Project COBRA: Call for Films
Jan13

Project COBRA: Call for Films

COBRA : A Critical Response is a five year project to internationally counter-map and creatively respond to the British Governments emergency committee COBRA. See http://cobra-res.info/ for more details. COBRA 1.3 Chapter Two –  Invitation for film and video responses.   We would like to invite you to contribute to our project COBRA 1.3 that will respond to the recent emergency meetings in Westminster by producing a DVD and book of artists’ moving image works and texts.   The British Governments emergency response committee COBRA met on the 6th December due to the ensuing storms and tidal surges.   In response to this meeting at Westminster our organization, COBRA: A Critical Response invited a first round of artists to respond in writing or with a piece of moving image, to either the subject of the meeting iethe winter storms or the existence of the COBRA committee itself.   So far responses include works by Nina Power, Chris Collier, Margaret Dickinson, Allison Ballard, Steven Connelly and John Jordan among others. These will be compiled in a DVD of artists moving image, with an accompanying book that will be launched with film screening, in London in mid-late February, 2014. The DVD and book is being produced by COBRA: A Critical Response and will be published by Pamphleteer Films.   As the storms and tidal surges continued over the last month, creating a much greater and extended impact, the COBRA committee reconvened most recently in Westminster on Saturday 11th Jan 2014.   For this reason we would like to include you in a second round of artistic responses to this event to recognise the extended nature of the emergency and subsequent COBRA meetings.   We would therefore like to invite you to contribute to this project by contributing a video work between 1 minutes and 9 minutes long by the 7th February, 2014. This may be an existing work you feel is well suited or a new work produced as a specific response. Any form will be accepted such as fiction, archival, documentary, performance documentation, animation, phone video, etc. This may be submitted via a digital format to cobra.res@gmail.com or as a hard copy (please contact for postal address).   COBRA: A Critical Response is a five-year project investigating the relationship, and use, of aesthetics and performative means for political power within emergency politics.       Contributors who have so far submitted and those invited.   COBRA 1.3   BOOK   Nina Power (lead essay/foreword) Chris Collier Nicholas Hausdorf John Jordan Samuel Stevens Theo Price   DVD   Chapter One    Margaret Dickinson Allison Ballard Stephen Connolly John Jordan Zoe Young Samuel Stevens Theo Price Kamal Prashar   Chapter Two    ***NEW SUBMISSION***    Invited filmmakers...

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‘Bomb the river’: Space, Class & Masculinity
Jan13

‘Bomb the river’: Space, Class & Masculinity

‘Bomb the river’: Space, Class & Masculinity in Shane Meadows’ Twenty Four Seven (1997) and A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) Introducing his book Cinematic Countrysides (2007), Robert Fish emphasises the ‘rich and diverse spatial imagery’ evoked when considering cinematic representations of rural space (1). Exploring representations of the countryside on film also, however, invites assessment of urban environments, too, given that the categories of ‘city’ and ‘countryside’ rest on upon mutual relations of difference (Fish, 3). In this close-analysis of Shane Meadows’ first two full-length feature films, I want to undertake just such an exploration, considering the similarities and differences in the representation of rural, urban, and coastal space in TwentyFourSeven (1997) and A Room for Romeo Brass (1999).[1] I want to look at this portrayal of environment with a specific context in mind. Meadows is a social-realist filmmaker, and many elements of his work can be traced back through the long and complex tradition of social-realist filmmaking in Britain.[2] All his films to date, for example, are concerned thematically with the working class and with stories of the everyday, and are characteristically feature location-shooting, improvisation, and an observational aesthetic that foregrounds, as I will show, the effects of environment upon human development. Yet Meadows’ particular brand of social-realism is also very much a contemporary one in that, in addition to drawing on a more eclectic range of styles than the realisms before it,[3] it also engages with the ‘pervasive contemporary theme’ of a ‘crisis in masculinity wrought by changes in the industrial infrastructure of post-industrial, post-colonial global economies’ (Hallam (b), 184). Set in towns and cities once characterised by thriving industrial and manufacturing economies, these films depict communities in which the working-class of the British documentary movement, Free Cinema, and subsequent New Wave, have become the long-term unemployed. In such post-Thatcherite contexts, traditionally productive masculine occupations are unavailable. Thus, critics argue,[4] instead of constituting their identities around what they produce, the men of these ‘post-working-classes’ define themselves more in terms of their power to consume (Monk, 2000, 274). Therefore, I want to frame my consideration of Meadows’ representation of space from the perspective of these debates about the relationship between consumption and masculinity. What follows, then, should be read as an attempt to begin thinking about Meadows’ work in light of this theory, and to hopefully contribute towards a possible understanding of his work in the context of this changing landscape of contemporary British social-realism. TwentyFourSeven was Meadows’ first feature after his initial attempt with the hour-long Smalltime, a comedy-take on the gangster genre which Claire Monk noted for its exploration of ‘crime as a gendered phenomenon’...

