March 2020, arsenal cinema

Forum 50

THE MOON AND THE SLEDGEHAMMER, 1971

The Berlinale Forum is taking place for the 50th time this year and we are celebrating! During the Berlinale and in March, all the films that were shown in 1971 will be screened again. This will provide an insight into an era full of upheavals for society and culture and offer the opportunity to examine the films’ relevance today. When Ulrich and Erika Gregor and their co-founders set up the International Forum of Young Cinema, they had a clear sense of the radical changes in cinema, the sociopolitical situation and the necessity of keeping alive film history. Films from countries not yet on the global radar of cinema premiered here, as did films that experimented with form or others without narratives. From the start, no distinction was made between documentary and fictional films; older and re-discovered films stood side by side with films with a political message. Already known classics made references to utopias and cinematic traditions. A large part of the first Forum program comprised works of artistic innovation and political agitation. Many saw themselves as providing “counter-information” to the mainstream media, for example with regard to the Civil Rights Movement or the protests against the Vietnam War. In films that explored (neo-)colonialism and exploitation in South America and Africa, the camera was a tool of the class struggle.

Some of the films we are screening are part of our own collection. Since the very beginning, it has been our policy to preserve and make accessible films with German subtitles to a broader public outside of the festival context. Others were located in various archives all over the world, which brought to light many problems related to the preservation of non-mainstream films: In many cases, only poor quality prints could be found. Four films can not be screened - either because no copy could be found or for legal reasons: No pincha (Tobias Engel, René Lefort, Gilbert Igel, France 1970), Argentina, mayo 1969 (Director’s collective Realizadores de Mayo, Argentina 1969), Purple Pütt (Claudio Hofmann, FRG 1971) and Olimpia agli amici (Adriano Aprà, Italy 1970). The Harun Farocki Institute will present LEAVE ME ALONE by Gerhard Theuring.

LE COCHON (The Pig, Jean Eustache, Jean-Michel Barjol, F 1971, 4. & 12.3., Introduction: Peter Nau) is about the killing and preparation of a pig on a farm in the Cevennes. It was filmed with painstaking detail and almost childish curiosity in one day only and begins with the animal’s slaughter at dawn and ends at dusk with red wine and song. In between, the pig is transformed into sausage. The black-and-white film features neither a commentary nor dialogue and is not an indictment of human brutality to animals, but an attempt to make a film that elicits no superficially moral, sociological or political interpretations, in line with the director’s view that “one should not read into an event anything other than what it actually says itself.” (Jean Eustache)

THE MOON AND THE SLEDGEHAMMER (Philip Trevelyan, GB 1971, 4.3., Introduction: James Lattimer & 12.3.) There lies another world in the forest behind the high street. This is where the Page family lives. The mischievous father greets the audience right at the start of the film. The viewer observes as he and his adult children go about their daily lives. Everything takes place in the dark house among the trees and the surrounding clearings. The father knows the score and likes to shoot. One son is interested in steam engines, another in mechanics, while the daughters take charge of the garden and the housework. They all speak with the camera from time to time, talking about the future of petrol, family-related frustrations, the problems in England or what the moon looks like through a telescope. The camera wanders often, showing tools, flowers, animals, the light through the trees, drops of oil and blood. The piano outside of the house and the organ inside it provide the music. This gentle idiosyncratic portrait of a family has acquired cult status since its premiere. Today, it has the effect of a time capsule that archived the dialect, ways of life and landscape of southern England - endangered species even then. (jl)

SIERRA DE TERUEL / ESPOIR (Days of Hope, André Malraux, Spain/F 1939/45, 5. & 8.3.) “For a long time, the original version of this key work of Spanish and anti-fascist cinema ws not available. SIERRA DE TERUEL, the only film directed by Malraux, was financed largely by the Republican government and came about in adventurous conditions. It was only completed in 1939 after the Nationalists had won the Civil War and at first only screened in private circles. For years, the film was thought to have disappeared completely but one edited version had survived in France. It was shown to the public, offering “hope”. For decades, the film was only available in this form but then the original was discovered in the Library of Congress and restored. The Republicans’ determined fight against the Nationalists is depicted in documentary fashion through one single episode: A Republican commando works with the local population to blow up a bridge in order to thwart the better-equipped Nationalist forces.” (Christoph Huber)

