What Farocki Taught

Jill Godmilow describes this recent half-hour short as a precise remake, in color and English, of Harun Farocki’s 1969 black-and-white German film Inextinguishable Fire, and while I have some quarrels with it, this fascinating intervention is bound to generate some interesting debate (at this screening she’ll discuss it with experimental filmmaker Yvonne Rainer, which should throw the issues into even sharper relief). Farocki’s powerful film, never shown in the U.S. until recently, describes Dow Chemical’s development and manufacture of Napalm B and the effects of its use during the Vietnam war. By adroitly remaking the film three decades later Godmilow wants to call attention to a model of political filmmaking, though one might argue that she runs into trouble when she describes her own work as “agitprop” in the same sense that Farocki’s was: after all, he was addressing a contemporary issue, and in a sense her kind of political filmmaking is yet another excuse for avoiding our current problems. (A curious and fascinating coincidence: Elisabeth Subrin was remaking another 60s political documentary in the midwest around the same time, though her film, Shulie, showing later this month at the Film Center, fosters a more dialectical relationship between past and present.) On the other hand, Godmilow does a fine job of stirring the pot, and what she and Rainer say about this postmodernist experiment should be well worth hearing. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, November 12, 6:00, 312-443-3737. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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