Zelemir Zilnik offers an expanded sense of migrant border experience in Fortress Europa by supplementing the vague chronologies and settings that define the wait and flow of group migrants from the post-Soviet states into the Schengen area, with dramatized flashbacks of an individual family’s crisis. The inscription of subjective reenactments within a collective body in obstructed and suspended mobility invites a consideration on the implications of discrepant presentations of time for an appropriate account of dislocation.
Zilnik’s border films deal with the same realities that motivate the “mobilities turn” in political and social sciences studies. They engage with the regimes of obscurity and exposure that filter and define citizenship and respond to the global nature of detainee nationalities by registering the entangled temporalities of state control, as well as the subjective and durational quandaries of uncertain mobility, from lengthy detainment to sudden deportation.
Given its mediated nature and after-the-fact temporality, reenactment works as a strategic instrument to highlight the temporal and plight of people caught across borders. I am interested the subjective flashbacks that sketch the private crises affecting Artjom, his ex-wife Svetlana and their daughter as they are dispersed across various barriers (Slovenia, Italy). I analyze how these subjective, elliptical and dramatic scenes complicate the temporality of both emergency situations and while portraying the subjective dimension of the migration experience.the recurring stasis associated with the European management of the post-Soviet Block’s influx of migrants. I will ask what sort of characterization is achieved through these abrupt memory inserts; what kind of documentary realism is configured through this strategic, dramatic surplus; how do these subjective excerpts fit in with the collective portraits running in the film’s backdrop.
Ivone Margulies’s In Person: Reenactment in Postwar and Contemporary Cinema (2019) was launched with a related series at Anthology Film Archives. She is the author of Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman’s Hyperrealist Everyday; the editor of Rites of Realism: Essays on Corporeal Cinema. (2003,) and co-editor of On Women’s Films: Across worlds and Generations (with Jeremi Szaniawski, 2019.) She has published extensively on performance and realism in French and Brazilian cinemas as well as on moving image artists. Margulies is Professor in the Film and Media Studies Dept. at Hunter College, and at the Graduate Center (CUNY).
This paper investigates the relationship of the self and the screen in documentary projects that follow the lives of their subjects over decades. Longitudinal documentaries chronicle life in changing circumstances, documenting the passage of time and its impact on individual life. Michael Apted has famously summarized the appeal of these projects as “watching the face change”.
What is particularly interesting about longitudinal projects is the way in which “watching the face change” becomes part of the mise-en-scène. From the late 1990s onwards, coinciding with the ubiquity of the home VCR, longitudinal documentaries begin featuring self-reflexive moments where protagonists are invited to watch earlier footage of themselves and to reflect upon the passage of time. What gets foregrounded in these scenes is the discorrelation between the self that is watching and the image-self displayed on screen. This, the paper argues, disrupts the filmic identification typically assigned to longitudinal works and draws attention to mediated moments where difference is felt rather than marked.
The paper elaborates on the discorrelation between the self and the screen in Gillian Armstrong’s The Story of Kerry, Josie and Diana (Australia 1976–2009), Winfried and Barbara Junge’s The Children of Golzow (GDR/GER 1961–2006) and Michael Apted’s The Up Series (UK 1964–2020).
Ilona Hongisto is Professor in Film Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU, Trondheim). Hongisto works across Film and Media Studies, specializing in documentary cinema and its threshold with the fictitious. Focusing on questions of speculation, imagination and fabulation, she works towards redefining the work of documentary media in the contemporary world. Her most recent work focuses on the functions of fabulation in post-1989 Eastern European documentary cinema. Hongisto is the author of Soul of the Documentary: Framing, Expression, Ethics (Amsterdam University Press, 2016).
In their respective films on Cuba and Chile, Hubert Sauper and Patricio Guzman each highlight material objects that resist subsumption into the past. In Epicentro, this emerges powerfully through reference to 1950s American cars but is also evident in sequences about the Museum of the Revolution, in proximity of “finished” and “unfinished” buildings, and in architectural design that wears the 1950s on its sleeve. In Nostalgia for the Light, it is the Atacama Desert’s preservational qualities that refuse the burial and decay of all types of human and nonhuman remains.
Both films are historicist in their thinking—the identity of Cuba and Chile lies in its history. And each relies on this non-excavationist opportunity to create what are distinct, and distinctly cinematic, visions. But in addition to their particular historical schemes, both films celebrate the power of the astronomical in creating deep and expansive national identities.
This paper will explore the relationship between historical and scientific thought across Epicentro and Nostalgia for the Light. I will break down the models of history on which they rely and the uncanny responses these surfaces spark. And I will locate these models in relation to the films’ attention on the elemental and the astronomical, examining how these ontologies coexist with or challenge historical thinking. In the process, I hope, with inspiration from Chris Marker, to elucidate how the films each mark the coexistence of different concepts of time.
Joshua Malitsky is Associate Professor in the Media School and Director of the Center for Documentary Research and Practice at Indiana University. He works on a range of topics related to documentary and other nonfiction media genres and has published a number of articles on documentary history and theory including topics such as nonfiction film and nation-building, the relationship between documentary and science, the conceptual intersections between both documentary studies and science studies and between documentary studies and linguistic anthropology, and on the sports documentary. He is the author of Post-Revolution Non-Fiction Film: Building the Soviet and Cuban Nations (Indiana UP, 2013) and A Companion to Documentary Film History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2021). He was the host of Visible Evidence XXV in Bloomington, IN.
Tess Takahashi is a Toronto-based scholar, writer, and programmer who focuses on experimental moving image arts. She is currently working on two books, Impure Film: Medium Specificity and the North American Avant-Garde (1968-2008), which examines artists’ work with historically new media, and On Magnitude, which considers artists’ work against the scale of big data. She is a member of the experimental media programming collective Ad Hoc and the editorial collective for Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media. Takahashi’s writing has been published there as well as in Cinema Journal, the Millennium Film Journal, Animation, MIRAGE, and Cinema Scope.