Category Archives: film

The model for teaching at TDTU – in collaboration with Đỗ Thị Xuân Hương and Võ Nguyễn Thiện Phúc

A short film made to explain a model of teaching for a class on Capital and Anthropology/Mapping at Ton Duc Thang University, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2018 – Director: Đỗ Thị Xuân Hương Camera and Editor: Võ Nguyễn Thiện Phúc

https://dai.ly/x7obout

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Transcript of the film in English and Tieng Viet Click Appendix_bilingual_Tieng_Anh_va_Tieng_Viet.

 

Global South Asia On Screen: India only edition.

via Global South Asia On Screen: India only edition.

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Available from Aakar Books Here.

Rest of the world here (bloomsbury paperback in November)

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4826-8949

 

Just because its only out cheaply in India does not mean you canot still buy stauff – the Hardback is 20 quid on some sites.

ANd there are a few older things still kicking about:

 

John Hutnyk is the author of Bad Marxism (Pluto Press, 2004) and Critique of Exotica …
The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and the Poverty of Representation [John Hutnyk] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

Pantomime Terror

This book is about storytelling and music video – well, also politics and terror, performance and television.

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HUTNYK_PANTOMIME TERROR

The book tunes into music in three acts. I have written on these performers before, and so thank them again for the opportunity to return to their stories. The approach is a continuation of a research project and collective political effort that I joined when I first came to Britain in 1994. This iteration rehearses this work for London and in relation to twenty first-century terrors, as well as returning to a long beloved articulation of divergent interpretations of critical theory, especially the work of Theodor Adorno. In the introduction, there is a first rendition of the theme of pantomime, which will resonate throughout, and perhaps perversely, the end of the intro starts in on the end of the video Cookbook DIY, examined more fully in the next chapter. I advance this end because the point of this book is to record how peripheral ‘messages’ are too often ignored. In this sense, the project of ‘pantomime terror’ as distraction will be affirmed. I thank Aki Nawaz and Dave Watts for what is now a long collaboration.

The chapters are:

1. Introduction: London Bus :: Pantomime :: War Diary :: Mediation :: The Orange Jumpsuit :: Alerts.

2. DIY Cookbook: Visiting the Kumars :: A Suicide Rapper :: 1001 Nights :: Cookbook DIY :: Pantomime Video :: The RampArts Interlude (notes from a screening) :: All is War :: Back to the Kumars.

3. Dub at the Movies: Representing La Haine :: Žižek-degree-zero :: Derrida Writes the Way :: The Eiffel Tower :: Ruffians, Rabble, Rogues and Repetition :: Musical Interlude :: Riff-raff :: Reserve Army :: Coda: The Battle of Algiers :: Molotov.

4. Scheherazade‘s Sister, M.I.A.: Cultural Projects :: Storyteller Nights :: M.I.A. :: Born Free :: Sell Out, or Tiocfaidh ár lá :: Witticisms and Wagner :: Despot Culture :: Scheherazade in Guantánamo.

 

‘Citizen Marx/Kane’ in “Marx at the Movies”, 2014

Citizen Marx/Kane’ – Hutnyk

This chapter addresses the question of how, today, to start reading that rich book that is Marx’s Capital — of which an immense, even monstrous, accumulation of commentary on the Marxist mode of literary production appears to have already shaped its elementary forms. In reading Capital, if anything about beginnings should be considered necessary, it is usual to say it is good to start at the beginning — not always of course, but usually to start with what is immediately at hand. Commentaries, primers, prefaces, intros, first sentences and first chapters start at the beginning and continue on from there. This is itself debated, but my argument is that we can only approach Capital through the already existing commentary, even as we would like to start as if the book were new. And the commentary that exists is not only that which is explicitly marked as such, but also includes all the ideas we have already received about so many things — about Marx, capitalism, communism, exchange, commodities and so much more. A vast accumulation of things filter reading, so it would be naive to simply say that materialism might start with things themselves, even if it makes sense to start with commodities, the objects that are the souvenirs or detritus of our lives.

