February 2012, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour – Cinema in the plural: Collectives, groups and factories

ZÜRI BRÄNNT, 1980/81

Films are collective achievements. In this month's Magical History Tour we are showing films that highlight this collective work. This includes films made by groups that are only loosely connected to each other, as well as by collectives that reject the idea of individual authorship. These film collectives, which mostly emerged from political and social movements, wanted to create an anti-discourse with their work. They wanted to breach hierarchies and authorities and use film as a means of education and agitation, open to as many people as possible, especially those without power. The plurality of voices also plays an aesthetic role and is reflected in the enjoyment taken from experimentation and disparate forms. An incomplete insight into collective filmmaking is provided by films which date from the 1920s (the Factory of the Eccentric Actor) to today.

During the political events that took place in 1968 and the big workers' strikes in France, workers themselves took hold of the camera. We are showing a program with films by the Besançon and Sochaux Medvedkine worker's collectives (1. & 3.2.): NOUVELLE SOCIÉTÉ N°5, 6, 7 (France 1969/70), SOCHAUX, 11 JUIN 1968 (F 1970), LES TROIS-QUARTS DE LA VIE (F 1971). RHODIA 4 X 8 (France 1969) is a "music video" for the class struggle. SCÈNES DE GRÈVE EN VENDÉE (Paul Bourron, France 1973) shows female workers on strike. Away from the conveyor belts and the obligation to clock in and out, they discover that they can talk and sing with each other.

The Black Audio Film Collective, which was founded in 1982 and existed until 1998, was an important voice in the debate on representation policy that place in 1980s Britain. Its documentaries combined politics with the enjoyment taken from experimenting with form. HANDSWORTH SONGS (John Akomfrah, UK 1986, 2. & 4.2.) is a multi-voice film essay that came out of the 1985 riots in Handsworth, Birmingham and London. A mosaic of images, sounds, archive material, footage of the riots and old family photos, results in a multi-perspective collage.

DEUX FOIS (Jackie Raynal, France 1968, 4. & 6.2.), is an important work from the feminist underground. It begins with an apocalyptic announcement that Jackie Raynal herself addresses directly at the camera. "This work will be the end of signification." Raynal was part of the Zanzibar group, an informal collective that brought together some 12 artists (incl. Philippe Garrel, Pierre Clémenti and Serge Bard) and was named after the island under Maoist rule at the time. Some 15 Zanzibar films came out between 1968 and 1973. They were all financed by the young oil heir Sylvina Boissonas and thus totally disconnected from the funding and distribution structures of the time. Because of their association with the fashion world (there were many close links to Warhol's Factory) the members of the Zanzibar group became known as the dandies of May '68.

KILLER.BERLIN.DOC (Bettina Ellerkamp, Jörg Heitmann, Germany 1999, 5.2. in the presence of the directors & 8.2.) In May 1998, ten people in Berlin decided to turn their lives into fiction for 14 days. They played "Killer" - a children's game in which each of them became the persecutor and the victim. They spun a web over the city, depicting paths, places and encounters, painting a subjective portrait of life in contemporary Berlin, in a "period of waiting". dogfilm, of which Merle Kröger, Ed van Megen and Philip Scheffner were also members alongside Bettina Ellerkamp and Jörg Heitmann, produced the film, as well as many other joint video and TV productions from 1991 to 1999.

ZÜRI BRÄNNT (Zurich is Burning, Switzerland 1980/81, 9. & 22.2.), produced by Videoladen Zürich, was made in response to the youth riots in Zurich, whose central demand was for a space in which youths could shape and determine their own, alternative, culture autonomously. ZÜRI BRÄNNT is an "anarchistic and (self)-ironic video pamphlet that wins over the viewer with its amazing dynamics and the courage to offer a reflected but radical subjectivity. Association instead of argumentation. With imaginative montage that rejects explanation and chronology, documentary, satire, text, language and music come together in a rousing mixture." (Kyros Kikos)

L’AGGETTIVO DONNA (Annabella Miscuglio, Rony Daopoulos, with the Collettivo Femminista di Cinema, Italy 1971, 21. & 28.2.) was made by an Italian feminist collective. In its radical critique of society and hierarchies, the double exploitation of female workers and the isolation of housewives are analyzed. The film nurtures an ironic relationship with the montage of documentary material and shows how women are always defined as "adjectives", appendages of men. It will be shown alongside the dffb film FÜR FRAUEN – 1. KAPITEL (Cristina Perincioli, BRD 1971), which is about a group of supermarket cashiers who join up in a moment of solidarity to fight for the same wages as men.

NOWY WAWILON (The New Babylon, Grigori Kozintsev / Leonid Trauberg, USSR 1929, 23. & 27.2., on piano: Eunice Martins) is the most famous film made by FEKS, the Factory of the Eccentric Actor, which was founded by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg in Petrograd in 1921. Combining actor training with collective theater and film work, the enfants terribles of the Soviet avant-garde developed "eccentricity" as a new means of expression. Taking place during the assault on the Paris Commune in 1871, NOWY WAWILON tells of the love story between Louise, a saleswoman at the New Babylon department store and convinced Communard, and Jean, a soldier who has to fight against the Commune. By using highly exaggerated and caricatured characters and décor, a furious tempo and a radical montage, the directors introduced a new aesthetic to Soviet filmmaking.

In WARNUNG VOR EINER HEILIGEN NUTTE (Beware of a Holy Whore, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, FRG 1970/71, 24. & 26.2.) Fassbinder takes stock of his work with the antiteater group. In a hotel somewhere in Spain a group of actors waits for the director, the star (Eddie Constantine as Eddie Constantine) and the film material to arrive. When the director turns up with his star, he immediately gets wrapped up in all the chaos. "The film is about shooting but its real subject is how a group works, how leadership positions emerge and are exploited. With this film, we buried our first hope, i.e. the antiteater." (Fassbinder)

In the 1960s, one of the most legendary families of artists came together at Andy Warhol's Factory. It was a meeting place for artists, actors and show-offs, a workshop, film studio and party location, and it played a catalyzing role in New York's art scene. In A WALK INTO THE SEA: DANNY WILLIAMS AND THE WARHOL FACTORY (Esther B. Robinson, USA 2007, 25. & 29.2.) Esther B. Robinson finds out about a very unique connection to the Factory. Her grandmother tells her almost in passing that her Uncle Danny, who died prematurely under mysterious circumstances, was Andy's lover and a member of the artistic family. Robinson manages to dig up a box with 16-mm films at MoMA on which the name Danny Williams can be read. It turns out to be a treasure trove: pictures of the Factory, of Velvet Underground, familiar faces in a fusion of intimacy and glamour that had never been seen before.