June 2013, arsenal cinema

Shifting Grounds: Reflections on National Identity in the Archive (Darryl Els)


Taking as a starting point the first title of the Arsenal's collection COME BACK, AFRICA (Lionel Rogosin, USA/South Africa 1958, 6. & 9.6.), this program brings together films that deal with the themes of mobility, landscape and memory in a particular way. The program examines the function of the archive as a platform for making a critical analysis of the concepts of "nation" and "national identity", looking at the films themselves as well as at the circulation processes (distribution and presentation) they ended up in when they came into the collection, and how a counter-public sphere and alternative national narratives are produced. (6., 9.–18. & 25.6.)

Films from our archive:

COME BACK, AFRICA (Lionel Rogosin, USA 1958, 6.6. & 9.6.)
Lionel Rogosin's 1959 powerful classic is one of the bravest and best of all political films. After witnessing firsthand the terrors of fascism as a soldier in World War II, Lionel Rogosin vowed to fight against it wherever and whenever he saw it reemerging. In an effort to expose "what people try to avoid seeing," Rogosin travelled to South Africa and secretly filmed COME BACK, AFRICA, which revealed the cruelty and injustice suffered by black and colored peoples under apartheid.

CANADIAN PACIFIC (David Rimmer, Canada 1974, 18.6.)
Vancouver harbour, with its railyards, mountains and passing ships, is a vista in fluid transformation as three winter months are reviewed in ten minutes. What interested me about the shot were the horizontals: train tracks, the water, the mountains, the sky and the way those four elements would change. (David Rimmer)

IMAGES OF ASIAN MUSIC: A DIARY FROM LIFE (Peter Hutton, USA 1973-1974, 18.6.) represents footage compiled during 1973-74 when Peter Hutton was living in Thailand and working at sea as a merchant seaman. It is a personal celebration of Asia formed by a sensitivity to filmic composition and to the perception of these images in a silent time created by the filmmaker. (Whitney Museum of American Art)

WAS BLEIBT? (Clarissa Thieme, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2009, 18.6.)
is about the empty spaces left behind in the wake of war and violence. The film is composed of long static wide shots of places and landscapes in present day Bosnia Herzegovina. The places in the film are present for their own sake. They do not explain themselves to us. They throw back the answers we ask of them.

GIRL FROM MOUSH (Gariné Torossian, Canada 1993, 18.6.)
A poetic montage of the artist s journey through her subconscious Armenia. It is not an Armenia based in a reality but one which appears, like the mythical city of Shangri-La, when ones eyes are closed. (Gariné Torossian)

LA NACION CLANDESTINA (Jorge Sanjinés, Bolivia 1989, 18.6.)
Sebastian Mamani, a coffinmaker and member of the Aymara people, decides to return to his village in the Altiplano, from which he was expelled years ago, after he had betrayed the Indio community. On his long way back, he remembers his past behaviour and his loneliness in the city, where he worked for the notorious ministery of the interior and volunteered for service in the repression army. The consciouness of alienation made him seek out the place of his birth, to die in a dance of death and redeem his sins.

GOING HOME (Adolfas Mekas, USA 1971, 25.6.) feels like an amateur travelogue (which leads, among others, through Italy, where Adolfas Mekas discovers St. Tula). The commentary, spoken by the director and his wife Pola Chapelle (herself a filmmaker), i staken from his diaries from Lithuania and the German labor camp.