Keywords

Capitalist Class Capitalist Mode Moral Testimony Commodity System Film Poster 

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Buy Books Not Bombs

Global South Asia on Screen – out now with Bloomsbury
(paperback due late 2019)
With importance for geopolitical cultural economy, anthropology, and media studies, John Hutnyk brings South Asian circuits of scholarship to attention where, alongside critical Marxist and poststructuralist authors, a new take on film and television is on offer.

The book presents Raj-era costume dramas as a commentary on contemporary anti-Muslim racism, a new political compact in film and television studies, and the President watching a snuff film from Pakistan. Hanif Kureishi’s postcolonial ‘fuck Sandwich’ sits alongside Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, updated for the war on terror with low-brow, high-brow versions of Asia that carry us up the Himalayas with magic carpet TV nostalgia. Maoists rage below and books go up in flames while News network phone-ins end with executions on the Hanging Channel and arms trade and immigration paranoia thrives. Multiplying filmi versions of Mela are measured against a transnational realignment towards Global South Asia in a contested and testing political future.

Each chapter offers a slice of historical study and assessment of media theory appropriate for viewers of Global South Asia seeking to understand why lurid exoticism and paralysing terror go hand-in-hand. The answers are in the images always open to interpretation, but Global South Asia on Screen examines the ways film and TV trade on stereotype and fear, nationalism and desire, politics and context, and with this the book calls for wider reading than media theory has hitherto entertained.

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Global South Asia on Screen
Buy books at yourlocal bookshop(UK)
Ask for Pantomime Terror by John Hutnyk. Zero Books, 2014 ISBN-10: 1782792090
Ask for The Rumour of Calcutta by John Hutnyk. Zed books/Uni Chicago Press, 1996 ISBN: 9781856494083
Ask for Bad Marxism by John Hutnyk. Pluto Press/Uni Chicago Press 2004 ISBN: 9780745322667
Ask for Critique of Exotica by John Hutnyk. Pluto Press 2000 ISBN: 0745315496
Ask for Global South Asia on Screen by John Hutnyk. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. ISBN  9781501324963
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On Madhava Prasad

an overdue appreciation.

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Read the rest of the review here, or below:

In Cine-Politics: Film Stars and Political Existence in South India, film studies becomes politics, but also society, identification and desire. Prasad’s book contains six well-thought-out chapters, and reappraises the context of focus upon the well-known names and stars of ‘regional’ cinema from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Larger-than-life political icons MGR, NTR and Rajkumar will need no introduction within India, yet, from this book, the outside reader will also get sufficient detail and a good idea of the kinds of films, from ‘mythologicals’ to ‘socials’, that made up their cinema careers. However, the chapters also present the political trajectories of these stars, and the book’s significance is that the turning of film into politics demands a wider scope than any film studies’ focus has hitherto provided. The book importantly goes beyond any mechanical understanding of how film stars might use the cinema for political gain.

The first chapter shows how central government initiatives, especially the States Reorganization Commission of 1953, had deep ramifications for regional film, reflected both in the organisation of cinema as an industry and in the role accorded its emerging stars. The phenomenon of the ‘star-politician’ in South Indian films uniquely impacted upon politics there. Successive chapters then discuss MGR in Tamil Nadu, NTR in Andhra Pradesh, Rajkumar in Karnataka, and ‘fan Bakhti’, with an appendix on Jayalalithaa (see below). MGR, NTR and Rajkumar are so famous that we recognise them by their familiar initials or single names (Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran aka MGR; Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao aka NTR; and Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju aka Rajkumar). Yet, even though each of them played a significant political role in his respective state, he did so in quite different ways and reflecting different political developments and changes. MGR was already a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party activist before starting in films, and his film roles helped his party to success in 1967, before he formed a new party in 1972 to continue on as chief minister of Tamil Nadu until his death in 1977. In Andhra Pradesh, NTR’s entry into politics and film was through the Telugu language and Telugu nationalism; this gained him status and prestige in the state, but was less readily translated beyond the regional. Similarly, Rajkumar was identified with the identity politics of Kannada. As a political investment, this identity politics suggests a wider path and pattern, indicating a parallel organisational format between his political persona and his screen personality.