LA VIE EST À NOUS (Life Belongs to Us, Jean Renoir, France 1936, 6.3.) In the opening credits, the film is described as being “made collectively by a group of technicians, artists and workers,” with Jean Renoir in charge. This was an expression of his commitment to the Popular Front. Commissioned by the Communist Party ahead of the elections of 1936, the film depicts the political tensions and the rise of fascism in Europe as well as the great optimism in France at the time. “This is a rare example of an honest propaganda film. It thrives on the clear distinction between fictional and documentary footage. More than all political television today, it gives the viewers the opportunity to recognize their measure of ideology and to reflect upon this.” (Frieda Grafe, 1978)

YAN DIGA (Serge-Henri Moati, Niger/F 1968–70, 7.3.) This first Hausa feature film tells the story of three young men from a small village in Niger, who set off for the capital of the  Ivory Coast Abidjan, which is known as the “golden city on the sea”. The many stages of their long march across the steppes form the stations of a process of development. The three meet people with different experiences and their adventure becomes a journey of education, a learning process that expands their consciousness. “The epic self-assurance with which time and space are paused (and not shortened) destabilizes our rigid notions of time, eliciting patience so that what is alien is not considered as exotic (as it has often been made to be considered by us) but simply as a different way of life.” (Wolfram Schütte)

L’ÂGE D’OR (Age of Gold, Luis Buñuel, F 1930, 8.3., Introduction: Erika Gregor & 13.3.) Buñuel’s second film was an attack on conventions, the church and the good taste of the bourgeoisie. Using the logic of dreams, it combines motifs, metaphors and symbols to weave a thick network. „L’ÂGE D’OR is the only film in my career conceived and created in a state of euphoria and enthusiasm, of vertigo for overthrowing things and deliberate seeking of scandal, dedicated to attacking the representatives of 'order' and ridiculing their 'eternal' principles. The period called for such a spirit. I deliberately wanted to cause a scandal with this film. I never found the enthusiasm that possessed me at the time again, nor did I have the chance to express myself again with such complete freedom.” (Luis Buñuel)

FESTIVAL PANAFRICAIN D’ALGER (William Klein, F/Algeria 1969, 8.3.) Apart from FESTAC in Lagos in 1977, the Festival panafricain d’Alger was the most important music and cultural event in post-colonial Africa. Taking place seven years after the end of Algeria’s war of independence, the festival celebrated the pan-African movement, with concerts, conferences, exhibitions, theater performances and film screenings. This unique event, which took place all over the Algerian capital Algiers, lasted 40 days and featured a variety of artists, includingMiriam Makeba, Archie Shepp and Nina Simone. The Algerian government commissioned William Klein and other filmmakers to document the many facets of the event and the final cut represents its huge diversity. Klein opted for an associative, essayistic structure, making use of a variety of media, including posters, photos, drawings, speeches, interviews and archive footage.

GESCHICHTEN VOM KÜBELKIND (Ula Stöckl, Edgar Reitz, FRG 1971, 9.3.) Always dressed in a red dress and red tights, Dumpster Kid is nosy about everything, asking a few questions too many and taking whatever she desires. (Kristine de Loup). She is an anarchistic character who is not part of society and who fights involuntarily against restrictions. Having grown from a placenta and been discovered on a hospital rubbish dump, the idea is for foster parents to take responsibility for her and integrated her into society. She is supposed to go to school and church. Ula Stöckl and Edgar Reitz made Geschichten vom Kübelkind in 1969 entirely with their friends, taking on a radical position outside the standard cinema system with their series of 22 16-mm shorts of different lengths. They were first screened in a Munich cabaret theater, which became a “cinema-pub” after the regular shows. Guests could select the episodes they wanted to watch from a menu.

LA SALAMANDRE (Alain Tanner, Switzerland 1971, 9. & 19.3.) Was it an accident or a murder attempt? Rosemunde (Bulle Ogier), a young woman who just manages to keep her head above water with odd jobs, is accused of shooting her uncle. She says that he injured himself cleaning his weapon. A television station commissions the journalist Pierre to use the case as the basis for a screenplay. He elicits the support of his friend Paul, a writer currently working on a construction site. Each of them works in their own way to find out the truth, one of them making a meticulous investigation, the other letting his imagination run wild. Both fail, however, because Rosemunde turns out to be impulsive, rebellious and unfathomable. She is like an intrepid anarchist, running away if something doesn’t suit her and not allow herself to be controlled. “A definitive incarnation of post-1968 freedom”. (Frédéric Bas)

