Visible Evidence 2021

Strategies of Co-Creation

Karen Sztajnberg
Jordan Lord
Maria Luna
Aparna Sharma
Chair: Alisa Lebow
Thu, Dec 16
90 Min
Mousonturm (Theatre), Online
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The Aesthetic of Mutuality

Documentaries made by women where collaboration is unabashedly captured in the body of the film are a rising trend. This anti-hierarchical tendency unsettles the domain of the cinematic auteur as sole creator. Further, it behooves us to question if there might be a gender-specific connection that informs this drive to share creative stakes in non-adversarial ways.

I will screen the pre-production meeting in my film The Beholder of the Eye as starting point and bridge it to other films that display women directors collaborating with their subjects or crew onscreen. Unlike the provocative engagement of films like Symbiopsychotaxiplasm which results in antagonism between director and crew, or Joshua Oppenheimer’s subjects producing gaudy images around which we, spectators, forge our separateness from the killers depicted, the collaborative doc issues invitations to creative endeavor in communion. In Venus, before one interviewee leaves, the filmmaker encourages her to think of questions she might pose to the next interviewee. In Dick Johnson is Dead, the director hatches new visions of death with her ailing father as co-conspirator.

This presentation is at the junction between gender studies and meta-documentaries, angling towards a conception of an aesthetic of mutuality.

Karen Sztajnberg

Karen Sztajnberg, a Brazillian filmmaker and researcher, accepted a Fulbright to finish her undergraduate studies at Bard College, then went on to pursue her M.F.A degree at Columbia University. She has just started her PhD research work at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis with a project weaving South American cinema, Spectatorship and Psychoanalysis. Her latest trans-media project, The Beholder of the Eye, is still making festival rounds and bringing awareness to the imbalance between nude representations across the gender divide. She presented Elliptical Trajectories at NYU’s Cinema Studies Conference Frames, Windows, Mirrors in February’21, New Order at Fascist Imaginaries by Psychoanalysis and Politics in Berlin’21 and Lisbon Polytechnic’ Reconfigurations: New Narrative Challenges of the Moving Image’21, where she will present Ema: the Ekphrasis of the Spawn.

Access against the Access Agreement

While much of the critical conversation around the ethics of access agreements in documentary film has centered on informed consent, this presentation argues that access agreements can’t be understood apart from the ways in which disabled people experience and are frequently negated by infrastructures of both access and consent. The economics of liability and value that access agreements draw upon and enable (generally, at the expense of the person filmed) is interwoven with the faultiness of juridical consent that prevent many disabled people from participation in consent itself.

The medical, legal, and institutional contracts that conventional access agreements resemble in design and practice have historically deployed the guise of consent not to prevent harm but rather the redress of harm. Likewise, so-called inclusive models of access are often enacted as de facto means of segregation, not just to limit liability but also to limit the fundamental transformations of infrastructure that access demands and makes possible. By looking at the practices of disabled documentary practitioners across filmmaking and art as well as my documentary film, Shared Resources, I propose an integrated model for access that breaks open the limits of liability that the access agreement seeks to fix.

Jordan Lord

Jordan Lord is a filmmaker, writer, and artist. Their work addresses the relationships between historical and emotional debts, framing and support, access and documentary. Their films have been shown at festivals and venues including MoMA Doc Fortnight, Dokufest Kosovo, BFMAF, CIFF, ARGOS, and Camden Arts Centre. They have presented solo exhibitions at Piper Keys and Artists Space, and their work has been featured in publications such as Artforum, Art in America, Filmmaker Magazine, and Hyperallergic.

New Practices for a Decolonial Gaze in Indigenous Documentary

The aim of this presentation is to show how the process of decolonization and environmental resistance in the indigenous communities is rearticulated through the use of audio-visual technology and digital communication in documentary films. The reflection upon one decade of film production of the indigenous communities in Colombia surfaces common ethical dilemmas in documentary film. After ten years of a permanent dialogue through re-appropriations of technologies of audio and video it is time to acknowledge how this process can also contribute to a decolonial thinking of the documentary gaze.

