Re: Cameras for Gaza

From: Peter Snowdon (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Jan 11 2009 - 12:13:04 PST

While I agree with much of what Fred says here, I think that cinema is
not quite as powerless as he hints. Powerless, in terms of being able to
provide context and/or rational understanding to events of apparent
extreme irrationality.
Eyal Sivan and Michel Khleifi's Route 181 is as substantial a
contribution to understanding the current situation in Israel and
Palestine as are the writings of, say, Amira Hass or Tanya Reinhart.
And Avi Mograbi's films, above all Avenge but One of My Two Eyes, ask
questions as complex and as uncomfortable as those to be found in any
other medium or art form.
Thinking in film isn't limited to montage or narration: it's also there
in the hard work of giving a structure to the whole work which has the
power to undo some of the simpler assumptions of representation, and
turns us back to interrogate the resonances which these images, these
events, these people set up within ourselves.
An art form which can produce Tarkovsky, Straub and Mekas doesn't need
to apologise to Thomas Mann, or to Noam Chomsky.
Complexity is always there for the taking, or the making. It is up to us
whether we want to accept its challenge, or not.

Fred Camper wrote:
> malgosia askanas wrote:
> > Frameworks may not be the right place to debate politics, but it
> > definitely is the right place to debate the meaning and political usage
> > of images. This thread started with someone asking for donations to
> > send cameras to Gaza. In these days of routinely staged and doctored
> > images, is a "documentary" image really worth a thousand words?
> What IS
> > a "documentary" image worth - without knowledge of the matter, without
> > understanding and thought (all of which require words) - other than
> as a
> > tool to stir up a knee-jerk reaction?
> I don't agree with most of what's been posted here about Israel's war
> on Hamas, but I do agree with this. Images of killed civilians are not
> enough, and in fact could convey false impressions. I don't agree with
> Israel's attack, nor do I endorse the Allied firebombing of Dresden or
> the US nuking of two Japanese cities. But the Enola Gay flyers may
> well have been right to protest a planned exhibit over a decade ago
> that focused only on the bombing. They wanted a larger context,
> beginning with Pearl Harbor. But someone else could also argue that
> Pearl Harbor must be understood in the larger context of the US and
> Japanese imperialism that led up to it. Dresden must of course be
> understood in the context of World War II, started by the Germans, or,
> arguably, by the Germans and the USSR together, and not the Allies.
> The question of whether the firebombings of German civilians were
> justified then goes to questions such as whether such attacks helped
> shorten the war, saving other lives, or in fact did not help. Or, if
> you're a complete pacifist, then you have to argue that case. Or, if
> you're some kind of racist, and think German lives are less, or more,
> valuable than others, then you have to argue those positions. Is
> cinema even a good vehicle for asking such questions?
> Cinema has in general not done a good job of making intellectual
> arguments. One might ask of the current war in Gaza, for example,
> under what circumstances is a war that will cause many civilian deaths
> justified? I might argue that rocket attacks that have killed no
> Israelis in recent months or years is not enough to justify the
> current war, in which, by now, more than a dozen Israelis have been
> killed. But others, including Israelis, can disagree, and those rocket
> attacks were in no sense legal, and certainly terrorized the
> population that they were directed against, and it seems to me that
> they were as morally unjustifiable as earlier Palestinian suicide
> bombings directed against Israeli civilians. The point is, reasonable
> people can disagree about this war, but such disagreements are moral
> and ethical and legal ones, and in that context, it's not clear how
> valuable documentary images from Gaza, or Sderot, would be. A complex
> skein of historical facts and arguments is needed to provide context.
> And even then, reasonable people can differ on how wide a net to cast
> and how far back to go in analyzing the situation. Who really broke
> the case fire? Was Israel's unilateral pullout from Gaza absent a
> peace treaty even a wise idea? Who is to blame for the absence of a
> peace treaty? Was Israel's earlier occupation of Gaza and the West
> Bank justified? Is its settlement policy justified? Are the decades of
> Arab terrorist attacks on Israel justified? Was founding the state if
> Israel a wise idea, and what about the 1948 Arab war to wipe the
> nascent state off the map? What role does knowledge of the Shoah (the
> "Holocaust") play? Or do we start our history with the modern European
> colonization of the Middle East, or with the Crusades, or with the
> destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., or even earlier than that?
> In most cases, I have found political documentaries sadly lacking in
> comparison with even a mediocre newspaper or magazine article. Moving
> pictures not only don't add much to my understanding of the issues;
> they can often help obscure understanding.
> On the other hand, I'm not sure that banning reporting from Gaza is
> such a good idea either! Was the US military's ban on images of the
> coffins of and funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq a good idea?
> I don't know of a cinema that can sensibly debate, or even ask, these
> kinds of questions, so in that sense I agree with Malgosia's "require
> words" argument. Dziga Vertov made a tentative stab, though, at trying
> to edit images in a way that widens the context of what you see, as
> in, for example, his famous reverse montage starting with a dinner
> table back through the phases of meat production.
> Fred Camper
> Chicago
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.