Thursday 29 January 2009

Harun Farocki on the web and in London

Image above taken from The Interview (Video, Harun Farocki, 1997):

'In the summer of 1996, we filmed application training courses in which one learns how to apply for a Job. School drop-outs, university graduates, people who have been retrained, the long-term unemployed, recovered drug addicts, and mid-level managers - all of them are supposed to learn how to market and sell themselves, a skill to which the term "self management" is applied. The self is perhaps nothing more than a metaphysical hook from which to hang a social identity. It was Kafka who Iikened being accepted for a job to entering the Kingdom of Heaven; the paths leading to both are completely uncertain. Today one speaks of getting a job with the greatest obsequiousness, but without any grand expectations.' (Harun Farocki on The Interview)

Film Studies For Free can testify that there is no better written introduction to the fascinating work of Berlin-based, visual artist and writer Harun Farocki's films and video installation work than a 2002 essay that Thomas Elsaesser (also editor of the 2004 collection Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight Lines - see HERE) wrote for Senses of Cinema. Here are a few insights from the conclusion to this piece in which Elsaesser sets out the reach of Farocki's artwork:

[...] Farocki has also noticed for us how prisons and supermarkets, video-games and theatres of war have become 'work-places' – of subjects as much as of commodities. They are spaces that are converging, once one appreciates how they all fall under the new pragmatics of the time-space logic of optimising access, flow, control. These sites a filmmaker has to take cognisance of and recognise him/herself implicated in, but so has the spectator, whose role has changed so much.

As one walks through Farocki's works, which have become our worlds, one realises that he may be one of the few filmmakers today capable of understanding the logic of this convergence, contesting its inevitability and yet feeling confident enough to continue to believe in the wit, wisdom and the poetry of images. This certainly makes Harun Farocki an important filmmaker: probably Germany's best-known important filmmaker.

Inspired by Farocki's films -- which seem more and more relevant to our daily lives -- as well as by Elsaesser's many perceptive words about them, Film Studies For Free wanted to publicize the ongoing exhibition "Harun Farocki, 3 Early Films" at the Cubitt Gallery, London (17 January – 22 February 2009), as well as the surrounding events to be held at the Goethe-Institut and Cubitt Gallery (31 January-20 February).

For those of you in search of more information about, or analyses of Farocki's work, FSFF decided to produce as extensive a list of live links as it could to some relevant online resources of note:

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Touching on Touch of Evil: Projecting Latin America at the Movies

Film Studies For Free (returning after a short unplanned break filled with unfortunate technical hitches of the sick computer kind) is happy to bring its loyal readers news of a wonderful weblog devoted to studying

the ways in which Latin America has figured in Hollywood and European cinema. Rather than lamenting the distance between stereotype and reality, it is interested in the functions served by the innumerable projections of fantasized Latin Americas onto the silver screen.
This website - Projections - was founded in 2005 by the renowned Latin-Americanist scholar Jon Beasley-Murray, currently Assistant Professor in the Department of French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada. As his university website testifies, Beasley-Murray is a longstanding practitioner and exponent of Open Access scholarship with numerous of his excellent publications archived online. He is also author of the important weblog Posthegemony.

Projections' project is to write about Hollywood and European movies 'in which Latin America plays a part, however small'. Beasley-Murray asks: 'Is there some shared element beyond the contingent commonality of location or theme? My wager is that there is, and that it's something worth writing about. Indeed, my suspicion is that when Hollywood goes Latin, it reveals something essential about cinema tout court.' The index by title of the many films so far examined can be found by clicking HERE.

