Dialectical Films @ the Oxford Documentary Society
Oct19

Dialectical Films @ the Oxford Documentary Society

This Friday (25th October) Dialectical Films heads to Oxford for an event jointly organised by the Oxford Documentary Society and the Tim Hetherington Society. Focusing on the question of whether “documentary can change the world” the panel discussion will be chaired by Frank Macpherson, president of the Oxford Documentary Society, and include contributions from Joram ten Brink, producer of Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012), and Iranian documentarist, Mania Akbari, whose films include 20 Fingers (2004) and In My Country Men Have Breasts (2012). As a representative of the Bristol Radical Film Festival my contribution will focus on the artistic interventions into public space which the festival carries out, and how these interventions are conducive with a counter hegemonic cultural production, the strength of which lies in its radicalism and ability to open up spaces for critical engagement. I will argue that documentary does indeed have the power to “change the world” if, and only if, it consistently intervenes in public space on a politically radical level. Finally, I would like to thank the Oxford Documentary Society for giving us the chance to speak alongside such amazing people. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQySYhfSrCU&w=420&h=315]  ...

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Forging a Constellation: The Memory Strategies of Patricio Guzman
Sep11

Forging a Constellation: The Memory Strategies of Patricio Guzman

Since the release of Battle of Chile/La Battalla de Chile over the course of three years (1975, 1976, 1979) the films of Patricio Guzman have become internationally renowned for the director’s auterism and sensitivity towards his subject matter: Chile. Guzman’s films are analyses of a country scarred by the events of September 11th 1973, when a CIA backed coup overthrew the popular Socialist government of Salvador Allende, leading to the kidnapping, incarceration and death of over 30’000 people. The mnemonic wound caused by such an event has manifested as a national culture of amnesia that has lasted well into the country’s transition to democracy. The intention of Guzman’s films is to resist this culture, in which “the post-dictatorial media landscape continuously projects new images that establish an amnesiac flow of insubstantial data” (Cisneros 2006: 59). This mode of resistance involves the use of memory strategies that utilise film’s chronotopic (space-time) potentiality, re-forging the disconnected past and present. In other words, re-forging memory. Against the overabundance of hyperstimulus pervaded by neo-liberalism Guzman pits a strategy of decelerated storytelling that embraces a poetics of signs, fashioning an aesthetic environment that allows for a more paced consideration than that permitted by “the speed culture of globalisation” (ibid). Guzman’s films pool together signs, creating a constellation of memory before taking their place as a constituent part of that constellation, a process that illustrates “the incorporation of living memory in a public construction of history” (Chanan 2007: 269) and constitutes an act of what Derrida calls “consignation…through gathering together signs” as well as the “institutional implementation” of the text, its admission to collective memory as an archive (Derrida 1996: 3, 4). Here I want to show how the sensible and material display of signs in Guzman’s Nostalgia For The Light/Nostalgia de la Luz (2010) makes possible the re-examination of the lived experience of history and acts as a catalyst for the forging of memory. We can gain a better understanding of Guzman’s memory strategy by analysing Jacques Ranciere’s definition of memory as “the work of fiction” (Ranciere 2006: 158). Here the word fiction is not used in the singular sense ‘a work of fiction’. Rather, it is derived from the original fingere, meaning to construct or forge. Memory is subject to ongoing construction, the subjective assemblage of data from the objective world, which is then archived pending its re-examination in respect to new data. Cinema is the art best equipped to represent the operations of memory because it is “the combination of the gaze of the artist who decides and the mechanical gaze that records, of constructed images and chance images” (Ranciere 2006: 161)....

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Building Bristol: Memory, Monuments and Power
Aug26

Building Bristol: Memory, Monuments and Power

Text by Anthony Killick and Lee Salter In this film Edson Burton asserts that “where people are disenfranchised from sources of knowledge the space opens up for new ways of understanding”. One of the purposes of the film is to facilitate this process. The opportunity to re-examine certain histories through the practice of film-making allows us to derive new interpretations, against what Burton describes as the “homogenous, imperial discourse”. In Representation and the Media, Stuart Hall highlights the importance of  this form of counter-hegemonic cultural production. Culture, he says, is our way of making sense of the world. It is giving meaning to things through frameworks of understanding, without which communication would be impossible. When these frameworks are dominated by powerful social and political forces, so culture is shaped by those same forces. What we say, and how we say it, is subject to subtle, indirect interference by external agents. To put it in Habermasian terms, our life-world becomes colonised by the interests and rationale of economic and political systems. We begin to chase private, individualistic ‘goods’ over the common, shared goods of the community. In turn, we reproduce the frameworks of meaning that oriented us in this way via the externalisation of culture through language and other forms of communication. Capital reproduces itself, then, by colonising culture, restricting the horizon of possible meanings to those permitted by dominant powers. The task of the independent filmmaker is to resist colonisation, opening up the possibility for the creation of meanings through experimentation with new discursive strategies. This counter-hegemonic practice falls under the banner of the political avant-garde, experimenting while creating texts that are accessible to those of us who are culturally colonised to various degrees. In return, filmmaking is the medium through which we realise theory in the concrete world. Many social theorists, from Michel Foucault to Henri Lefebvre, have considered how the structure and architecture of cities reflect dominant relations and their historical roots in what Lefebvre called the “social production of space”. Building Bristol: Memory, Monuments and Power investigates these relations by considering the meaning of two of Bristol’s bridges, one the great Clifton Suspension Bridge and the other the less well-known “Pero’s Bridge”, constructed as an attempt to commemorate Bristol’s slaving past....

