Cinema Of Resistance Demonstrates Its Big Screen Idealism

Posted by Brian Brooks on 8.23.2013


Robert Kramer's Ice.

Cinema of Resistance unleashes its fury at the Film Society of Lincoln Center beginning Friday. Spotlighting films that are political in both subject matter and execution, the series highlights international titles from the '60s to the present, ranging from topics tackling prisons, Vietnam and Afghanistan to Wall Street. A pillar of French New Wave radicalism, Jean-Luc Godard once declared it was "No longer enough to make political films. One must make films politically."

That quote appeared frequently in coverage of the series in the lead-up to today's launch, which will feature Joris Ivens' 1968 film, The 17th Parallel. The film captures the daily life of civilians in one of the most volatile regions of Vietnam during the conflict. Vietnam also captured the attention of Godard once again with a very quotable quote, clearly demonstrating his anti-war ethos, in another Cinema Of Resistance title, Far From Vietnam (1967): "I make films -- that's what I can do for Vietnam." Noted The Village Voice in its take on the series, adding: "If you replace 'Vietnam' in that statement with, for starters, Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Northern Ireland, the French West Indies, various factions of the New Left, and the Occupy movement, you'll have a sense of the bracing scope of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's weeklong 'Cinema of Resistance' series."

Conflict abroad does not usurp social upheaval at home. Cinda Firestone's 1974 film, Attica recalls the uprising at Attica State Prison in '71, detailing systematic inhuman living conditions and abuse that preceded the uprising. The film, of course, takes place forty years ago, but Firestone relates its relevance today in a quote to The L Magazine in its coverage of Cinema Of Resistance.

"I came to make Attica because of my horror with how prison guards and police officers were able to kill so many people—both inmates and hostages—during the 1971 Attica Prison uprising and get away with it," she told the publication. "The prison staff wouldn’t let me inside, so I took pictures from outside, eventually making a movie with the still photos and audio that had I recorded. Later, I was able to film inmates released from Attica, as well as include footage shot during the takeover and the subsequent McKay Commission hearings. I wanted to make people aware of what was happening in prisons. The United States still incarcerates far more people than any other country does, and its prison population—heavily weighted towards Blacks and Hispanics—keeps growing."


John Gianvito's Far From Afghanistan.

Wars abroad and at home caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal, in its spotlight of the series titled Furious Films. The publication, which is often seen as a pillar of the establishment, notes the series' relevance today, including last year's demonstrations that shook financial centers from New York to London, Paris and beyond. "This retrospective gathers up the most forceful such films from the 1960s and '70s and notes their relevance to contemporary filmmaking focused on such subjects as Occupy Wall Street and Afghanistan," noted the article, which also gave kudos to a film centered on a 19th century experimental utopia. "The hot ticket for cinephiles is Le Commune (Paris, 1871), a nearly six hour remaining of the Paris Commune by British director Peter Watkins. Other classics include The Hour of the Furnaces, made at the dawn of Argentina's "Dirty War," and Far From Vietnam, the 1967 French omnibus film with entries from Joris Ivens, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda and Alain Resnais."

"There are many different kinds of films that could be described as political. But this series—inspired by the new omnibus film Far From Afghanistan and the new restoration of the 1967 classic that inspired it, Far From Vietnam—calls attention to movies that are political in both content and practice," Dennis Lim, Director of Cinematheque Programming said in announcing the program. "These are the works of filmmakers who believe in cinema as an instrument of struggle and change. In many cases, they also remind us that radical politics goes hand in hand with radical art."

Programmed by Lim and filmmaker John Gianvito, Cinema Of Resistance takes place August 23 - 29. A Screening schedule and ticket information can be found here (http://www.filmlinc.com/films/series/cinema-of-resistance).

Full lineup:

THE 17TH PARALLEL (1968) 113m, 
Director: Joris Ivens, 
Country: Netherlands

On the border of North and South Vietnam, civilians live underground and cultivate their land in the dead of night, farmers take up arms, and bombs fall like clockwork. Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan’s record of daily life in one of the most volatile regions of a war-torn, divided country is both a hazardous piece of first-hand journalism and a shattering work in its own right, simmering with barely repressed anger.
Friday, August 23, 8:30 pm

ATTICA (1974) 80m, 
Director: Cinda Firestone
, Country: USA

“Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream.” Firestone’s document of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising ended with a wake-up call in favor of penal reform—and then went out of circulation for 33 years. Restored in 2007,  Attica details the inhuman living conditions and routine abuses that led thousands of prisoners to seize control of the Attica Correctional Facility. The film sheds light both on a shameful episode in the history of the US prison system and on a pivotal moment in the course of civil rights. ATTICA courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Preservation of this film was made possible by a grant from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film and Television.

Sunday, August 25, 2:15 pm


Cinda Firestone's Attica.

LA COMMUNE (PARIS, 1871) (2000) 345m
, Director: Peter Watkins
, Country: France

In March 1871, the Parisian National Guard led an armed insurrection against France’s provisional government, sent the nation’s officials fleeing to Versailles, and transformed the capital city for two months into a socially progressive utopia. Watkins’ study of the Commune’s rise and bloody fall is equal parts meticulous historical evocation, willful anachronism and self-conscious artifice. The film takes the form of a nineteenth-century news broadcast: as an alternative to the steady stream of official propaganda emanating from “Versailles TV,” a handful of journalists enter the Commune, cameras in hand. The result, J. Hoberman wrote in The Village Voice, evokes "the unfamiliar sensation of revolutionary euphoria, or living (and dying) in a sacred time."
Saturday, August 24, 1:30 pm


FAR FROM VIETNAM (1967 - North American Premiere of new restoration) 115m, 
Directors: Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais
, Country: France

A lineup of international New Wave luminaries responded to Vietnam, in the words of contributor William Klein, “a little like Picasso confronted by the bombing of Guernica.” Klein’s New York street footage accompanies frontline dispatches from Joris Ivens and contributions from a quartet of French icons (Godard, Resnais, Varda, Lelouch). As edited by Chris Marker, these fragments coalesce into a splintered portrait of a Left consumed with shock and complicity over a conflict beyond its control. An Icarus Films release.

Wednesday, August 28 to Wednesday, September 4

FAR FROM AFGHANISTAN (2012) 129m, 
Director: John Gianvito, Jon Jost, Soon-Mi Yoo, Minda Martin, Travis Wilkerson
, Country: USA/Afghanistan

"Unless you have a personal connection to it,” said filmmaker John Gianvito upon the premiere of Far From Afghanistan “you can go weeks or months with almost no cognizance that we’re involved in a major war.” This modern update of  Far From
Vietnam consists of five brief vignettes (each the work of a different director) focused on guilt-ridden troops, shattered families, and detached Americans, interspersed with on-the-ground interviews with Afghan civilians. Far From Afghanistan depicts a nation blind to the longest war in its own history, and a soldiery trained to follow orders whose basis and justification remain unknown.

Q&A with director John Gianvito to follow screening. 
Wednesday, August 28, 6:00 pm

OCCUPY WALL STREET AND BEYOND: 
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, for all their 21st-century trappings, belong to a long lineage of grassroots protest movements and social uprisings. The same goes for the film and video documents that emerged from OWS. Organized in collaboration with Occupy Cinema, a collective that presented screenings at Zuccotti Park and staged their own moving-image interventions, this program presents several observational shorts shot in and around the protests — including newsreels by filmmaker Jem Cohen (Museum Hours) — alongside a selection of kindred historical documents, including films by the Newsreel activist collective of the ’60s and the Workers Film and Photo League of the ’30s.

Panel discussion to follow
 Thursday, August 29, 8:30 pm


Far From Vietnam 

THE HOUR OF THE FURNACES (PART ONE: NOTES AND TESTIMONIES ON NEO-COLONIALISM, VIOLENCE, AND LIBERATION) (1968) 88m, 
Directors: Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas
Country: Argentina

At once a treatise, a manifesto, an essay film, a history lesson, a poem and a battle cry,  The Hour of the Furnaces  is a classic of revolutionary cinema. Shot under the watchful eye of Argentina’s then-reigning military dictatorship in the early stages of the country’s “dirty war” and edited at a breathless fever pitch, the film functions as a sprawling history of Latin American politics, an incendiary discourse on the evils of neocolonialism, and a passionate defense of violent action in the face of extreme injustice.

Sunday, August 25, 8:15 pm

ICE (1970) 130m, 
Director: Robert Kramer, 
Country: USA:
In a dystopian near future, America wages war with Mexico, an oppressive fascist regime sets the law of the land, and a New York-based radical cell prepares for armed revolution. Underground filmmaker and Newsreel co-founder Robert Kramer’s unclassifiable thriller, shot on grainy, black-and-white 16mm, takes a clear-eyed look at the inner workings of a fictional band of revolutionaries whose convictions and disputes were, for the Left of Kramer’s day, anything but fiction. Jonas Mekas called  Ice  “the most original and most significant American narrative film of the late ’60s."

Friday, August 23, 3:30 pm
Tuesday, August 27, 6:00 pm

KANEHSATAKE: 270 YEARS OF RESISTANCE  (1993) 119m, 
Director: Alanis Obomsawin, 
Country: Canada

Alanis Obomsawin’s exhaustive documentary concerns a centuries-old land dispute in Oka, Quebec. In 1990, the Mohawks of Kanehsatake, already relegated to a slim reservation and denied any claim to the surrounding land, learned of plans to further restrict their territory in favor of an expanded, members-only golf course. They resisted. Obomsawin watches the resulting summer-long standoff from inside the Mohawk barricades, documents the community’s daily life, records their internal debates, and celebrates their unwavering commitment to a never-ending struggle.

Monday, August 26, 8:45 pm
Tuesday, August 27, 3:30 pm

PARCO LAMBRO JUVENILE PROLETARIAT FESTIVAL (1976) 58m + LIA (1977) 26m, 
Director: Alberto Grifi
 Country: Italy:
Alberto Grifi (1938–2007) was one of the leading lights of Italian experimental cinema. His pioneering adoption of video in the early 1970s produced some of the decade’s most forward-thinking and challenging works of radical filmmaking. In addition to the newly restored Anna, his portrait of a teenage junkie, there was Lia, a half-hour-long, single-shot record of a woman delivering an impassioned speech against the psychiatric establishment, and  Parco Lambro Juvenile Proletariat Festival, a commissioned document of a Woodstock-like music festival that spirals into a full-fledged protest, becoming a reflection on the state of the Italian counterculture. “Grifi,” ran the program notes for a long-awaited retrospective at the Venice Film Festival, “stands for a cinema of constant change, a permanent revolution of vision as well as life, a continuous search for new, meaningful and appropriate forms of togetherness.”"
Sunday, August 25, 4:15 pm

THE PATRIOT GAME (1978) 93m
, Director: Arthur MacCaig
, Country: Ireland/France

MacCaig’s thoughtful, probing analysis of Northern Ireland in the throes of revolution recasts what had long been deemed a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in political and economic terms: as a struggle between colonizer and colonized, ruling class and working class, oppressor and oppressed. His footage of street riots, police violence and firebomb attacks, shot on the fly and often at great risk, mingle with decades worth of newsreel footage. MacCaig called the IRA’s fight “certainly the most extensive, determined working-class struggle in Europe,” and The Patriot Game is an appropriately extensive, determined work of radical advocacy.

Thursday, August 29, 6:15 pm

PRISONER/TERRORIST (2007) 113m
, Director: Masao Adachi 
Country: Japan

After an early career spent directing avant-garde youth films and collaborating with
fellow firebrands Nagisa Oshima and Koji Wakamatsu, Masao Adachi left his native
Japan for Beirut, where he joined the Japanese Red Army. Prisoner/Terrorist, Adachi’s first film in 30 years, is a haunting amalgam of historical narrative, personal testimony, and poetic reverie. Imprisoned after participating in an airport massacre, an unnamed JRA member suffers a string of abuses, holds imaginary conversations with famous revolutionaries, and dreams fruitlessly of freedom.

Tuesday, August 27, 8:45 pm, 
Thursday, August 29, 3:30 pm

TO BE TWENTY IN THE AURES (1972) 93m, 
Director: René Vautier
, Country: France

In René Vautier’s scathing critique of the Algerian War, several young French pacifists find themselves in a moral and geographic wasteland after being sent off to fight in the desolate Aures mountains. Set amid the dramatic rock faces of northern Algeria, Vautier’s film is a searing look at the horrors and injustices of colonial warfare. Midway through shooting, Vautier was rushed to the hospital after a bomb exploded beside him, lodging fragments of his own camera deep in his skull. They were never removed.

Friday, August 23, 6:15 pm 
Wednesday, August 28, 4:00 pm

UNDERGROUND (1976) 87m, 
Directors: Emile de Antonio, Mary Lampson, Haskell Wexler
, Country: USA

For three days, a trio of filmmakers were given an audience with high-ranking members of the Weathermen—a militant faction of the Students for a Democratic Society that, after moving underground, committed itself to the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. At the time of filming, all five subjects were wanted by the FBI. We never see their faces, but their testimonies, set to a collage of clips from the era’s radical documentaries, provide a fascinating look at the mood, texture, and aftereffects of a volatile moment in the history of the US Left.

Friday, August 23, 1:30 pm
Sunday, August 25, 6:15 pm

WEST INDIES: THE FUGITIVE SLAVES OF LIBERTY (1979) 113m, 
Director: Med Hondo, 
Country: Mauritania

A single-set color musical tracing the history of the West Indies through several
centuries of French oppression, Med Hondo’s hugely ambitious magnum opus was at the time the most expensive African film ever made (it cost $1.35 million). A work of scathing satire and mirthful anger, West Indies has remained largely out of circulation since its premiere in 1979. It’s a story of Western oppression told with the stylistic flourishes of big-budget Western cinema, a distinctly African take on the Hollywood musical, and a one-of-a-kind film primed for rediscovery.

Saturday, August 24, 8:30 pm
Monday, August 26, 3:30 pm

WINTER SOLDIER (1972) 96m, 
Director: Winterfilm Collective
, Country: USA

In February 1971, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War hosted The Winter Soldier
Investigation, a media event in which returning troops testified to war crimes committed by American GIs. Their filmed accounts tell of massacred children, prisoners tossed from places, towns burnt down, civilians killed and abused. Even more chillingly, they present a much closer link than is often acknowledged between these outbursts of violence and the military policies under which they were committed. “I always thought this was the most important film we had about this country's tragic involvement in Vietnam,” Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote in 2005. “And I still do.”

Screening with:

INTERVIEWS WITH MY LAI VETERANS (1971) 22m, 
Director: Joseph Strick, 
Country: USA

Joseph Strick (adaptor of such un-adaptable novels as Ulysses and Tropic of Cancer)
won an Academy Award for this searing series of interviews with five ex-GIs present
at the infamous 1968 My Lai massacre. The men discuss their complicity in the crimes with remarkable candor, their testimonies circling around, hinting at, but never fully resolving a single, unanswerable question: what does it take to transform a group of responsible, dutiful Americans into mass murderers?

Monday, August 26, 6:15pm

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thank You to Our Sponsors