It is Prasad’s contention (and not inconsequentially Freudian in analytic reach) that ‘an adequate explanation for the cine-political phenomenon…cannot really be found in the content of the relevant films’ (p. 57). He makes this claim at the very end of a chapter on the cinema strategies of the DMK party in Tamil Nadu, whereby a kind of commodity logic is expanded. Prasad gives us the truism that, certainly in the last ten years, Bollywood has become ‘an appendage of the consumer goods industry via advertising’ (p. 22) and ‘a reflexive commodity, consciously produced in conformity with its own image’ (p. 23). It is not beyond the readers of this book to recognise an anti-commercial and regional argument that Bollywood is shaped by and yet also subsumes the regional. While not ‘any’ South Indian film will do to establish this point, a preponderance of star persona films, and the accompanying film marketing strategies, are identifiable and discernible as influences in, of and on Bollywood.

All the same, a question about content might clarify some issues for us. Do we need to have seen the films of the larger-than-life MGR for Tamil Nadu, or NTR for Andhra Pradesh, to know that there is something different going on with the star-persona film vehicles here than in that ‘other’ dominant Indian film tradition that regionalism necessary backs up against? In Prasad’s discussion of comparative cinema, the scope is larger than the screen. At stake is history itself when he develops a point from an earlier essay in which ‘modernity continues to be identified with the historical concretion of Western modernity, [and so] it will always seem that every other form is a deviant, or not yet modern’ form.11. Madhava M. Prasad, ‘Singular But Double-Entry: Paul Willamen’s Proposals for a Comparative Film Studies’, in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Vol. 14, no. 1 (2013), p. 9.View all notes This deviation is important because where once Hollywood, even at a remove, was regarded as ‘a source of knowledge and values that hold the promise of a better life’—and its ideas were ‘stolen’ and inserted into Bollywood films—today, instead, we see ‘an epochal change in cinema [that] comes in the wake of opening up of the economy in the process of liberalization and globalization’.22. Ibid., p. 10View all notes This gives us the rationale for Prasad’s new book as a development beyond his own 1998 scene-setting work on the melodramatic in Ideology of the Hindi Film;33. M. Madhava Prasad, Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction(Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988).View all notes it is by going beyond melodramatic narrative content that the political appeal of an MGR or NTR is activated in a wider context.

Cine-Politics asserts that after a distinct period in which writers were dominant in the movies, the celebrity star system took hold, and this star persona system now acts like a contagion. In the past, and consistent with melodrama, the fragmentary and episodic form of stories and plots existed within an abstract whole. Subsequently, the movement from writers to star system evident in Tamil films and in the discussion Prasad offers of MGR, means the writer’s message-communicating model has been hollowed out. The message is now the star. It is revealing that the phrase used to warn against dismissing this transition is that of the haunting spectre of denial. To take cinema as transparent is to remain caught within a communicated messages model that had already been warded off as a mere propaganda tool, thus inviting ‘positive or negative valuation depending on one’s agreement or disagreement with the content of the propaganda’ (p. 46). The cultural content that haunts here is not a contained narrative or plot; MGR is not seen to be significant in any particular film, but across all films. Grand narrative returns as embodied persona. MGR plays the gods in general, and in the ‘socials’.