BANANERA LIBERTAD (Peter von Gunten, CH 1971, 10.3.) Peter von Gunten’s film, a pioneering “politically engaged work about development policy” (Hans Helmut Prinzler) was shot in Paraguay, Peru and Guatemala. It sheds light on the plight of the poor and underprivileged population of Latin America, depicting the life and exploitation of farmers, miners and banana plantation workers. At the same time, it examines the relationship between poverty in the “Third World” and wealth in Western industrial nations, especially with regard to the banana trade of the title. The film was revelatory and shown by many film clubs and political organizations. Over 200,000 people saw it in Switzerland alone.

A program on 11th March will include two medium-length films that explore living and working conditions in rural Italy: D - NON DIVERSI GIORNI SI PENSA SPLENDESSERO ALLE PRIME ORIGINI DEL NASCENTE MONDO O CHE AVESSERO TEMPERATURE DIVERSA (Guido Lombardi, Anna Lajolo, Italy 1970, 11.3.) combines beautiful imagery with the reality of life in rural Italy and thoughts about alienation caused by capitalism. "D originates in the mutual penetration of unreality and reality: This is the basis of another future reality, which the film seeks and executes as a language of fantasy and political significance. The scenes, places and objects of a long silent violence are the villages of eastern Liguria, where 'the world of trees and animals' is dying out to make way for the 'highway'. The fragments of the first and second book of Virgil's 'Georgics', spoken by the old farmer, are a social and philological sediment from which the critical description of the present takes its starting point, contrasting with Virgil's description of a balanced world. (Guido Lombardi)
LA MEMORIA DI KUNZ OVVERO UN VIAGGIO NEL SOTTOSVILUPPO DELLE FELICE INTUIZIONI (Ivo Barnabò Micheli, Italy 1970, 11.3.) This documentary-esque feature film, featuring largely amateur actors, is about a family of farmers in South Tyrol. A scene in which they go to visit their son and brother Kunz in an asylum becomes a reflection on the conditions and possibilities of memory, the contrasts between urban and rural life and the relationship between the German and Italian-speaking population.

LA BATAILLE DES DIX MILLIONS (Cuba: Battle of the 10,000,000 Chris Marker, F/Cuba 1970, 14.3.) The battle of the title refers to the “zafra”, the sugarcane harvest in Cuba. In 1970, Fidel Castro stipulated that 10 million tons had to be harvested - a huge amount that considerably exceeded the previous record of seven million - but it was indispensable for boosting Cuba’s economy, considering the profits that could be made with sugar abroad. This was a compilation film that Chris Marker made from the newsreels of the Cuban film institute ICAIC. The highlight is Castro’s self-critical speech on 26th July 1970, in which he admitted that his campaign had failed. As he always did during his speeches, he kept adjusting the position of the microphone.

MÉXICO, LA REVOLUCIÓN CONGELADA (Mexico, the Frozen Revolution, Raymundo Gleyzer, Argentina/USA 1970, 14.3.) takes stock of the Mexican revolution of 1910-1919,  which brought barely an improvement to the poor and peasant population. The precise political analysis of a revolution that was “institutionalized” into a party is combined with archive footage of Emiliano Zapata,  Pancho Villa and others and with interviews with their comrades. Fade-ins of footage of the brutal crackdown on the student demonstrations ahead of the Olympic Games of 1968 (400 deaths) are the shattering confirmation of Mexico’s “frozen revolution”. After being screened in the Forum, the film was shown in Cannes and Locarno, where it won the Golden Leopard.

ICH LIEBE DICH, ICH TÖTE DICH (Uwe Brandner, FRG 1971, 15.3.) Uwe Brandner, who died in 2018, was a (film) musician and writer, who co-founded the Filmverlag der  Autoren ,and filmmaker who deserves to be rediscovered. Only one original film emerged from his directorial career, which lasted from 1969 to 1977. ICH LIEBE DICH, ICH TÖTE DICH which Brandner himself described as a “picture book from home”. A young teacher moves to a remote village in Bavaria. Rich locals have set up a hunting ground in the wild. His friendship with the local gamekeeper turns into a love affair, heralding the end of an idyllic period.