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Bristol Radical Film Festival – September Events
Aug18

Bristol Radical Film Festival – September Events

As part of BRFF’s plan to move beyond the restrictions of a single annual festival, we have been working in conjunction with a number of venues and groups to plan a series of film-events that will take place throughout the month of September. The anti-fracking protests going on in Balcombe have been subjected to the usual mainstream distortions. On September 2nd BRFF and Bristol Indymedia present Get the Frack Out of Somerset (25 mins) produced by independent film maker Marco Jackson in collaboration with local campaign coalition, Frack Free Somerset. The film looks at the potential impact of a controversial method of extracting gas called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, and coal bed methane extraction in Somerset with the social, health and environmental consequences associated with these methods of unconventional energy resource extraction. With the majority of Somerset covered by licenses sold by the Government for drilling, it sets the scene for community resistance to defend local villages from becoming gasfields. This event takes place at The Cube Microplex. Second, for those of you after some old-school revolutionary propaganda, an outdoor screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925, 75 mins) will be held on Bristol’s Christmas Steps on Thursday September 5th. This acclaimed film follows a selection of cinematic wonders bought to you by Geneva Stop, the artist-run facility for ciné filmmakers and enthusiasts based at the top of the Steps. The rarity of this event should be stressed, as the film will be screened with a live musical accompaniment. It is free, and everyone is welcome. Finally (for now at least) we mark the 40th anniversary of the military coup that took place in Chile on 11th September 1973, heralding the installation of General Pinochet and the murder of over 30’000 people, with the backing of the U.S. and U.K. governments. For this event we have teamed up with ‘Chile 40 Years On’, a network of exiled Chileans coordinating commemorative events across the UK in association with the UK Chilean Solidarity Campaign. We will be introducing a (very) rare screening of La Spirale (1974) a documentary written by Chris Marker and directed by Armand Mattelart, Jacqueline Meppiel and Valerie Mayoux. This event will take place on Wednesday 11th September at the Arc Bar, Bristol. As usual you can check the Bristol Radical Film Festival website for more details on these events, and to stay in the loop regarding further events....

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Cannibals at the Carnival: Cinema Novo and Marginal Cinema
Jul27

Cannibals at the Carnival: Cinema Novo and Marginal Cinema

The Brazilian Cinema Novo is widely regarded as a staple feature in the history of avant-garde cinema. Throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s, Novo filmmakers participated in a broader movement of cultural transformation that was entwined with the politics of ‘modernising’ and ‘developing’ the nation. This period constitutes the birth of modern Brazilian cinema, the success of which “is the result of many years of struggle by filmmakers determined to create a strong film industry in that country” (Johnson 1984: 1). The struggle was bound up with the socio-political landscape in which Novo was situated. What began as a decade of popular optimism in Brazil gave way to military dictatorship and institutionalised repression. In response, Cinema Novo became increasingly radical, evolving “through a series of discernible phases, each of which corresponds to a specific sociopolitical conjuncture” (ibid). The purpose of this essay is not to examine the intricate changes of the form and content of Novo across these phases. Rather, it is to chart the centrifugal direction of it in relation to cultural traditions within Brazil. I call this direction a centrifugal one because, as well as corresponding to specific sociopolitical conjunctures, it represents a movement away from centres of power towards the marginalised elements of society. Conducive with this movement is the tendency towards cannibalism, a specific trope that falls under the broader concept of the carnivalesque. I will argue, therefore, that the movement from Cinema Novo to Marginal Cinema represents a shift from carnival to specifically cannibal strategies. The dialectical nature of this shift should be noted, as it stems from increasing political repression and is bound up with a nationalistic yet ‘tri-continental’ counter-hegemonic position. As Paul Willemen notes “a cinema that seeks to engage with the questions of national specificity from a critical or counterhegemonic position is by definition a minority and a poor cinema, dependent on the existence of a larger multinational or nationalised industrial sector” (Willemen 28: 2006). The foundation of my analyses are the cultural theories of Mikhail Bakhtin. While Bakhtin never wrote about cinema or Latin America, his theories on the carnivalesque have been deployed by many scholars to gain an understanding of Latin American traditions and cultures. Situated under the broad umbrella of the carnivalesque, the Bakhtinian concepts of dialogism and centrifugal speech are evident in the reaction of Cinema Novo to increasing political repression on the part of the Brazilian state. The two films analysed here: Glauber Rocha’s Land in Anguish (1967) and, to a lesser extent, Rogerio Sganzerla’s Red Light Bandit (1969) represent the different strategies of Novo and Marginal during a period of transition from the former to...

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