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Event De-brief: Dalit Freedom Network (11th November ’13)
Nov15

Event De-brief: Dalit Freedom Network (11th November ’13)

The latest in the Indymedia/BRFF Monday night film series at the Cube Cinema, Bristol, was an eye-opening event in conjunction with the Dalit Freedom Network; an organisation that fights for the freedom of India’s ‘Dalits’: those considered to have such little worth to be literally out-cast from India’s caste system. Dalits make up a staggering 25% of India’s population, millions of people deemed ‘untouchable’ by ‘upper’ castes. Programmed was the short Kavi, about a young Dalit boy born into an enslaved family, coupled with a second short, Emerging Solidarities, shown for the second time at a BRFF event; a short film about the lives of immigrants and worker abuses closer to home in Greece.   Speaking was Kumar Swamy, South India Human Rights Convenor, himself from a Dalit background, who has flown from India to tour the UK promoting the cause; and Andrew Wallis, CEO of Bristol-based anti-trafficking charity Unseen. Both were interviewed by DFN chair Malcolm Egner about their work, and answered questions from the audience in the post-screening discussion. Wallis, also chairman of the Centre for Social Justice panel, offered the news that their report ‘It Happens Here’ has led to the Home Secretary introducing a Modern Slavery Bill for this session of parliament. But likely the most memorable illumination of the night was the extremity of the impasse in question: the total number of people in modern slavery in India is 13.9 million – almost half of the the global total of 29.8 million slaves. This includes millions of children in forced ‘bonded labour’ from birth; a problem, like these people, considered untouchable and irrelevant by those in...

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Quick Thoughts on ‘Social Change’ Media
Oct21

Quick Thoughts on ‘Social Change’ Media

This short piece looks at what Habermas would call the ‘colonisation’ of ‘social change’ by external interests such as those of dominant systems. I am thinking particularly about the colonisation of what has been called ‘social change media’ by profit driven motives, and the way these motives neutralise the radical potentiality of films and film festivals. I conclude with a short film that is an appeal for crowd funding by the newly formed Foundation for Community Change, an initiative that aims to facilitate working class collectivisation in Bristol. In this way I hope to highlight what Larry Daressa has called “the striking disparity between the programs produced [within the category of social change media] and the needs of the audience they purport to serve”. In an essay entitled “Political Mimesis” Jane Gaines points to developments within Western thought since the 1970’s that have seen social change “decoupled from revolution”. This process has been congruent with the solidification of neo-liberal hegemony and the demise of the mainstream political left. As Stuart Hall notes, the key principle to understanding this political shift is the contradiction within social democratic governments that come to act as a point of discipline rather than advancement of working class interests, as they seek solutions to a financial crisis that are agreeable to capital. This contradiction sets the precedent for a re-working of principles across the entire political spectrum, or what Hall has identified as the “swing to the Right” that has occurred within politics and society over the past forty years. Ramifications of this process can be seen across the board. My focus, however, is on the colonisation of practices within education and the media, as the internal interests of those spheres are increasingly subordinated to the profit motives of capital. Salter outlines the problem as such: Practices tend to be situated within institutions…practices are colonised when pressured to adjust to the pursuit of external goods rather than their own internal goods and the goods of the communities in which they take place. When external goods dominate, the practices are prevented from facilitating human flourishing.  This problem can be seen in the extent to which an increasing number of film festivals whose ostensible goal is the instigation of ‘social change’ hold this to be a vehicle for ‘social entrepreneurialism’. Examples include the Social Media Film Festival, which screens “films about social media, social change and technology” for two days a year in The Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas. The main sponsor is LeClair Ryan, a law firm that specialise in corporate law and litigation, or helping “clients achieve their business objectives while managing and minimising their legal...

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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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