Cine-Politics is not just a fan book on the extraordinary and curious phenomenon of larger-than-life film stars, it is also a commentary upon issues of such long-term interest that the book will surely become the standard reference for persona studies and a major contribution to film theory, significant well beyond its subject area and location. In Ideology of the Hindi Film, the discussion of screen kissing and subsumption, the conjunction of melodrama and Marx, made that book an indispensable reference; now Prasad recaptures his pre-eminence via a regionalism that reaches out to place region at the centre of an already full field. This is the peculiar brilliance of a study that thereby changes everything at the same time, such that arguments about melodrama as the presentation of the ideology of the nation as family drama are now worked through not only Mother India, but via the regional cousins too. The family resemblance of subsumption, even as a difficult theoretical framework, is explained and reinforced with local detail. The films are described with a film buff’s affection, but the analysis relocates MGR, NTR and Rajkumar, and with a passing mention of Rajinikanth and Jayalalithaa, conceptually in the mainstream.

Along the way, the too-quick judgements of journalists and sociologists, who should know the context better, are exposed as inadequate. MGR was indeed a heart-throb and hero through many films, but the viewing public is not simply programmed or predetermined to worship personalities. Nor, despite NTR’s penchant for portraying deities, do these film stars somehow ‘replace’ the gods in the public’s estimation. Prasad displays a healthy scepticism here; even if there is some truth to the adoration and identification observed in such commentary, it does not in any way satisfy or explain the political appeal of personalities, or the persona role, for the stakes are higher than that. Prasad offers substantiation via statistics to show that, for example, NTR’s roles in ‘mythologicals’ were secondary and subsequent to his roles in ‘socials’, films about issues and themes of social relevance. Playing gods was not typecasting of him (p. 76); his ‘star’ recognition had already been established long before his first appearance as Lord Krishna in K.V. Reddy’s Mayabazar (1957).

Some questions remain for debate: is NTR’s election as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh subsumed under a greater regionalist Telugu politics, or is Telugu regionalism subsumed in NTR’s star narrative? Is how the theatre tradition gives way to mass popular film, where the allocation of roles within theatre groups moves towards a different kind of logic in that the central character acquires an importance, beyond the symbolic importance accorded to the drama itself (p. 99)? Does film technology figure deeply here, in close-ups, tracking shots and audience responses to stars, persona and life, and in ways relevant to ‘star systems in every popular cinema industry’ (p. 100)?

Gaps in the text can leave these questions open, and this might help us think for ourselves. What perhaps is needed is a larger chapter on MGR’s co-star and political successor, Jayalalithaa Jayaram. We can perhaps understand why she only receives a short discussion in the appendix, but it could be fruitful to consider how continuity might have played out if the book had taken on her mastery of self-presentation and indeed ‘fan Bakhti’ in both film and politics. Here, regional analysis of the particularity of South Indian films of a specific time and context shows that the figures of MGR, NTR and Rajkumar, as well as Jayalalithaa in particular, can be understood as ‘roles’ or personas who extend beyond the film text into the socio-political in unprecedented ways. The ‘socials’ too contain specific characters for whom patronage and clientelism prevail, but also in which uplift projects and social programmes are initiated in the generic name of the star. The cine-political is not star charisma at the ballot box, nor is it a propaganda vehicle, but a moment in the history of cinema when specific audiences have been prepared to follow the leadership of on-screen political investments orchestrated by adept political operatives—and then act to consecrate such figures as leaders. It is with this that Prasad’s text is full of suggestive insights inviting further analysis. For example, he notes how an actor’s persona across films ‘begins to communicate through other channels than the films’ and even in ‘parallel to the diegetic content of the narrative’ (p. 142). His commentaries centre on enthusiasm, sovereignty, language, ideology and the commodification, and even mass reproduction, of star persona effects (p. 184). With these openings, Prasad’s thoughtful and thought-filled volume should become a classic of film studies, and not only for its regional specificity.

Notes

1. Madhava M. Prasad, ‘Singular But Double-Entry: Paul Willamen’s Proposals for a Comparative Film Studies’, in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Vol. 14, no. 1 (2013), p. 9.