This paper will approach the ideas of authorship, self-representation and re-enactment through the observation of production practices, interviews and analysis of documentaries produced in the last decade by indigenous collectives in Colombia. In a vulnerable context in which the indigenous population are more exposed than ever to disappear as well as to the circulation of their images (Mora, 2018) I look specifically into a set of media practices of these collectives through the idea of “indianizing films” (Schiwy, 2009). This means to comprehend the process of negotiation in the integration of the audio-visual technologies and the role of indigenous filmmakers within their communities. At a strategic level, the indigenous films express the need to protect natural resources and the will to share their knowledge to promote a global commitment to the protection of the world environment, but more importantly, the indigenous documentaries challenge the Western gaze upon the indigenous people constructed along centuries of technical domination and inequalities in the access of knowledge.

Maria Luna

Lecturer at TecnoCampus ESUPT, Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Advisor in ALADOS (Latin American Association of Documentary Filmmakers). Ph.D. in Communication at Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona. Former Coordinator of the Seminar Pensar lo Real (Muestra Internacional de Cine Documental de Bogota). Researcher in the group Narrativas de la Resistencia – TecnoCampus.

Cultural Assertion and the Digital Documentary: A Case Study of Akhra-Ranchi, India

The proliferation of digital media in India coincides with the escalation of indigenous peoples’ movements against the post-colonial nation state. Akhra-Ranchi was formed in the early-2000s as a media collective specializing in adivasi (indigenous/tribal) peoples’ documentary and journalism. Akhra — literally a village meeting point — is based out of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, a state that was formed following a decades-long tribal peoples’ movement. Akhra-Ranchi holds the digital medium — with its ease of accessibility and operability — as particularly suited to promote adivasi voices and agendas. Akhra-Ranchi’s documentary cinema is built upon community-based participation and, as such it stands in contrast to the wider ecology of Indian documentary that tends to be dominated by single-authored films by largely urban and socio-economically mobile filmmakers.

This paper takes up two research questions:
i. One, how can the emergence of Akhra-Ranchi be historicized in terms of the rise of digital media and the centuries-old history of indigenous peoples’ rebellions against colonial structures of power?
ii. Two, how can the aesthetics of Akhra-Ranchi’s documentaries be appreciated in terms of the uses these films serve for adivasi audiences, in particular their interrogations of and resistances against hegemonic structures?

Building on sustained interactions with adivasi communities, Akhra-Ranchi’s films focus on the issues, challenges, culture and history of adivasi peoples. Akhra-Ranchi is committed to promoting an adivasi cinematic aesthetic, one that disassembles the colonial eye understood by the adivasis as a way of looking that temporally fixates them as objects of the gaze. The adivasi cinematic aesthetic, this paper will illustrate, is unstable and emergent. The paper will conclude by establishing how the aesthetic characteristics of instability and emergence promote documentary-based dialogue within and between adivasi communities around issues that face them, on instances even provoking shared political action.

Aparna Sharma

Aparna Sharma is a documentary filmmaker and theorist. Her films document experiences and narratives that are overlooked in the mainstream imagination of the Indian nation. She works in India’s northeastern region, documenting cultural practices of the region’s various communities. In the state of Assam, she has developed two films: Kamakha: Through Prayerful Eyes (2012, distributed by Berkeley Media LLC) and Mihin Sutta, Mihin Jibon (The Women Weavers of Assam, 2019). As a film theorist she is committed to writing about non-normative subjects in Indian cinema with an emphasis on documentary films. Her book-length study, Documentary Films in India: Critical Aesthetics at Work examines non-canonical documentary practices from India (2015). She works as Associate Professor at the Dept. of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, UCLA.

Chair: Alisa Lebow

Alisa Lebow is Professor of Screen Media at the University of Sussex. She is the award-winning author/maker of the interactive meta-documentary, Filming Revolution (Stanford UP, 2018), and her books include The Companion to Contemporary Documentary Film (co-edited with Alexandra Juhasz, Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), The Cinema of Me (Wallflower 2012), and First Person Jewish (University of Minnesota Press, 2008). She is the 2020 recipient of the SCMS Anne Friedberg Award for Innovative Scholarship.