For Spring 2009, this project has been aided by a UBC grant to hire three undergraduate student researchers to expand this online database of Latin America on screen. As Beasley-Murray notes in a blurb on the UBC website of his encouragement of students to write blogs

The idea is in large part to get beyond the ghetto of closed, proprietary educational software (WebCT and the like), to give students a sense that they are producing research on a public stage, and to integrate their learning with their own real world experience of the internet.
Important work, indeed. To conclude its celebration of the achievement of Projections, Film Studies For Free decided to drill down and produce an extensive series of high-quality, online-resource links pertaining to one of the films studied on that blog (and a great favourite of this blogger, too): Orson Welles's 1958 Touch of Evil. The list is headed by Projections's great entry on this film.
Online analyses of and information about Touch of Evil:
Online discussions of and information about the making, remaking, and DVD production of Touch of Evil:
On Orson Welles, with significant discussion of Touch of Evil:
Also see the wonderful Wellesnet, the Orson Welles Web Resource, together with its sister project The Museum of Orson Welles which continues to 'compile and present the available radio and recorded works of Orson Welles'.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

A Good News Day

Film Studies For Free is happy today for lots of reasons but one of the two chief explanations is that there has been a positive development in the case that this blog has been harping on about for a wee while now (see Shooting Down YouTube: Bring Back Kevin Lee's Videos! and L'Affaire Lee: follow up links).

Today, Kevin Lee announced on his blog that:
Thanks to the Copyright Team at YouTube for getting into the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, and agreeing to temporarily reinstate my account while my counterclaim against INA over the fair use of “…And God Created Woman” is under review. And thank you EVERYONE for your emails and messages of support, and for those who wrote about my ordeal on their respective websites. The publicity surrounding this mess had everything to do with YouTube contacting me last Friday and offering guidance on what steps I needed to take to get my account back online (at the time I didn’t know how I could still file a counterclaim despite [the fact] that I was shut out of my account).
A temporary respite only, it should be noted, but at least it means that Lee's YouTube channel is mostly back online, including many videos that weren't in dispute at all (OK, OK... So FSFF knows that it's not the most serious instance of collective punishment going on in the world right now but it certainly was a disproportionate response in its own way...). Lee has also posted the putative 'offending' video (Shooting Down Pictures #932: And God Created Woman) on, so check it out there, along with three other great video essays of his (Hour of the Star, O Lucky Man, and Seventh Heaven).

Now Film Studies For Free is off to find a television set to which it can glue itself gleefully for the rest of the day, but please feel free to enjoy this link in its absence.

Thursday 15 January 2009

L'Affaire Lee: follow up links

[Making Use of Fair Use by The Chronicle of Higher Education'Online videos that use clips from copyrighted music and movies may not violate the law and deserve protection from blanket prohibitions, say the authors of a new report from the American University's Center for Social Media and Washington College of Law.']

Film Studies For Free rather angrily sounded off, the other day, on the case of the deletion of the YouTube account of Kevin B Lee, and then, much more calmly, listed lots of links to information about and discussions of the issue of fair use of (or fair dealing with) copyrighted materials for non-financial profit, educational purposes.

For those interested, here are a few more, highly worthwhile links on the issues raised by the Lee case:

As Patricia Aufderheide so appropriately puts it, in the video embedded above, the whole business is a 'very sloppy and messy beginning to a new way of making culture and making media'. And mess is, as the work of David Trotter has informed us (see p. 12), a frequent characteristic of transitional objects .

But where might we be headed après la transition (and après l'affaire Lee)? FSFF would like to follow up on a few thoughts provoked by Scott Macaulay's article, in particular.

As Macaulay very intelligently writes:

At the end of the day, as distressing as this is to the blogger community individually, I think the best way forward is to link what's happened here to the broader debate over fair use as it applies in documentary film, in classrooms, and in the kind of "remix" works [Lawrence Lessig] talks about in his new book [Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (2008)]. There are people who have been invested in these issues for years, and the voices of the online critical community should now be added to theirs.

At the same time, we should heed what [Lance Weiler in an forthcoming, relevant article for Filmmaker Magazine, online a week from Monday] suggests -- to be aware of data portability issues when we release our materials [Macaulay refers here to 'the dangers of filmmakers aggregating too much of their data on social networks that can delete their accounts -- and this data -- at the blink of an eye']. And also what [Matt Zoller Seitz] quotes Amy Taubin as saying over at his site: "One way around this problem re movie criticism is not to post on YouTube, but rather to create a dedicated site specif[i]cally for movie criticism that employs excerpts and get a good intellectual properties lawyer to take the first case that arises pro bono (it would be an important landmark case.)"'