UMANO NON UMANO (Human Not Human, Mario Schifano, Italy 1969, 17.3.) Though he became famous as a painter and collage artist and as one of the main representatives of Italy’s postmodern art scene, Mario Schifano he was also a filmmaker. The films that he made from 1964 were very much influenced by US experimental films, like most works by Italian avant-garde directors at the time. At the end of the 1960s, Schifano also made a trilogy of feature-length films in the spirit of Pop Art. The middle part - UMANO NON UMANO, - enjoys a legendary reputation. It is a pulsating, completely unpredictable and eclectic (in the best sense of the word) collage of a dazzling Rome, where Schifano was a key figure, akin to New York’s Andy Warhol at the same time. Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg crop up in the film, as do demonstrating students; Alberto Moravia and Adriano Aprà reflect upon art and philosophy and comrades and poets such as Carmelo Bene fill the screen with their presence.

VOTO MÁS FUSIL (Vote Plus Gun, Helvio Soto, Chile 1970, 18.3., Introduction: Cristina Nord) Made after Salvador Allende won the election in 1970, this film explores the historical development of the Chilean Left from 1935 to the present. It depicts the consciousness of a socialist in the last few days before the elections of November 4th 1970 and shows how political events are registered and processed: Memories of the “Lenin Brigade” (1937) but above all the Right’s conspiracies to bring down the economy and the government, and the murder of General Schneider, the commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army on October 24th 1970.

LA BANDERA QUE LEVANTAMOS (Mario Jacob, Eduardo Terra, Uruguay 1971, 18.3.) A left-wing coalition from different political areas formed in 1971, election year in Uruguay. Some 100,000 people participated in a demonstration in March, where the Left’s presidential candidate Liber Seregni introduced himself. The directors used this event and  his speech as a departure point for analyzing the country’s social and political realities.

LETTERA APERTA A UN GIORNALE DELLA SERA (Open Letter to an Evening Daily, Francesco Maselli, Italy 1970, 20.3.) A group of Marxist intellectuals answer an evening newspaper’s appeal with an open letter, in which they suggest joining the war in Vietnam at the head of a delegation. The letter is supposed to be provocative and nobody who signs it seriously thinks that it will be published. When it is, interest and support arrives from all over Europe. The Vietnamese party, which has until then rejected support from Soviet and Chinese volunteers, accepts the offer and the group ends up with a problem. The debate about what to do culminates in insults and fisticuffs.

SHESTAYA CHAST’ MIRA (A Sixth Part of the World, Dziga Vertov, USSR 1926, 21.3., Introduction: Ulrich Gregor, on piano: Eunice Martins) “The film was supposed to be a hymn to the homeland. Its visual structure shares several similarities with the poems of Vertov’s favorite authors, Whitman and Mayakovsky. It comprised six parts. The first showed the capitalist world: the bourgeoisie enjoying itself, the exploited workers. The second part depicted the life of the workers of the different nationalities of the USSR. The third part showed the wealth that belonged to the workers and peasants, from Moscow to the border with China, from Matochkin Shar to Bukhara. Representatives of different professions were presented to the viewers. The film spoke about hunting, animal rearing, agriculture, industry, products made for export. The fourth part was particularly about this latter element. The fifth was about state trade which was of interest to those peoples who had been left behind by socialist development. (…) The sixth and last part showed the disappearance of old forms of life and economy.” (N.P. Abramov, Forumsblatt 1971)

A program made up of four shorts on 22nd March will be devoted to the resistance movements and worker’s struggles in Chile and the protest against the Vietnam War in the US. NUTUAYIN MAPU, RECUPEREMOS NUESTRA TIERRA (We Reclaim our Land, Carlos Flores, Guillermo Cahn, Chile 1971, 22.3.) A film about the Mapuche in Chile and their fight for the land stolen from them by the Spanish conquerors, compiled of songs, suggestive images of resistance and indictments of the unjust legal system.
SANTA MARÍA DE IQUIQUE (Claudio Sapiaín, Chile 1969, 22.3.) In 1907, the mineworkers  of the saltpeter mine in Iquique went on strike to protest against conditions akin to slavery. The Chilean Army cracked down brutally and 3,600 people were killed. The reconstruction and commemoration of the massacre was made on the basis of material about what had happened, eyewitness accounts and folksongs.
WINTER SOLDIER 71 (Ken Hamblin, USA 1971, 22.3.) documents a three-day gathering of veterans and civilians giving testimony about war crimes committed or witnessed during the Vietnam War.
THE SCHIZOPHRENIA OF WORKING FOR WAR (Leonard M. Henny, USA 1971, 22.3.) portrays the dilemma of engineers who were against the Vietnam War and yet involved in manufacturing weapons.

