Visible Evidence 2021

Remembering Complicated Pasts

Lennaart van Oldenborgh
Raya Morag
Raluca Iacob
Malin Wahlberg
Chair: Sonia Campanini
Wed, Dec 15
90 Min
Mousonturm (Rehearsal 2), Online
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Rushes as Evidence, Editing as a Form of Forgetting: the Conflict in Mostar

Most moving images of conflict reach us packaged in news stories that, according to a common wisdom, form “the first draft of history”. Their narrativization depends on a process of editing, which in effect is a process of selection, arrangement and elimination. Archives mostly preserve edited, “finished” films, and rushes often get lost from the audiovisual record. What does it mean to lose the “raw footage” of a conflict like the one in Mostar (Bosnia-Hercegovina), and how might one “do justice” to the images that do survive?

Photographic images, as indexes, are marked by the absence of that which left the trace (Doane, 2002). Archival images are haunted by this absence, both in terms of what they show and what they fail to show – by what is beyond the frame, both spatially and temporally. But documentary images also contain an excess, traces of “actuality” overlooked and unanticipated by the filmmaker (Vaughan, 1999). Similarly, in historiographical terms, the unrepresented “presence” of the past reveals itself in metonymy (Runia, 2006). Finally, a “civil contract of photography” (Azoulay, 2008) obliges us to recognise the agency and subjectivity of people in the photographic image.

This practice-based project explores some of the rushes that were “narrativised out” of the historical record of the siege of Mostar in 1993-94. In the memory of most audiences, only one image of this siege has endured: the destruction of the Old Bridge, partly because it resonates with the dominant “ethnic” narrative of the Bosnian conflict. The key to re-narrativisation would be a different approach to editing, one that foregrounds the fragmentary, “lacunary” nature of the image (Didi-Huberman, 2003), that approaches the “actuality” of rushes as symptoms of a space and time beyond the frame, and that bears witness to the subjects in front of the lens.

Lennaart van Oldenborgh

Lennaart van Oldenborgh is a practice-based PhD candidate in Documentary Film Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 1993-94 he worked for the UN mission in the former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR), before settling in London in 1997, where he established himself as a documentary film editor. He edited the 2018 BAFTA winning documentary Basquiat: Rage to Riches for BBC Studios. He co-directed the feature-length documentary film Bitter Lemons with Adnan Hadzi, about the post-conflict situation in Cyprus, premiered at the Solothurn Film Festival in 2014, and published Performing the Real, in The State of the Real, (2007, I.B.Taurus).

Chinese Cinema of Betrayal: The Figure of the Collaborator and the Doubling Paradigm

Holocaust studies, followed by trauma, genocide, and postcolonial studies, set the triangulation of perpetrator, victim, and bystander at the heart of their discussion of both the ethical legacy of the Holocaust and the aftermath of the twentieth-century’s catastrophes. With the exception of historical case studies, until recently the vast Holocaust trauma literature, justifiably devoted to the victim, fails to elucidate the phenomenon of collaboration, which, in many respects, epitomizes (together with bystanding) the moral failure of twentieth-century Western civilization, and proffers crucial insights into the criminalization of a society. Recent examinations of specific contexts of post-Holocaust complicity, such as post-South African apartheid, have paved the way for new conceptions (e.g., implicated subjectivity); nevertheless, many of these explorations remain vague, ambiguous, and fraught with collective denial. As a result of these susceptibilities, trauma cinema research of Holocaust, post-Holocaust, (and to some degree, post-colonial) contexts – mainly focused on victims’ ordeal and to a lesser extent, perpetrators’ typology – continues to neglect the figure of the collaborator and the phenomenon of collaboration.

Focusing on the representation of collaboration during the Cultural Revolution, this paper aspires, first, to uncover the issue of betrayal inside-the-family (or symbolic family), totally overlooked till today by Chinese cinema research. Second, it analyzes the ways twenty-first century independent films (by Wu Wenguang and Wang Bing) present the deep identity crisis caused by the Cultural Revolution by portraying the figure of the collaborator and the destructive dynamics that the betrayal generates. Defining what I term “the doubling paradigm” and the “doubling effect,” enables the spectator a gradual acceptance of the wounding and loss caused by collaboration, and the ethics entailed. Finally, the paper reflects on the potential contribution of Chinese cinema of betrayal to the spectators’ understanding of this undertheorized subject position beyond the Chinese case.

Raya Morag

Raya Morag is Professor of Cinema Studies in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Her research and publications deal with post-traumatic cinema and ethics; cinema, war, and masculinity; perpetrator trauma; perpetratorhood, victimhood and collaboration in world cinema. She is the author of Defeated Masculinity: Post-Traumatic Cinema in the Aftermath of War (Peter Lang, 2009); The Defeated Male. Cinema, Trauma, War (Resling, 2011); Waltzing with Bashir: Perpetrator Trauma and Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2013); Perpetrator Trauma and Israeli Intifada Cinema (Resling, 2017); and Perpetrator Cinema: Confronting Genocide in Cambodian Documentary (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Records revived: (re)appearances of Eastern European autocrats in contemporary documentaries

The trend of exhumation and reburial of the dead in the post-socialist context imbues the figures of leaders – argues Katherine Verdery (2000) – with a new ‘political life’ in which they play a role in remembering the past but also in reconfiguring the present. Recent films based on archival footage, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Andrei Ujica, 2010), State Funeral (Sergei Loznitsa, 2019), Tito (Janja Glogovac, 2010), Funeral (Solyom Andras, 1992), or Interregnum (Adrian Paci, 2017) present moments of the burial of socialist-era authoritarian figures as performative events of mass mourning, compiled from official state and national broadcast archives. The recycling, de-contextualising and re-assembly of fragile material fragments, of images that were once created as objects, in a specific point of time and with a specific meaning, are now appropriated and rearranged into a new order. With this appropriation comes a paradigm shift in the rapport between (official) history and (personal) memory. Encompassing in these fragments both the inscription of the past as well as the commentary of the present, these found footage documentaries represent the historical image that Walter Benjamin (2005) describes as a fleeting picture ‘which flashes its final farewell in the moment of its recognisability’. My paper will discuss the representation of political figures in these documentaries as a confluence between past and present, as well as how state funerals function as a space for mass grief, but also one that allows manifestations of individuality in a context in which the depersonalisation of individual identity was increasingly evident.

Raluca Iacob

Dr. Raluca Iacob is an independent scholar who works with documentary film festivals. Between 2020 and 2021 she was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Budapest, where she worked on a project on archival documentaries and the ways in which the reuse of audiovisual footage function from a contemporary perspective. She obtained a PhD in Film Studies from the University of St. Andrews. Her main research interests lie in world cinema, especially in minor/ peripheral cinemas, documentary studies and critical theory.

Rhythms of Recognition: From Amnestic Traces to Sounding Memory Work

In experimental documentary, aesthetic strategies of reuse and appropriation tend to add ‘a layered gaze’ with ethical implications to our recognition of the moving image as archival document (Baron, 2021). The enactment and orchestration of historical footage in documentary art may critically bring to the fore ‘the optic procedures of the moving image itself and the potential activation of spectral forms of the past in the present.’ (Albano, 2016:161). Film as a possible site for memory work also depend on a different kind of temporality, that of forgetting (Cowie, 2011; Albano, 2016; Wahlberg, 2019). Special attention will be paid to the presence of place and mourning in cinematic soundscapes of recollection, and the revisiting and revival of power structures inherent to colonial archives, here exemplified by Fordlandia Malaise (Susana de Sousa Dias, Portugal, 2019). When compilation also involves the enactment of oral history, what are the ethico-political possibilities and challenges in forging a recollection in solidarity with the loss of others? More specifically, how may cinema provide an alternative audiovisual historiography in illuminating and conceptualizing the media memory and cultural oblivion of colonial archives?

In 1928, the company town Fordlandia was founded by Henry Ford in the Amazon rain forest. Its’ visual archive consists of a collection of photographs with captions; a gallery of ethnographic images, depicting work, rubber production, and social life at a site of exploitation. In Fordlandia Malaise, the excessive visibility of colonial images is scrutinized and put in dialogue with contemporary drone shots and the recorded voices of people living in the region. A compilation strategy of acceleration results in a screen event where ‘amnestic traces’ (Ricoeur, 2004; Cowie, 2011) are mobilized into a sounding recognition of colonial violence and exploitation as salient and recurrent ills, beyond narrative closure.

Malin Wahlberg

Malin Wahlberg is a Professor in Cinema Studies at the Department for Media Studies, at Stockholm University. She is the author of Documentary Time. Film and Phenomenology (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), and has also published on experimental film and video, science cinema, and documentary in early public broadcasting culture. Her present work seeks to theorize the aesthetics and experience of sonic traces, voice and aurality in documentary cinema and contemporary art. In 2013, Wahlberg co-organized Visible Evidence XX in Stockholm.

Chair: Sonia Campanini

Sonia Campanini is Assistant Professor of Film Culture at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, where she is responsible for the master program “Film Culture: Archiving, Programming, Presentation”. Her research interests encompass film history and theory as well as film archiving and film curatorship, with a special focus on the material, technological, aesthetic and memorial dimensions of audio-visual heritage. She co-edited L’archivio/ The Archive (2012), her book Film Sound in Preservation and Presentation is upcoming.