This does sound, to Film Studies For Free, like the best, longer term way forward thus far suggested. Perhaps another good solution, in the meantime, is set out by Nina Paley in her comment to Zoller Seitz's post: 'I recommend as an alternative to youtube. It's free, it's versatile, and you can embed videos. More importantly, it is founded on the ideals of free speech and a creative commons.'

The Internet Archive is, as regular FSFF readers will know, one of this blog's favourite sites. Paley's link takes us directly to a relevant video that she has uploaded to the archive in which she discusses her own filmmaking practice. The video is described thus: 'This is an interview with cartoonist and animator Nina Paley about how copyright restrictions prevent her from distributing her award-winning, feature-length film "Sita Sings The Blues": the film makes heavy use of recordings from the late 1920s by the singer Annette Hanshaw, and although the recordings themselves are out of copyright, the music is not.'

Definitely worth checking it out. Thanks Nina (see also her blog).

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Shooting Down YouTube: Bring Back Kevin Lee's Videos!

Today is a b a d d a y for free online film studies, as Karina Longworth and Matt Zoller Seitz have both ably reported.

And thus it's a pretty terrible day for Film Studies For Free.

You see, dear readers, there are holes in this here blog, gaping ones where Kevin B. Lee's marvellous video essays used to be embedded. Innocently. Not for financial profit. Solely for your film-educational betterment... such is Film Studies For Free's humble raison d'être .

As FSFF informed its readers last November in its Online Film Audio-Commentaries and Video Essays Of Note posting:

Lee is a filmmaker and multimedia producer based in New York City. Shooting Down Pictures primarily serves as a repository for a wide variety of materials connected with his project of viewing every film on the list of 1000 greatest films of all time, as compiled by They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? Rather than simply writing about, or gathering pre-existing resources together for these films -- both of which Lee does brilliantly, it must be said -- he also makes video essays about them and commissions others to provide their own audio commentaries, including ones by such luminaries as Nicole Brenez, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Richard Brody, Karina Longworth, Andy Horbal, Mike D'Angelo, Matt Zoller Seitz, Preston Miller, Vadim Rizov, and Girish Shambu.

Yesterday, in Uh oh… Storm’s brewing… and The Storm has Hit, Lee informed his loyal readers that his YouTube account, where the videos were publicly archived, had been 'permanently disabled' due to an INA (presumably Institut national de l'audiovisuel?) claim that the following material was infringing copyright: Video Essay for 932. Et dieu… crea la femme / …And God Created Woman (1956, Roger Vadim). It seems that YouTube has removed all 70 of Lee's videos, including 40 of his original video essays.

As Karina Longworth writes on SPOUTblog, 'Kevin has his own personal archive and can potentially re-upload the clips; he says he’ll investigate other online video sharing options. But YouTube is still the biggest game in town, and Kevin says he’ll miss it' and especially '"the right to share my work in the first place.”'

As Film Studies For Free's normal stock in trade is cheerful and positive commentary, it doesn't usually find itself getting angry. But this news made it fume, and sent it off to the e-barricades!

It couldn't agree more with some of the readers' comments about YouTube's actions, linked to Longworth's post, which are, therefore, worth citing here.

  • Glenn Kenny of Some Came Running wrote: 'Talk about kicking the wheels off the cart, and then shooting the horse. Kevin’s critical essays probably netted no small amount of income for the copyright holders by turning people on to films they might not have otherwise bothered with.'
  • Bill Georgiaris of They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? adds: 'It’s YouTube’s random attempts at abiding by copyright laws that makes their overall ‘control process’ laughable. Kevin’s insightful little essays ‘pinching’ a minute here and a minute there (mostly from films most people aren’t interested in anyway) get the boot, yet you can log on and watch Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” (along with many other well-known films) in its entirety!'
Perhaps quite hopefully, though, 'Theodore' of Serious Business noted: 'I have a lot of my own found footage films on YouTube, in which I use a lot of copywritten works. After I received a copyright notice, I sent a letter of dispute explaining why my work falls under the “fair use” category. YouTube gives you the option to do this. Soon after, YouTube put the video backup on their site.'

