The Three Sam Spades: The Shifting Model of American Masculinity in the Three Films of The Maltese Falcon
Kwate Nee Owoo
The Language of Real Life: Interview with Ousmane Sembène
Art for Man’s Sake: A Tribute to Ousmane Sembène
Astrid Söderbergh Widding
A Full Integration with Film History: A Tribute to Ingmar Bergman
Laura Rascaroli and John David Rhodes
Antonioni and the Place of Modernity: A Tribute
Morphing Realities: The Current Status of the Real in Film and Television
Nitzan Ben Shaul
Family Secrets: Alan Berliner’s Nobody’s Business and the (American) Jewish Autobiographical Film
Self-Despotism: Reality Television and the New Subject of Politics
The Postcolonial Function of Television’s Virtual Space in ’90s Israeli Cinema
Phantasmatic Losses: National Traumas, Masculinity, and Primal Scenes in Israeli Cinema—Walk on Water
Absence as Presence, Presence as Parapraxis: On Some Problems of Representing “Jews” in the New German Cinema
Chronic Trauma, the Sound of Terror, and Current Israeli Cinema
Nurith Gertz and Gal Hermoni
History's Broken Wings: "Narrative Paralysis" as Resistance to History in Amos Gitai's Film Kedma
New York Film Festival
How can we think about art at a time like this? A friend wore this as a pin to a MoMA opening, and I've always found it funny and realistic. Art never leaves the active world, thankfully. It's at its core. This past summer, 2007, filmmakers Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, and Ousmane Sembène died, but it was their birth dates—respectively 1912, 1918, 1923—that jumped out at me in thinking about them because their lives, so inﬂuential in radical modern culture, virtually span the radically transformative twentieth century. Intensely associated with their home countries—Italy, Sweden, Senegal—and what outsiders assume are the sensibilities of those countries, each director (and in Sembène's case, also writer) reworked, often brilliantly, European and African consciousness to shift our aesthetics and our view of narrative structures and thus our politics. Each director forced change out of his art.
Antonioni had a paralyzing stroke in 1985 yet remained involved in ﬁlmmaking, but even into their eighties, Sembène and Bergman directed ﬁlms. Their last ones were as powerful as any before, maybe even more so, because they were so utterly streamlined. Sembène's Moolaade(SN/FR/BF/ CM/MA/TN, 2004) attacked civil society and was a tightly composed, incisive argument against female circumcision, and Bergman'sSaraband (SE/IT/DE/FI/DK/AT, 2003), about family lies, attacked private society and was more ﬂuid, shocking, and contained than many of his previous ﬁlms. For all their worth, these two directors still struggled for backing and, thus, recognition, as is evident in their last projects' multiple ﬁnanciers. In Framework's tributes, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, Chair of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation, sets Bergman squarely in his time, a man in touch with art and the world; Samba Gadjigo, Sembène's biographer, knows Sembène as a man in touch with real people (a trait also emphasized in Kwate Nee Owoo's 1989 interview); and scholars, Laura Rascaroli and John David Rhodes put Antonioni palpably and abstractly in touch with place.
In the dossier Morphing Realities, guest edited by Nitzan Ben Shaul and taken from the June 2006 conference held at Tel Aviv University, the essays consider how "realness" operates in art and how it is formulated through perception or defense against perception. These vantages are taken, in a sense, from a series of parallels, superimposed over one another as layers within memory, repressed or expressed, either personal or national. There is a special emphasis on the Israeli/Palestinian war, Jewish identity, and Reality TV. Philippa Gates and Laura Podalsky also dig out layers of social subtexts within changing perceptions. Both show how cinema reﬂects politics: Gates in her exposure of the shifts in masculine performance during the 1930s and 1940s, visible in remakes of The Maltese Falcon, and Podalsky in her gloss of shifts in Mexican youth ﬁlms in the 1980s and 1990s.
My special thanks goes to our wonderful Framework Web editor and my friend, Jim Sielaff, who so thoroughly edited the Framework Web site this last year with great enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. Only in his ﬁfties, he died suddenly on August 25, 2007, and is very much missed.
“Your Country Is Your Head”: An Interview with Gore Vidal
The Essay Film: Problems, Definitions, Textual Commitments
“You Cannot Continually Inflict”: An Interview with Saadi Yacef
Hegemony Conditions in the Coproduction Cinema of Latin America: The Role of Spain
Mobility and Modernity in María Novaro’s Sin dejar huella
Welcome to Applied Fiction
“Shown in 16mm on a Giant Screen”: Adventures in Alternative Exhibition with The Secret Cinema - An Interview with Jay Schwartz
A new kind of revolutionary attitude, one that accepts contradictions and doesn’t discard old values so much as recycles them, is increasingly active in cinema and media. It’s especially visible in the work of young African and African-diasporic filmmakers.
