The archives of Berlin’s Arsenal boast an astounding collection of 8000 largely independent productions, most on 16mm and 35mm film.
Since 2011, the Living Archive programme has worked at bringing some of these gems to a wider audience with monthly screenings curated by filmmakers, artists and academics working on projects that spotlight their respective approaches to the contemporary relevance of archive material.
In proud media partnership with Exberliner, the combined fruits of these labours – some 38 projects – will be presented at Arsenal throughout June. Of particular interest and dealing with a topic close to expat hearts, South African filmmaker Darryl Els explores “National Identity” with contributions that include Girl from Moush, a Canadian 16mm short (1993) that merges an off-camera Armenian talking about being ‘off-camera’ (exiled) as evocative images of churches, people and landscapes flutter across a sepia screen, whilst the visually stunning Was Bleibt is Clarissa Thieme’s 2009 meditative sequence of images showing war crime sites in Bosnia-Herzegovina and asking questions about place as a repository of memory.
“The Archaeology of Film”, curated by film scholar Sabine Nessel, concentrates on a little known Les Blank film Werner Herzog Eats his Shoe, investigating the relationship between a film’s validity and degrees of media exposure. German cinematographer Heinz Emigholz was involved in productions with US filmmaker/actress Sheila McLaughlin in the 1980s: the brilliant Committed (1984) and She Must be Seeing Things (1987, both on 16mm) are two films that reflect on their innovative cooperative practice and its enablement of specifically female-centred narratives.
Expect some high-octane agit-prop and insidious nationalism from filmmaker and curator Marcel Schwerin’s project “Cinema of the Republics”, showing movies made in the former Soviet states – but also jewels such as Otar Iosseliani’s 35mm 1961 April: a delicate, speechlessly humouristic take on the petit-bourgeois aspirations of socialist worker bees.
For full schedule, project and curator information, see www.arsenal-berlin.de.
Living Archive, Jun 1-30 | Kino Arsenal
Originally published issue #117, June 2013.