Thursday, February 3, 1994

Living the German Dream

Film Essays by Harun Farocki & Hartmut Bitmosky

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

German filmmaker Harun Farocki is one of the chief heirs to the legacy of the film essay as practiced by Alexander Kluge and Jean-Luc Godard. Since 1967, he has made films that examine socio-political themes from a decidedly subjective point of view, ruminating on topics like napalm production, the Vietnam War, pornography, military reconnaissance, the construction of highways, and the societal division of labor. The recent subject of a major 10-city North American retrospective, Farocki’s films challenge the intellect and provide aesthetic pleasure for the viewer principally by refusing to capitulate to the junk-food codes of industrial cinema. In the first of two programs devoted to his recent films, we present Leben-BRD (How to Live in the Federal Republic of Germany) (1989), a work that uses scenes photographed at various instructional and training classes, and therapy and test sessions, to create “a documentary film with performers” that “playfully” depicts the FRG as a training camp for mastering life skills. Screening with Leben-BRD is fellow film essayist Hartmut Bitomsky’s Deutschelandbilder, a compilation of so-called “Kulturfilmen” from the Nazi era. Bitomsky avoids the usual showy Nazi images of parades and uniforms, and focuses instead on images of everyday life, revealing shocking banality. Thanks to Craig Baldwin.