2. Ibid., p. 10

3. M. Madhava Prasad, Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Click this link if you got this far.

Statues – 1970 Kolkata.

Mrinal Sen’s great film Interview begins with a few shots of the removal of colonial statues from the Maidan in Calcutta, shipped off to a closed space in Barrackpur Cantonment. You can enable the player here and watch the film (and so many others, its a treat):

https://indiancine.ma/grid/year/year==1970&language==Bengali&productionCompany==Mrinal_Sen_Productions

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Bollywood and women

For the reminder files, an email response to a student met doing Capital in India proposing a PhD on women in Bollywood. I'm not sure I'm the one to ask and if my response is any help, but here it is:

"Sorry its taken a few days to get back to you properly. I have been travelling.

I've read your research proposal and thought about what you ask, and mainly I have some questions for you before I can answer really. Well, I can make some guesses at what you might want as an answer and give some suggestions, but really I'm not clear enough on your circumstances to best advise.

There are some corrections to be made on your text, but they are minor grammar ones and hardly the sort of thing that matters, especially if this is a draft that will change. I've ignored them as they are minor infelicities of speaking, extra prepositions and so on. Mistakes anyone can make in a longer text. So, first question – is this a draft?

IF this is a draft, are you committed to this study in this form? I mean, the image analysis, textual analysis, and interviews with spectators aspect seems, well, of a certain vintage. Is this kind of analysis the best we can do? Will it provide any result that achieves what you perhaps want it to – and, most importantly, what is that? What is the purpose of the analysis in the widest possible sense? The promotion of women in films? An understanding of this? A critique of this? There are many other possibilities.

I ask about this because there are people you might seek to work with who have done similar sorts of studies, using similar methodologies. I can suggest some perhaps. There are others who would possibly seek out students to do things a bit differently.

Another similar question, which shapes who might be suggested as a person to work with for PhD has to do with your engagement with a certain version of feminism. There are of course many versions, and not all scholars would put Laura Mulvey and Angela McRobbie in the same box, and some might find their work dated as well – there are others, doing good work. And not necessarily white western feminists. Of course not all women of colour feminists are the same also – ranging from identity to feminism-marxism you of course find the same range of variation. You must at least engage with these scholars. I guess I am asking if for this study you even need the version of western feminism that you set out in your draft?

Maybe you do want to do a study that is particularly focussed upon some version of feminism like that of McRobbie. I cannot think then who to suggest, but you could ask her. Similarly, you could ask Laura Mulvey. But then, I'd suggest asking someone like Meeta Rani Jha for advice. Actually she did interviews with women viewers of Bollywood film for her PhD. I've not read it in its final version, but read early chapters a can confidently say I am sure its really very good. I'd encourage you to look her up. I am not sure if she is teaching now, but she is on facebook.

My next set of questions are also pretty naive on my part. But why do you want to go abroad to do this research? If it is to connect to western feminism, then it of course makes sense, but for a PhD from abroad… well, the reasons are several, but in this day and age it is not a matter of access to materials. With good internet you can get everything you need in India book4you.org, and sci-hub though surely questionable sites in terms of copyright, will get you any text you need. My strong belief is that you should choose where to do your PhD by going to work with someone whose writing you really like.

That may be, as noted, Mulvey or McRobbie. Or someone else. There are certainly people in India that would be great to work with on this topic. If you have not considered this, then you must – IIT Kharagpur has Anjali Gera Roy and she is doing great and I think original work. Of course there are other stars in India eg SV Srinivas is really great, there is Moinak Biswas and Abhijit Roy at Jadavpur of course (as you know) and Madava Prashad in Hyderabad.

Anjali Gera Roy's work is not well enough known yet:
Gera Roy, Anjali (2010) '"Global flows": Ethnographic Studies of the Hindi Movie in Africa', Journal of African Literature and Culture 7(8):33-48.
Gera Roy, Anjali ed (2012) The Magic of Bollywood: At Home and Abroad, New Delhi: Sage.
Gera Roy, Anjali (2015) Cinema of Enchantment: Perso-Arabic Genealogies of the Hindi Masala Film, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan.

