War at a Distance

This experimental video documentary (2003, 54 min.) by the talented Harun Farocki takes a subtle and provocative look at industrial photography and automation, especially as they relate to the launching, monitoring, and recording of missile strikes. Farocki begins by considering the “smart bombs” used during the first gulf war, which provided precise video imagery without any sign of human casualties. From there he examines the wider technological developments in factories as well as military systems, and the elimination of people from both. Especially telling is Farocki’s focus on the kinds of images used to represent these innovations and what they implicitly reveal about the people using them. Also on the program is his minimalist but precise Inextinguishable Fire (1969, 22 min.), about the manufacture and effects of napalm. A chilling moment occurs near the beginning, when Farocki, tonelessly reading the testimony of a Vietnamese victim, suddenly extinguishes a cigarette on his forearm and calmly explains that the temperature of napalm is seven and a half times greater. Both works are in German with subtitles. a Chicago Filmmakers.

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