From: Bernard Roddy (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Dec 20 2006 - 07:20:28 PST
Here are some references on the question of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and representation. Gitai’s first few films and the tapes by Salloum are closest to what individual artists without substantial funding can realistically aspire to. They also provide (in my estimation) valuable models for more modest work. In his youth Gitai volunteered to serve in the Israeli army but in the interview says he was not sympathetic with the Israeli army’s aggression. He says he ended up serving in the capacity of rescuing individuals burning in tanks. His first film, House (1978), is a black and white film shot at the location of a house taken over from an Arab family that had to flee the area. It is under construction, the laborers being Arab. Paul Willemen wrote an essay on Gitai in which he makes the case for an avant-garde documentary practice, illustrating with Gitai’s work. It’s a constructive effort to identify an approach that neither tries to erase the subjective
orientation of the filmmaker (as in community video, handing the technology to the natives) nor becomes overly manipulative. Annette Michelson’s interview with Gitai opens with a discussion of the reception in Israel of the first screening of Field Diary (1982), who represents Israeli military during the war in Lebanon. Gitai says he studied at Berkeley between 1976 – 79, where he heard a talk by Godard that greatly impressed him. “I saw that subversion was not only a matter of thematic argument; it was also a question of formal cinematic strategy.” (October interview with Michelson, 54) Salloum says that in (Introduction to the End of an Argument) he “was reconciled to the fact that before one could make any more representations of/from the Middle East, we had to confront the representations that previously existed and formed the dominant images and stereotypes that we were up against.” (FELIX interview with Hankwitz, 118) The tape that most impressed me was the one
that follows, Up to the South. I used to use this tape (before it was misplaced in a move) when discussing the notion of a terrorist with ethics and media classes.
I have not seen the tape by Julian Samuel, The Raft of the Medusa, but the script sounds excellent. There might be some concern that this work does not fit into the parameters of the frameworks discussion list, but part of the conversation seems to consist in searching for a suitable identity. One of the dimensions I find often missing in the criticism of experimental film has been aptly introduced in this conversation about Israel, and that is, roughly, what we might call the work of representation in society (often discussed as "mass media"), and the work of artist's film under that heading.
Tapes and Films:
Jayce Salloum and Elia Suleiman, (Introduction to the End of an Argument) Speaking for oneself . . ./Speaking for others (45:00, 1990)
Jayce Salloum and Walid Ra’ad, Up to the South (60:00, 1993)
Julian Samuel, Into the European Mirror: A Work by Julian Samuel, Aruna Handa and John Kipphoff, eds. (Black Rose Books, 1997)
Paul Willemen, “Bangkok-Bahrain-Berlin-Jerusalem: Amos Gitai’s Editing” in Looks and Frictions (British Film Institute, 1994).
Amost Gitai and Annette Michelson, “Filming Israel: A Conversation,” October 98 (Fall, 2001), 47 -75
Jayce Salloum and Molly Hankwitz, “occupied territories; mapping the transgressions of cultural terrain: on the recent videotapes of Jayce Salloum” FELIX: A Journal of Media Arts and Communication Vol. 2, No. 1 – Landscape(s) (The Standby Program, 1995)
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