Then, maybe there are other reasons for you wanting not to be in India – social, political even. I will not judge. Then you should look first to whose writing you like, then try to work with them. Have you heard of Rajinder Dudrah?

Check out:
Dudrah, Rajinder (2002) 'Vilayati Bollywood: Popular Hindi Cinema-going and diasporic South Asian identity in Birmingham (UK)', Javnost, 9(1): 19-36.
Dudrah, Rajinder (2006) Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies, London: Sage.
Dudrah, Rajinder (2012) Bollywood Travels: Culture, Diaspora and Border Crossings in Popular Hindi Cinema, London: Routledge.
Dudrah, Rajinder, Elke Mader and Bernhard Fuchs (2015) SRK and Global Bollywod, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Raminder Kaur at Sussex University would be someone to consider working with. she has done brilliant work on a wider range of things, all of it is great.

See her works, among others:
Kaur, Raminder (2003) Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism: Public Uses of Religion in Western India New Delhi: Permanent Black.
Kaur, Raminder (2013) Atomic Mumbai: Living with the Radiance of a Thousand Suns. Routledge, India.
Kaur, Raminder and Ajay J Sinha (2005) Bollyworld: Popular Cinema Through a Transnational Lens, New Delhi: Sage

I do not know if it is my place to even raise this, but have you funds for a PhD abroad in one of the expensive places (UK, USA)? I mean, there is very little chance of funding for Indian nationals for UK and US so its a big lottery if you are not already of independent means. Cost of living plus fees in the UK would reach £30,000 per year. Do not even consider converting that into rupees unless you are ready for the shock.

Which means, considering some of the less costly places to do a PhD.

There is Tejaswini Niranjana at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. I've no idea about fees there, or cost of living in Hong Kong, but the University is good and Tejaswini is a great scholar.

Of course I am not ruling out he US or UK if you have funds, and there are many people there.

I don't know enough about where and why you want to go. I repeat again that I think you should choose based on who you want to work with. Of course prestige of a programme also matters to some people (employers also) but in terms of quality of the research, you want to work with the people you think are the best.

I have not included anything specifically on women in my book just finished a few months ago, but I did try to survey what I thought was interesting in South Asian film studies in the recent period. Since some of the people I discuss are not mentioned by you, perhaps you would like to look at the book. I include it here (please NOT to forward to anyone). It will come out in India later this year I hope, also in more costly version in the UK. Its attached.

Check out form the bibliography there the work of Jigna Desai, Amit Rai, and Ajay Gahlawat.

You might consider working with the wonderful Earl Jackson at National Chao Tung University Taiwan. Their cultural studies dept, where I have been visiting prof and so has Madava Prashad, is really well respected. And Hsinchu is a very interesting city.

In the US also look at the work of H Mann, references in my book bibliography.

I hope it might be of interest and/or stimulate further thoughts. I'm sorry it was not in my competence to write anything particularly good on the role of women in films, though of course I do discuss related issues inevitably, Fire, Parched etc…

The book was what I was working on when we met. After working on it intensely after classes through that month, it was finished soon after.

Good luck
John"

Begum Jaan – trailer (remake of Rajkahini, রাজকাহিনী)

For those in need of an alternative to Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House, in April 2017 we will get the Hindi film Begum Jaan, I hope soon also for a UK release. It is a remake of Rajkahini by the same director, Srijit Mukherji.

Impressed that the fire stuntsperson managed a fair impersonation of the map of india in this scene from the trailer.

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Watch the trailer here.

Since Begum Jaan ‘is the Hindi adapted version of Bengali movie Rajkahini’, the promoters have taken the remake principle to heart as a marketing strategy by staging a debate as to who is the better Begum, Vidya Balan or Rituparna Sengupta?? See here for the way to beat this up into a smart promotional angle with a series of other character match-ups.