Film Studies For Free wishes to express its solidarity with Kevin and really hopes that something can be worked out quickly to get his inspirational video essays back online. But its readers might like to join with it as it prepares itself for what will almost certainly be a much longer fight in defence of Fair Use, and in the pursuit of more Open Culture and more Open Access scholarship.

In the spirit of the above, please check out the following really useful links on Fair Use:

And finally, FSFF readers can note the basic principles of Fair Use, as set out by the Center for Social Media Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video (p. 6), as follows:

In reviewing the history of fair use litigation, we find that judges return again and again to two key questions:

  • Did the unlicensed use "transform" the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a different purpose than that of the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?
  • Was the material taken appropriate in kind and amount, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and of the use?

Both questions touch on, among other things, the question of whether the use will cause excessive economic harm to the copyright owner.

If the answers to these two questions are "yes," a court is likely to find a use fair. Because that is true, such a use is unlikely to be challenged in the first place.

Another consideration underlies and influences the way in which these questions are analyzed: whether the user acted reasonably and in good faith, in light of general practice in his or her particular field.

P.S. FSFF urges you also to take in the following, probably highly prescient, words by Luke McKernan, commenting on a different issue, over at the great new Screen Research blog (FSFF will write more about this site very soon): 'I think the story of 2009 is going to be the undermining of YouTube, as services based heavily or exclusively on commercial content - and now CBS's - come galloping up the rails, while YouTube staggers along, burdened by too much user-generated content'.....

Wildlife filmmaking plus early Hawks blogathon

Film Studies For Free will return later today, hopefully, with some more substantial electronic enlightenment (and, indeed, campaigning!), but a couple of quick items first, just to get the blog-juice flowing nicely.

Over the course of the next twelve days, from January 12 to January 23, I'll [...] be talking about Tiger Shark, along with all the other early Hawks films [1926-1936] I've been able to locate: the 1928 silent A Girl in Every Port plus the majority of his sound films made between 1930 and 1936. I hope that I'll have lots of company, too. I welcome contributions about specific films as well as more general posts discussing broader aspects of Hawks' early career. I especially hope, since I don't have access to most of Hawks' silents, that those who have seen them will take the opportunity to weigh in. Below is a full list of all the films that I consider eligible subjects for discussion, plus a compendium of various pre-existing posts on early Hawks. As new posts are submitted, I will add them to the master list below.If you have a post, simply comment here with a link or e-mail me, and I will add it to this post, which will serve as the central gathering place for the blog-a-thon. I really look forward to reading what everyone has to say, and hopefully participating in lots of lively discussions about these films.

DAY 1 (January 12): A Girl in Every Port at Only The Cinema; and Twentieth Century at Another Old Movie Blog

PRE-EVENT READING:Ceiling Zero & The Road To Glory at Greenbriar Picture Show; Come and Get It at DVD Talk; Come and Get It at Self-Styled Siren; The Criminal Code at Apocalypse Later; The Crowd Roars at Colet and Company; The Crowd Roars at Movie Classics; A Girl in Every Port at Senses of Cinema; A Girl in Every Port at Shadowplay; Scarface at Senses of Cinema; Scarface at Twenty Four Frames; Scarface at Only The Cinema; Tiger Shark & The Road To Glory at Auteurs Notebook; Today We Live at Apocalypse Later; Twentieth Century at Only The Cinema

THE FILMS: The Road To Glory (1926); Fig Leaves (1926); The Cradle Snatchers (1927); Paid To Love (1927); A Girl In Every Port (1928); Fazil (1928); The Air Circus (1928, w/ Lewis Seiler); Trent's Last Case (1929); The Dawn Patrol (1930); The Criminal Code (1931); Scarface (1932); The Crowd Roars (1932); Tiger Shark (1932); Today We Live (1933); The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933, w/ W.S. Van Dyke); Viva Villa! (1934, w/ Jack Conway, William Wellman); Twentieth Century (1934); Barbary Coast (1935, w/ William Wyler); Ceiling Zero (1936); The Road to Glory (1936); Come and Get It (1936, w/ Richard Rosson, William Wyler)

Monday 12 January 2009

Split Screens and Refractory Journal

a young American scholar of British cinema

News of the Open Access publication of an article by a colleague, friend, and fellow blogger, Sergio Dias-Branco, alerted Film Studies For Free to the existence of another excellent online Film and Media Studies periodical: Refractory: a Journal of Entertainment Media.