In this Framework issue, the Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo makes a fascinating bridge in his essay “Welcome to Applied Fiction.” He aligns his African childhood perspectives, still vibrant in him when he is with his grandmother in her village, with the “new alliances, new layers, new identification” of which, he believes, cinema, the art he learned in Europe, is capable. His 1996 film Aristotle’s Plot asked What is cinema? And how does an African sensibility tell a story cinematically? Now, twelve years later, he posits this with more insight: “The question I’m putting is this: How can technology help me as a filmmaker turn the cinema experience into an experience similar to the one I had with the old woman [his grandmother]?” In November 2007 I attended the African Video Film Arts Festival at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. I acted as a discussant in what became a conference on “Nollywood,” the thriving Nigerian video industry, which has economically stormed Africa and the world as no other except perhaps the nascent film industry of the early twentieth century. So-called Nollywood is a business of primarily quick videos, made in short periods (sometimes two days), with low production standards. Some videos are much more skillful, and many have a host of assets, but they often are denigrated as low art and loved as engrossing fun. But, whatever its make up, Nollywood has made a mark and, more astoundingly, is emerging as an identity among young diasporic filmmakers. British-Nigerian Zina Saro-Wiwa, whose inventive film This Is My Africa screened at this year’s New York African Film Festival (NYAFF), thinks of herself as a Nollywood director. She told me that what “makes me Nollywood [is the] fact that I don’t use film, the way I get funding, and the attitude with which I create a film. Also the idea of creating new forms of filmmaking or new film languages also makes me Nollywood!” British filmmaker Ngozi Onwurah, who was once invited to participate in a Nigeria film festival, also claims a Nollywood status and thus, as well, a Nollywood status for her hard-hitting film Shoot the Messenger, also screened at NYAFF, about black self-hatred and the internal convolutions of prejudice. The work of Bekolo, Saro-Wiwa, and Onwurah reflect some of the most energized thinking about art, globalization, politics, and form that I hear and see. My guess is, like those who really challenged the status quo in history, these artists have nothing to lose and everything to gain by re-accessing their situation and re-accessing what cinema can do for them and what they can do with cinema.
Two thousand eight saw the fortieth anniversary of May ’68, a date specific to the Paris riots but often used to stand for the upheavals of the 1960s. But France’s May ’68 resulted in fewer key social transformations than those that evolved in the United States. Despite this, in 2008, “1968” retrospectives and conferences repeatedly screened art films of 1960s Europe, with their clean but overt sexuality, disruptive cinematic forms, and antiestablishment position. But these films, however artful, don’t reflect the blood and guts of ’68 and don’t reflect its revolution. Almost entirely made by white, European, middle-class males, they display the gauntlet of prejudice—racism, sexism, homophobia—that dominated art cinema, in the United States and abroad. These prejudices rarely are highlighted, much less deplored, when screened even now. That the French were against the Vietnam War was a chic stance of the era, but they nationally had little self-reflection on their own years of occupation in Southeast Asia. Crucial self-confrontation and change—legal, social, and cultural—happened in the United States. An intense dent was made in the wall of prejudice through two decades of violence between 1960 and 1980. In 1968 our cities were on fire, our citizens shot, our leaders assassinated, and an unprecedented and galvanizing rage existed among our people, who marched and rioted for civil rights for blacks, women, gays, and for an end to the war. It is these Americans who finally had nothing more to lose, exhausted from centuries of discrimination, who had everything to gain by rushing the establishment. And these groups built laws that further opened avenues, in the 1980s and ’90s, for stronger rights for children, people with disabilities, and others.
In this issue the writers Gore Vidal and Saadi Yacef are interviewed, two men who fought for different perspectives and openly confronted prejudice, who took politics into art. It is amazing how contemporary Yacef’s words about 1957 are, and it is equally amazing how quickly the political details of Vidal’s 2007 opinions have transformed in only a year. Elena Gorfinkel’s interview with Jay Schwartz also reflects swift movements. Schwartz’s little, hard-worked-for cineclubs are infused with the cinephiliac’s love of the locale and the projection (almost as strong as a love of the film). This spirit of literal cinematic place is virtually a thing of the past, and uncharted ways of perceiving film’s totality are emerging. Though Saro-Wiwa’s This Is My Africa had wonderful, simple, striking compositions, she wasn’t concerned with its big screen state. She said that she made it “for my iPod!”
More ebb and flow of the film world is evident in Libia Villazana’s essay where she combs over the intricacies and internecine warfare within coproduction deals between Latin America and Spain. Claire Lindsay looks at the still-fought-for feminist perspective when she compares road movies, especially the subgenre, small as it is, in which two women are the travelers, in her analysis of María Novaro’s Sin dejar huella. New forms appear in Laura Rascaroli’s analysis of the history and mutations of the Essay Film, a diverse genre, which she argues is on the rise and is the wave of the future.
Finally, this is the second editorial this year in which I’ve commented on the death of a friend, but I want to add a memory of film scholar Paul Arthur, who died in March. He was often a generous referee for Framework. He commented very thoughtfully on Rascaroli’s piece on the Essay Film, a subject he much loved. I knew him in the early seventies and we met again in New York and became friends years later. His reviews tore cheerfully into the rights and wrongs of movies, and I much appreciated his tenacious opinionizing. Paul also showed me new forms. Decades ago, watching A Man with a Movie Camera in his film class, I still remember the moment when he said—“Look at this series of shots. One has a horizontal form, the next a vertical one, then a horizontal, then a vertical.” I’d seen a lot of movies, but I’d never seen the obvious structure of things in them as starkly as that. That was a turning point.