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December 2015, edition

New edition release: 3D Blu-ray Ken Jacobs



A new 3D Blu-ray that brings together three films by Ken Jacobs can be purchased at the Arsenal box office. It includes A PRIMER IN SKY SOCIALISM (Forum Expanded 2014), THE GUESTS (Forum 2014) and BLANKETS FOR INDIANS (2012).

Ken Jacobs, USA 2013, 58 min, color, silent, Language: English

Inspired by the story of the Roebling family, A PRIMER IN SKY SOCIALISM is a 3D mediation on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Jacobs returns here again to the subject of his 1964 film THE SKY SOCIALIST. Washington Roebling became chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1869. Developing new building techniques, he designed the pneumatic caissons that became the foundations for the two towers, where a construction accident forced him off-site and his wife Emily Warren Roebling continued to manage the bridge‘s complex construction. "Each new year Flo and I join the young and many-languaged crowd walking to the top of Brooklyn Bridge ostensibly for the fireworks. Fact is, the crowd, the bridge, comprise the spectacle. The bridge has been particularly dear to us since the ’60s, when we learned the story of the Roeblings, father, son and daughter-in-law. The bridge embodies their wishes for America, their blessing, nothing less. I filmed (on 8mm) THE SKY SOCIALIST back then and this is a follow-up." (Ken Jacobs)
"An imaginary explanation: Assuming they wished to be understood, and that being understood was cool with their dealer, Picasso and Braque only had to say the following to the public: We are no longer attempting to capture the spirits of animals on secret cave-walls. The Church no longer rules, not among this set. The Impressionists and Symbolists and Futurists cannot be improved upon, and their examples can‘t be followed if we‘re to earn a name for ourselves. So we must start again, a radical departure starting from ... illusion of depth. We will make it the main thing and we will make it arbitrary! Picking up on Cézanne, depictions of depth will fly in the face of expectations." (Ken Jacobs, January 2014)


Ken Jacobs, USA 2013, 73 min, b&w, without dialog

The sister of one of the Lumière brothers’ technicians is getting married. The festively dressed guests walk up a flight of broad steps to enter the building. The camera is located inside, facing outward. The guests are coming from the church square, still visible in the background. The monochrome colouring, the clothing, the look of the street: it’s a photograph from the 19th century. As the group begins to move, it’s as if they are walking past the wedding and into our present. We see the women’s tight-fitting dresses and wonder how they can even breathe. We see the excitement on the face of a boy. We ask ourselves how long it will be before someone walks in front of the camera and thus blocks the picture. As we wait, we discover a coach driving by behind the guests. When our gaze returns to the front, the photograph is no longer the same. Our eyes wander from front to back, from the bottom left-hand corner to the top right-hand one. Is the screen concave or convex? Are we the ones generating the depth through the flat surface of the image? Silent film, avant-garde, and digital 3D: one hundred and twenty years of film history merging into one single cinematic event. (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus)

USA 2012, color, sound, 57’

The title alludes to the smallpox-infested blankets that were given as gifts to the original inhabitants of this continent by Europeans. I carry a Fuji W3 3D pocket-camera at all times. It looks like a cell-phone but records 3D stills and video, with stereo-sound. Intending to record the antique water-fountain in City Hall Park a block from where we live, we turned onto Broadway to see many people gathering and cops putting up metal barricades to prevent them from spilling into traffic. A very disciplined protest march was forming, all sorts of people objecting to our wars and economic imbalance. Teacher unions, hospital workers, the march went on for hours, mid-day into night, many people with small children. From the little media coverage, we did learn that 75 were arrested (devil knows why) and many more roughed up by the police. They were to gather further downtown at Zuccotti Park, joining the people of Occupy Wall Street. Of course I began to record, but there was no way I'd be taking Flo to Zuccotti Park. We're old, with vivid memories if not scars of Vietnam War protests. And I wanted to keep my camera from being "confiscated", keep my recordings.
America was told by God to manage the globe, at a profit, only first having to clear away prior nations living on this land mass before venturing offshore (though not before taking half of Mexico and some failed attempts to wrest Canada from Canadians). Surely you asked when a child, "Daddy, what was America doing so far from home when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?" - "Grabbing Hawaii, darling, and much more", Daddy may have answered. Bush and Cheney were religiously observant when they opted to enrich Halliburton further, when with their 9/11 pretext -arranged with the Saudis- they invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East generally. This movie shows dissenters to the American mission marching down New York’s lower Broadway to gather at Zuccotti Park where the Occupy Wall Street kids were standing their ground. We live close to where the crowd turned onto Broadway and swept us along. (Ken Jacob)