JAMES OU PAS (James or not, Michel Soutter, CH 1970, 25. & 29.3.) “With a plot that cannot be recounted and single scenes that are loosely but whimsically connected, this film is a criminal farce and then again it is not; two shots, a dead man and two strange detectives only form the basis, the framework for the film. What is more important here are the types: Eva, who comes to Lake Geneva at the weekends from Zurich, to provide the wealthy but very isolated James with a minimum of human contact, and Hector, an odd taxi driver, who is happy when he can help people out and sometimes simply turns off the meter. The zany and sometimes melancholy dialogues, the finely-tuned series of shots and some beautiful car journeys to the music of Chopin make JAMES OU PAS a very gentle, unobtrusive and very intelligent film.” (Arndt F. Schirmer)

TROPICI (Tropics, Gianni Amico, Italy 1968, 26. & 31.3.) “TROPICI simply tells the story of a young family from Brazil’s northeastern region forced to leave their home in search of work. They take the few possessions that they have and with great effort make their way through the barren and desolate country, suffering a series of privations. Their destination is the southern coast. They aim first to go to Recife then on to São Paulo where they hope they will find work.(…) TROPICI comes across as more immediate and controversial than a film with clear intentions of social criticism might have. The viewer sees the situation as it is and this is enough because the truth is able to come into its own through the restriction of the picture whose significance is clear and yet not detachable: To be the truth and nothing more.” (Siegfried Schober, Forumsblatt 1971) “The intention of the film is to give a comprehensive and realistic impression of life, economic conditions and the political situation of a Third World country.” (Amico)

NA BOCA DA NOITE (Walter Lima Jr., Brazil 1971, 27.3.) The film begins emblematically with shots of some paintings by René Magritte: An anonymous small man with a bowler hat, arranged in the picture a dozen times and seen from the back. A faceless chill also marks the interior of a bank in a Brazilian metropolis. The bank employee Victor Hugo has spent many uneventful years there but he is determined to put an end to this dreary existence. He makes an excuse to stay back late one night so that he can rob the safe, but then he discovers that the cleaner is still in the building. A social struggle breaks out between the two of them, which is staged as an intensive, dialogic Kammerspiel. Walter Lima Jr, who worked as an assistant to Glauber Rocha before making his own directorial debut in 1965, won the 1969 Silver Bear for his Brasil Ano 2000, a film set after the Third World War. The loneliness of the two main characters of NA BOCA DA NOITE is shockingly close to a state of apocalypse. We will show a 16mm (the original format of a film not screened for many years) copy of this work from the archive of the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.

WECHMA (Traces, Hamid Benani, Morocco 1970, 28.3.) Messaoud is adopted by a childless farmer at the age of eight. His adoptive father disciplines the gentle orphan with extreme severity, leading the traumatized youth to rebel even more. As a young man, Messaoud gets involved with a group of violent ne’er-do-wells and lives his life on the edge. “Wechma marks a departure in Moroccan cinema: a feature film that is experimental, particularly in the second part, breaks with conventional narrative structures and abruptly counters naturalism with Freudian symbolism and sequences that are downright fantastical.” (Christoph Terhechte)

LE WAZZOU POLYGAME (The Polygamist’s Moral, Oumarou Ganda, Niger/F 1971, 28.3.) The Nigerien director Oumarou Ganda, who was introduced to cinema by Jean Rouch, is one of the central figures of African cinema of the late 1960s and 70s. After his debut Cabascabo, LE WAZZOU POLYGAME is one of his most famous films. We are showing a very rare 16-mm copy of a courageous film that attacks polygamy, a tradition taken for granted in many Muslim countries, which often goes hand in hand with forced marriages. Just back from Mecca, El Hadj falls in love with Satou, a friend of his daughter’s. He marries her, although she was originally supposed to marry another. However, his first two wives want nothing to do with her. “I witnessed the events that I depict in LE WAZZOU POLYGAME and I understood that polygamy is a key problem and that it has to be dealt with even if some people are against this. The problem has to be seen and perhaps there has to be a frontal attack.” (Oumarou Ganda)

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