March 2021, living archive

arsenal 3 in March: Odd Ones Out – Films from the archive of the Short Film Festival Oberhausen whose histories have not yet been written

Running card of the film WASEYAT RAGOL HAKIEM (Egypt 1976)

The archive of the Short Film Festival Oberhausen is a “prize-winners’ archive,” meaning that the prints' existence in this archive is generally thanks to their having been awarded a festival prize, whether by the International Jury or one of the independent juries considered to be significant. Having a place in the archive was not, however, a guarantee of lasting attention. While some of those film prints remained in circulation, at least temporarily, on the programs of film clubs or educational institutions, and others were shown in retrospectives to represent milestones in the festival’s history, others stayed largely unnoticed.

The running card of each film print provides information about how often it was borrowed and shown, and by whom. If a film had a commercial distributor or was distributed by a national film archive, the Oberhausen print was usually one among many and was rather irrelevant to the afterlife of that film. It is different, of course, if the print archived in Oberhausen was one of only a few of that film, or if it became a unique specimen over the years due to losses elsewhere or the conversion of other institutions to digital formats.

Under the title Odd Ones Out, films will be shown on the arsenal 3 platform in March that have rarity status in the archive of the Short Film Festival Oberhausen. On the basis of that status, these films were digitized in the course of the “re-selected” project of “Archive außer sich.” Two of the selected films are archived in both Oberhausen and at the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, which affirms the often parallel programming work of the two institutions. In addition, the program includes a film by the Swedish autodidact Sven Elfström, who never managed to get one of his works to Oberhausen. Although not all of the six selected films have gone completely unnoticed in the past, they are films whose histories have not quite been written yet. Their one-month presence on arsenal 3 comes with the hope that they will awaken associations, memories or knowledge in viewers that can contribute to the ongoing historical narrative of those films. Feedback is therefore welcome – send an email to re_selected(at)kurzfilmtage.de (Tobias Hering).

As part of the showcase on arsenal 3, an online discussion will be held with curator Tobias Hering at 6 p.m. on March 18, moderated by Nikolaus Perneczky, on our Youtube channel.

ASOZIALE (Gernot Eigler, FRG 1970, OV/Engl. ST 35 min)
The only early film by Gernot Eigler to have survived, ASOZIALE was made in 1970 as part of the “Armut in Deutschand” (Poverty in Germany) TV series of the SWF network. Eigler, a Mannheim-born doctor, psychiatrist and specialist in occupational health was encouraged to make provocative, experimental films via his friendships and connections around the film studio at the Technical University of Aachen and the Cologne XScreen group. During breaks from work, Gernot Eigler continued to make films for ZDF and SWF until the mid-1980s. The fact that ASOZIALE has been preserved while the rest of Gernot Eigler’s early works must be considered lost is due to the fact that the film was shown at the Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 1971 and awarded a prize there by the jury of the Filmothek der Jugend. After the festival, a copy remained in the archive at Oberhausen. In his film, Gernot Eigler lets some people tell their stories: welfare recipients, street urchins, ghetto dwellers, and those whose lives never recovered after the war. In doing so the film has already taken a side, in contrast to the talk from those who tend to the “problem” in an administrative way. Social issues are discussed, and in the commentary, the concept and history of the “asocial” are critically dissected.

SUEUR (Sweat, Amor Nagazi, Tunisia 1986, without dialogue, 13 min)
SUEUR is one of only two films to be kept in the archive of the Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 8mm format. It was shown in competition at the 34th Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 1988, submitted by director Amor Nagazi, as he recalls it, on his own initiative. The jury of the FIPRESCI International Federation of Film Critics awarded SUEUR a second prize. In accordance with festival regulations, the award resulted in the purchase of the film for the archive. At the time, director Amor Nagazi was a member of an amateur film club in his hometown of Kairouan, Tunisia. SUEUR was his first film, shot on Super 8 with the help of a small team of friends from the film club. Step by step, the film documents the artisanal production of mud bricks, which were once used to build not only the majority of buildings in Kairouan, but also the imposing city wall. Nagazi’s focus is on the unobtrusive observation of the strenuous and skillful physical labor. Based on the production background and the Super 8 shooting format, it can be assumed that the Oberhausen print of SUEUR is the original.

WASEYAT RAGOL HAKIEM (The Advice of a Wise Man on the Affairs of Village and Education, Daoud Abdel Sayed, Egypt 1976, OV/Engl. ST, 19 min)
In February 1978, the Short Film Festival Oberhausen received a telegram from Ronald Trisch, director of the Leipzig Documentary Film Week, offering two Egyptian films for viewing. One of these was ADVICE OF A WISE MAN, which had been shown at the Leipzig festival the year prior.  It was was shown in Oberhausen in 1978 and awarded an honorary diploma by one of the festival’s juries. Today, it is one of the few Egyptian films in the archive of the Short Film Festival. The film addresses the paternalism towards Egypt’s rural population by juxtaposing a documentary narrative about a successful educational initiative with resentful commentary that turns out to be a satire of the “wise man” of the title. While the imagery presents the young teachers as modern heroes, the commentator escalates into ever greater polemical tirades against them. The 35mm film print shown at the 1978 Short Film Festival came to Oberhausen via the Goethe-Institut in Cairo. It had no subtitles, and the German version of the dialogue was presumably read during the screening. Before the print was sent back a copy was made: a 16mm slash print of the original 35mm version. That print remained in the archive at Oberhausen—without the knowledge of the director, as research by curator Alia Ayman has revealed. Today, the Oberhausen print is the only one available of the film. As part of the project “re-selected – Film History as Print History,” it was shown at the 65th Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 2019 and subsequently digitized in agreement with Daoud Abdel Sayed.

LA ZONA INTERTIDAL (Grupo los Vagos (Guillermo Escalón, Marie-Noëlle Fontan, Lyn Sorto, Manuel Sorto), El Salvador 1980, OV/Engl. ST, 13 min)
LA ZONA INTERTIDAL was made at a time when terrorist acts from both state and paramilitary were the order of the day in El Salvador and shaped the global perception of the country. Instead of the agitprop montages that characterized the political cinema of Latin America in the 1960s and ‘70s, this film is dominated by a feeling of deceptive calm: a beach, lapping waves, a man reading in a hammock, two men in conversation... The violence that breaks into these scenes is hinted at more than it is depicted. Only a closing text panel dedicating the film to the murdered teachers of El Salvador establishes a clear political context. LA ZONA INTERTIDAL was shown at the Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 1982 and awarded one of the main prizes by the International Jury. The festival program listed a “Grupo los Vagos” as the author of the film, a four-member collective that had begun working together in 1969 as the theater collective Taller de Los Vagos and later switched to the medium of film. The group was close to the ERP (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo / People’s Revolutionary Army) and also made films on its behalf under other names. A 16mm copy of the film is kept in the archives of both the Short Film Festival Oberhausen and Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art.
Since September 2017, Luciano Piazza and Jesse Lerner have dedicated a series of programs at the Los Angeles Film Forum to Latin American experimental film under the title “Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America.” As part of their efforts, new, color-corrected copies of LA ZONA INTERTIDAL were produced. This enabled the acquisition of further 16 mm copies for the archives of the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art and the Short Film Festival Oberhausen as part of “Archive außer sich.”

UTVECKLING? (Progress?, Sven Elfström, Sweden 1971, OV/Engl. ST, 5 min)
Sven Elfström (1927-2017) was a full-time manual labourer who started off as a welder at the shipyards in Uddevalla. Eventually he moved to the industrial city of Nynäshamn, south of Stockholm, to work at the manufacturing workshops of the state telecommunications company, Televerket. Elfström began shooting 8mm films at an amateur film club in Uddevalla. When moving to Nynäshamn he acquired a 16mm camera. Most of the eleven films that he made in this format are shot in Nynäshamn; the actors in these films were friends and family. The films were self-financed, shot and edited by himself, often on reversal film stock as this was the cheapest way to make a film. This means that usually neither negatives nor additional copies exist of these films, but merely one original print. UTVECKLING? starts with a fierce critique against capitalism, consumerism and man’s exploitation of the world. Suddenly a shot from a forest changes the pace and our attention is directed towards nature. UTVECKLING?, together with Elfström’s self-published novels and short-stories are with the regional archive at the county of Värmland, Sweden. The digitized copy was made upon a private initiative in collaboration with Filmform, Stockholm.

LIBER ARCE – LIBERARSE (Mario Handler, Mario Jacob, Marcos Banchero, Uruguay 1969, OV/Engl. ST, 13 min)
LIBER ARCE – LIBERARSE is one of many films that have been archived by both the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art. The film was shown at the Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 1971. Two films by Mario Handler had already been in the festival the previous year: EL PROBLEMA DE LA CARNE (The Problem of Meat, 1969) and ME GUSTAN LOS ESTUDIANTES (I Like the Students, 1968). Liber Arce is the name of a student killed by police during protests in Montevideo, whose subsequent funeral became the largest demonstration the city had seen until then. Handler’s film shows the events leading up to and following the funeral. Its title takes the name of the victim and transforms it into a call to action: liberarse, to free oneself. In Oberhausen, the International Jury of the Association of Film Journalists used LIBER ARCE – LIBERARSE as an opportunity to award “Mario Handler and his film collective” as well as the Colombian Carlos Álvarez and his collective with cash prizes. The jury statement says that the prize was a “political prize” intended to enable both collectives to take “the next step in their struggle.” The award was presumably the reason that a print was acquired for the festival’s archive. In 1973, LIBER ARCE - LIBERARSE was taken into distribution by the Friends of the German Film Archive (today: Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art). LIBER ARCE – LIBERARSE as well as ME GUSTAN LOS ESTUDIANTES were digitally restored in 2018 and 2019 in collaboration between Arsenal, the Short Film Festival Oberhausen and Karin and Mario Hanlder and new 35mm negatives and prints were also produced as a safeguard measure.

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