA ET LES CHANTS DE L’OUBLI (The Zerda and the Songs of Forgetting, Assia Djebar, Algeria 1982, OV/English ST,  60 min) For LA ZERDA ET LES CHANTS DE L'OUBLI Algerian writer Assia Djebar changed professions in order to recapitulate the colonialization of the Maghreb using French newsreels. The film employs montage to search for the truth in these "images of a killing gaze", a truth which they pointedly do not show: the "resistance behind the mask". The soundtrack brings together multi-vocal chants and experimental music to form a furious swan song to colonial violence.

OFF FRAME AKA REVOLUTION UNTIL VICTORY (Mohanad Yaqubi, Palestine, France, Qatar 2016, OV/English ST, 63 min) “… and for those who suffer from invisibility, the camera would be their weapon.” (Elias Sanbar) OFF FRAME AKA REVOLUTION UNTIL VICTORY traces the fragments of a revolution, combining images from a dream for freedom, using films from the Palestinian struggle cinema, a term used for films produced in relation to the Palestinian revolution between 1968 and 1982. For Palestinians these films marked the transformation of their identity: from refugee to freedom fighter. The Palestinian revolution collaborated with filmmakers, actors, and activists from Syria, Italy, UK, Lebanon, France, Germany, Argentina, and many others, and made partnerships with institutions in Berlin, Moscow, Baghdad, and Cuba. Despite their prolific output, very few of their works remain. The film brings together moments from a selection of these militant films into one timeline. The only coherent relation between all the shots, clips, and sequences is that they all straddle the borders between fiction and propaganda, dream and reality, in order to represent a narrative of a people in struggle.

DESI’RE. THE GOLDSTEIN REELS (Romeo Grünfelder, Germany 2005, OV, 4 min) To an old celluloid film box sticks a note: estate of Jack Goldstein. The exceptional S8 footage seems to be a document which hardly can be interpreted. Place, time and authorship cannot be dated and due to the missing data the facts remain unclear.

MY FATHER IS STILL A COMMUNIST: INTIMATE SECRETS TO BE PUBLISHED (Ahmad Ghossein, Lebanon 2011, OV/English ST, 32 min) The film focuses on the filmmaker's mother, Mariam, who raised her four children all by herself from 1978 to 1988 during the Lebanese Civil War. Rachid, the father, had gone abroad to work. “All that is left of my parents’ relationship is a large number of audio-cassettes, sent as love letters. When I was a child I created imaginative stories about my father as war hero fighting with the communists.” (Ahmad Ghossein)

I’VE HEARD THREE STORIES (Marwa Arsanios, Libanon 2009, OV/English ST, 12 min) The video, which also entails 2D animation, brings together different stories on the chalet Raja Saab (a 1950’s experimental architecture), attempting to investigate and restage the disappearance of a dancer from the Crazy Horse Saloon in Beirut. The video is part of an ongoing research on the “Acapulco”, a once very hip beach resort situated in the southern outskirts of the city that has undergone a radical transformation after 1978.

DIE URSZENE (The Primal Scene, Christine Noll Brinckmann, FRG 1981, without Dialogue, 6 min) "In recent film theory, 'the look' is a much discussed subject. The camera is understood as looking, representing the gaze of the spectator who subsequently identifies with it. What makes this equation particularly fascinating is the fact that it defines the position of the spectator as voyeuristic. The main instance of voyeurism in Freudian theory being the primal scene – in which the child watches parental coitus – there is an automatic connection between the viewing situation in a movie theater and the early childhood experience discovered by Freud. The film tries to focus on and exploit this connection. Taking into account that most primal scene experience is imaginary rather than real, it plays on the role of the imagination, and the function of the suggestive, in all cinematic experience. And taking into account that even in cases of genuine childhood voyeurism the child tends to suppress or displace her or his visual recollections, it abstains from being explicit. Instead, it relies on a musical example of primal scene displacement, in order to remind the viewer of the many forms of disguise his or her grappling with the primal scene might have taken. Apart from being a film on voyeurism as a cinematic experience, THE PRIMAL SCENE is also a brief compendium of contemporary German bedroom styles." (Christine Noll Brinckmann)

SUICIDE (Shelly Silver, USA, Japan 2003, OV, 70 min) is a reflection upon longing, travel and family, upon history, death and sex in a world of shopping centers, airports and stations. The film tells the story of a woman and her determinedly hopeful yet despairing search for a reason to keep on living. SUICIDE is conceived as a personal diary film with Silver herself playing the protagonist, an imaginary filmmaker on a journey through Japan, Europe and Central America which drifts deeper and deeper in the shadowy domain between reality and fantasy.

ABSENCE (Christoph Girardet, Germany 2004, without Dialogue, 9 min) In slow dissolves, loops of images of enacted absence are projected in white light. Most of the images come from the black-and-white film series The Invisible Man, dating from the 1930s to '60s. The presence of an invisible actor seems to influence minimal cinematic events on theatrical sets. These events combine to become an enigma regarding the phenomenon of disappearance.

FÄRBLEIN (Colourette, Bärbel Freund, Rainer Bellenbaum, Germany 1992, without Dialogue, 21 min) "Berlin filmmakers Bärbel Freund and Rainer Bellenbaum’s FÄRBLEIN (Colourette) is a gorgeous colour study of faint yellows, faded blues, light greens, and worn-out reds. A document of a world on the brink of change, FÄRBLEIN is a visual poem, made just after the reunification of Germany, dedicated to the specific colour palette and architectural styles of apartment buildings, petrol stations, and tramways of the former German Democratic Republic." (Susan Oxtoby)

NACHLASS (Robin Curtis, Canada 1992, OV, 8 min) is the German word for inheritance. It is also the word for posthumously published works. Most commonly, it is used to describe all the things, both the valuables and the junk, left behind in an apartment after its inhabitant has died. Since my Grandmother and I did not share a language in common, my relationship to her was distant; my relationship to the things in her house was much stronger. NACHLASS examines what happens to oral history when all the telling is only passed on long afterwards as hearsay, fragmentary and confused. "NACHLASS director Robin Curtis crafts a complex, disquieting remembrance of her grandmother, who was born a world away in the Ukraine, and with whom communication has never been simple. Shot in a series of rich, oddly disturbing images, set against an unsentimental voiceover, NACHLASS throws the contours of a difficult relationship into sharp contrast." (Cameron Bailey)

DEAR ANIMAL (Maha Maamoun, Egypt 2016, OV/English ST, 24 min) Animals have always been used in art, from the prehistoric to the present, and today they can serve as a starting point to investigate an age of biopolitics, global waves of refugees and terror attacks. DEAR ANIMAL interweaves two texts: a short story by Haytham El-Wardany about a drug dealer who turns into a strange animal; and a selection of letters written by Azza Shaaban, a director-producer involved with the Egyptian revolution and now living in India, from where she regularly posts notes to her Facebook friends relating stories of travel and healing. The film moves back and forth between the cinematic short story by El-Wardany, filmed in Cairo, and the scenes produced with Shaaban in India where she reads, on or off screen, a selection of her letters, the camera moving between her and her private and public surroundings.


AUS DER FERNE – THE MEMO BOOK (Matthias Müller, FRG 1989, OV, 28 min) "One of the most beautiful and original of recent experimental films to treat the emotional landscape of the present plague years. Begun as a portrait of a former lover who had died of AIDS, AUS DER FERNE – THE MEMO BOOK is as much a self-portrait of the filmmaker, projecting into his own mortal fears, fascination with romanticism, and his exorcising of memory. A tender, magical and melancholy love poem by an important new talent.” (John Gianvito)

MONDIAL 2010 (Roy Dib, Lebanon 2013, OV/English ST, 19 min) is a discussion of institutional borders in modern day Middle East. It uses video as an apparatus to transgress boundaries that are inflicted on people in spite of them. It is a travel film in a trajectory that doesn’t allow travel, starring two male lovers, in a setting where homosexuality is a punishable felony. Shot with a hand-held camcorder, MONDIAL 2010 borrows the aesthetics of a travel video log and creates its own universe of possibility. It is a shift from the mainstream passive view of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict that places the victim/oppressor in the forefront of the produced imagery. This video glides over this conflict with an upper hand.

POR PRIMERA VEZ (For the First Time, Octavio Cortázar, Cuba 1967, OV/German ST, 9 min) is a document of the "audiovisual alphabetization" of Cuba in the 1960s: Cortázar records the screening of a mobile cinema in a remote mountain village and shows the reactions of the inhabitants upon their first encounter with film, which was Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

CURUPIRA, BICHO DO MATO (Curupira, Creature of the Woods, Félix Blume, Mexico, France 2018, OV/English ST, 35 min) Inhabitants of Tauary, deep in the heart of the Amazon, invite us to listen to the sounds of the jungle, the birds, and animals. However, some weird sounds appear: a creature prowling around the trees. Some have heard her, very few have ever seen her, and those who did find her never came back. She charms, she enchants – she leads people to get lost: each of them tells a story in their own way and tries to decipher her sounds. CURUPIRA, BICHO DO MATO takes us in search of this being: a reflection about myths and their place in the contemporary world. It’s a sound thriller in the midst of the jungle.

EVERYWHERE WAS THE SAME (Basma Alsharif, Lebanon 2007, OV, 12 min) A slideshow of abandoned spaces carries along the story of two girls who mysteriously turn up on the shores of a pre-apocalyptic paradise. Texts drawn from the Madrid Peace Accords to the CIA World Factbook are weaved into a fictional narrative that unfolds the story of a massacre.

CRASH SITE / MY_NEVER_ENDING_BURIAL_PLOT (Constanze Ruhm, Austria 2010, OV, 69 min) is the sixth episode in the serial-based project X Characters, which revolves around the attempt to update the identities of iconic female film characters from modern cinema to produce contemporary versions of them. In this film a new version ofHari of Andrej Tarkovsky’s film Solaris encounters a number of other undead characters from film history: Godard's Nana of Vivre sa vie, and Antonioni's Giuliana of Il deserto rosso. The departure point of the narrative consists in the three characters' attempts to close with their past: to 'find their end', to 'unearth the truth', to 'bury history', to kill themselves, to make the evidence disappear, to beat each other to death. The action takes place in an abandoned forest clearing and is organised around a hole that is sometimes filled-in and sometimes dug out: a burial where nothing is being buried, that never comes to a close and so becomes an apparently endless burial loop.

This week we would like to thank the filmmakers and right owners Ayreen Anastas & Rene Gabri, Jerry Tartaglia, Philip Scheffner, Assia Djebar, Mohanad Yaqubi, Romeo Grünfelder, Ahmad Ghossein, Marwa Arsanios, Christine Noll Brinckmann, Shelly Silver, Christoph Girardet, Bärbel Freund & Rainer Bellenbaum, Robin Curtis, Maha Maamoun, Matthias Müller, Roy Dib, Octavio Cortázar, Félix Blume, Basma Alsharif and Constanze Ruhm. We also thank Haytham Al-Wardani, on whose book "How to dissapear" the idea for the program is based.