Refractory, is 'a refereed, peer-reviewed, e-journal that explores the diverging and intersecting aspects of current and past entertainment media.' The journal is published by the Cinema/Screen Studies Program, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.

Sergio's excellent work on the Mosaic-Screen is the lead article in Volume 14, 2008: Double Trouble - a brilliant Special Issue of Refractory on Split and Double Screens, edited by Tessa Dwyer & Mehmet Mehmet.

Full List of Refractory Volume 14 Contents:

  1. Double Trouble: Editorial - Tessa Dwyer & Mehmet Mehmet
  2. The Mosaic-Screen: Exploration and Definition – Sergio Dias-Branco
  3. Sound and Space in the Split-Screen Movie – Ian Garwood
  4. The Embedded Screen and the State of Exception: Counterterrorist Narratives and the “War on Terror” – Cormac Deane
  5. “What Am I… Beloved or Bewitched?” Split Screens, Gender Confusion, and Psychiatric Solutions in The Dark Mirror – Tim Snelson
  6. Medusa in the Mirror: The Split World of Brian De Palma’s Carrie – David Greven
  7. The Double Side of Delay: Sutapa Biswas’ film installation Birdsong and Gilles Deleuze’s Actual/Virtual Couplet – Maria Walsh
  8. Missed Encounters: Film Theory and Expanded Cinema – Bruno Lessard
  9. Four Cameras are Better than One: Division as Excess in Mike Figgis’ Timecode – Nadia Bozak
  10. The Aesthetics of Displays: How the Split Screen Remediates Other Media – Malte Hagener
  11. Double Take: Rotoscoping and the Processing of Performance – Kim Louise Walden

For a full list of articles from all the other volumes of Refractory FSFF heartily recommends that you click HERE. And click HERE for the useful Wikipedia entry on Split screen (film)

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Five Gold Links

Film Studies For Free wishes you a very happy 2009, just a little later than hoped... Over the holidays it moved office into a lovely new blog-cabin, and since has been somewhat distracted both by its breathtaking new views of the Sussex countryside as well as the customary broadband-connection 'teething troubles' often attendant upon such moves.

FSFF will be back up to full speed (indeed, up to new and improved speed...) very soon. But in the meantime, on this, the thirteenth day of Christmas - were there such a thing - here are five gold links it wished it could have brought you just a tad earlier:

Martin Barker, (Editor): 'Editorial Introduction' Selected Articles □ Barbara Klinger, : 'Say It Again, Sam: Movie Quotation, Performance and Masculinity' □ Yiu Fai Chow & Jeroen de Kloet: 'The Production of Locality in Global Pop - A comparative study of pop fans in the Netherlands and Hong Kong' □ Joost de Bruin: 'Young Soap Opera Viewers and Performances of the Self'
  • Most interesting YouTube playlist discovery: Screening Room with Robert Gardner including clips from interviews with Jean Rouch (see below), Jonas Mekas, Hollis Frampton, Yvonne Rainer, Les Blank and Caroline Leaf
    Screening Room was a 1970s Boston television series that for almost ten years offered independent filmmakers a chance to show and discuss their work on a commercial (ABC-TV) affiliate station. The series was developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner (Dead Birds, Forest of Bliss), who was Chairman of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies and Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard for many years. This unique program dealt even-handedly with animation, documentary, and
    experimental film, welcoming such artists as Jan Lenica, John and Faith Hubley, Emile DeAntonio, Jean Rouch, Ricky Leacock, Jonas Mekas, Bruce Baillie, Yvonne Rainer and Michael Snow. Thirty episodes have been edited for release as DVDs. Visit Robert Gardner's personal website for further information: