Tuesday, March 18

Dis-Moi: First Impressions of New and Expanded Interests by Keifer Taylor

Dis-Moi: First Impressions of New and Expanded Interests

Slipping into 1980, Chantal Akerman widened and polished her scope of interests with Dis-moi (aka, Aujour’dui dis-moi). While Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978) hauntingly alluded to the Holocaust, this short performative documentary engages with its harsh remnants. Commissioned for French television, focusing on grandmothers, the 30-year-old Belgian filmmaker decided to interview numerous survivors. Including her mother, whose hushed voice is spread across the film’s narrative, the four testimonials tend to dwell on their family lives before the Ashkenazi Jews’ insufferable avalanche of systematic murders.

The performative qualities can be discerned by the director’s own presence. By constructing sequences with reverse angle shots, presenting her and the speakers, there lies a clear wish for personalisation. After the first two visits, a camera peers up onto the elderly women’s balconies. Cutting down to ground level, outside the apartments, a solemn Akerman stares up with fascination and respect for her subjects. Being the daughter of a lady sent to Auschwitz as a child, its ceremonial nature is unsurprising. As an unspoken fifth member of this story, she comes from a disparate generation of European children who will never truly understand the Nazis Final Solution, but lug its solidly traumatic load.

Tuesday, February 11

Spot Light on North Korea Part Three by Ella Harris and Eve Marguerite Allen

Spot Light on North Korea Part Three: Propaganda for All 

Since the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011, North Korean cinema has received a surge of interest. The facts and fictions surrounding the North Korean cultural propaganda industries are as dark as they are bizarre. This three part article interrogates the construction and the function of the myths surrounding North Korea’s global image by examining the film produced there

Critical geopoliticians have long been alert to the ways in which films not only represent but also influence the way in which the world is understood. From the unrelenting American heroism of Independence Day to the post-Franco ‘Spanishness’ (re)created by Almodovar – the global film industry has a central role in the way we imagine national cultures. Film assists us in developing a national identity internally (in Britain we affiliate with black comedy and social realism) and determines the way in which we imagine other cultures from the outside. Far from being absurd or unusual, Kim Jong-il’s overt use of film as a geopolitical weapon is merely a more frank rendition of the conscious and subconscious politics of film globally. True, most national rulers don’t kidnap directors and insist upon being executive producer – but you only have to look to the UK Olympic opening ceremony last year to appreciate that the cultural output of most nations is very carefully considered. What is so fascinating about Kim’s film industry is not that it is peculiar or anomalistic, but that it displays such frankness and openness about promoting national ideology at a time when other national film cultures promote their ideologies far more insidiously. North Korea’s blatant and overt use of film to spread a message seems in some senses parodic of other national cinema industries. In a telling interview with The Seoul Times, a reporter asks Shin Shang-ok what impact Kim Jong-il’s isolated state has on his awareness of how the world works. Shin responds saying that “sometimes Kim looks at films like social documentaries. I told him that most American films are fiction.”

Sunday, February 2

Jeanne Dielman: A Soundtrack of the Everyday by Keifer Taylor

Jeanne Dielman: A Soundtrack of the Everyday

When referring to her 1993 film From The East in a lengthy interview for The A.V. Club, Chantal Akerman notes, “you feel as a viewer, when you face the film and experience the film, you feel an implosion” Reaching beyond this particular film, the quotation befits the filmmaker’s recently screened work. In all of its unyielding simplicity, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, is no exception. With each assured cut, Akerman’s second feature length narrative becomes a precarious game of jenga, casually building pressure until its eventual collapse. The result is a quietly painful, tense and nauseating ordeal that doesn’t seep out of the mind for days after the viewing.

Thursday, January 23

Akerman and Space-Time by Ella Harris, Eve Marguerite and Keifer Taylor

An ongoing collaborative research project on space and time in Chantal Akerman's films between Ella Harris, Eve Marguerite Allen and Keifer Taylor.

Spaces of Refraction - Ella Harris

Three Geographical Encounters


1.       The site is defined by relations of proximity between points or elements”

2.       “one could describe, via its network of relations, the closed or semi-closed sites of rest—the house, the bedroom, the bed, et cetera. But among all these sites, I am interested in certain ones that have the curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invent the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect.”

(Foucault, Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias and Utopias)   

The mirror is a semi-real/semi-unreal site. It is real because it takes up a literal portion of spacetime, it occupies an actual site in a given room. However, the mirror is also virtual because it has the potential to take on countless images, and unreal because it shows things where they are not. In ostensibly displaying you in your own real site the mirror actually transports your image over there – reframing it in a curious elsewhere, where it is given a new site and takes on a whole new set of relations and therefore characteristics, changing your image before you have a chance to catch it. The mirror is therefore a not a space of reflection: its surface is one which refracts, bends and distorts what it shows by a process of theft and motion, taking what is and transfiguring it into something else, in its passage via the virtual.

For Foucault, there are certain spaces, which he names ‘heterotopias’, that function like mirrors, in that their relations with other sites have a transformative effect. The relational connections that heterotopias have with other sites are not relations of affirmation or propping up, a neighbourly proximity that secures each’s place – they are relations of questioning and destabilisation; relations which cast a critical light upon all spaces and their relations.  As Foucault suggests, even the most seemingly circumscribed of sites, ‘the house, the bedroom, the bed’ can have this transformative power.

Akerman’s early work demonstrates a fixation on the interiority of precisely these places, the bed, the bedroom and the apartment. This is spelled out in La Chambre but more acutely explored in Je Tu Il Elle and Saute Ma Ville and 15/8.

La Chambre - Eve Marguerite Allen

Tuesday, January 14

The Virtues of Boredom by Jessica Fletcher

The Virtues of Boredom 

Films as diverse as Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte (2010) and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011) can be linked through their denial of immediate visual or narrative gratification, indeed by their apparent determination to bore their viewer. They can be off-putting and antagonistic towards their audience, but their insistence on boredom is arguably intrinsic to their epic scopes.