The trailer for Rajkahini (2015) is here, of course with Tagore song…:

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and if you are into mapmaking its a tragic feast…

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Bangladeshi Cinema and Tanvir Mokammel’s “1971”, a review of John Hood’s ‘The Bleeding Lotus’

Hood

::

Prepare yourself for trauma. John Hood’s book The Bleeding Lotus: Notions of nation in Bangladeshi Cinema (2015, Palimpsest) is not intended primarily as a gore-fest horror but is the more devastating for being a documentation of real and brutal violence on film, presented in relentlessly modest prose, requiring careful and sustained, if confronting, reading.

 

Hood begins his wonderful study of Bangladeshi cinema with an all too cute first line recognition that there were still many people who were ‘born in India, grew up in East Pakistan’ and who, he is writing in 2015, without having travelled, now ‘live in Bangladesh’ (Hood 2015:14). His next 200 pages document that bloody and violent history, tracking films from Zahir Raihan’s Stop Genocide (1971), Tariq and Catherine Masud’s Ontarjatra (2006) through to Nasiruddin Yousuff’s Guerrilla (2011), all the while in extended (short) book length commentary on Tanvir Mokammel’s epic three-hour documentary 1971 (2011). An elegiac annotation of the horrors of partition, language conflicts, civil war, and other assassinations and atrocities, the discussion is all the while shot through with solemn insights about Mokammel’s other films. Hood’s book casts up an ensemble – if that term can be used – that includes the rapist Pakistani military, the bloated bodies of murdered women, groups of dead children in a screen violence perhaps unprecedented, and a horrific witness: ‘deeply moving, powerful visuals’ (Hood 2015:75).

 

Hood knows Bangladesh, and his descriptions of movies that treat the events of the 1971 war, the Pakistan Army, the Razakar collaborators and the resistance, are comprehensive and relentless. Returning over and over to Mokammel’s 1971 with intuition and argumentation, the commentary and synopsis of a great many related films, documentary and feature, are hung on this bleakly enticing frame. The overwhelming humanity of the treatment obliges close attention (many of the films are online, albeit sans subtitles for non-Bengalis). No other film scholars are mentioned and little obvious debt to film theory is required, but the writing is fluent, engaging and engaged. One learns both of Bangladeshi film and and of the difficult birth of Bangladesh as nation, in a fraught emergence which cannot be reduced to a concert or a newsreel summation. Hood shows more clearly than anyone else I have read on this subject that the secularist revolutionary struggle for Bangladeshi freedom was heroic and so are the films, in various degrees of cinematic dress and competence, not spared any necessary critique where warranted, but all in all informative and done with care.

 

The problem of circuits infects film distribution as it does publishing or politics, imposing an hierarchy of visibility and voices according to who shouts loudest with which speaker system. Distribution costs money or favours and without vast resources, sensation and political intrigue substitute for worth. Thus it can be that the most widely viewed documentary ‘evidence’ of the Pakistani Army atrocities is a film that owed its international renown to a cross-border machinations by someone previously not much into the business of facilitating film reviews. As Hood argues in discussion of Zahir Raihan’s Stop Genocide (1971):

 

‘Released even before the war was over [this] was perhaps the earliest cinematic expression of a people’s aspiration for freedom in the face of an occupation army’s inhuman barbarity. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi bought the film rights and had it distributed around the world to project the excesses of the Pakistani military [and so] to justify the Indian intervention’ (Hood 2015:17)

 

Never previously had a twenty minute film found such unlikely international backing, as Indira also used the cover of the war intervention to quash urban Naxals at home. It is then not without irony that Stop Genocide begins with a quote from Lenin and a refrain from ‘The Internationale’, before shadows of palms and the sound of marching boots, barking dogs, and gunfire. Lines of refugees – stop – close-ups of hungry faces and wide abject eyes – stop – the return of revolutionary anthem as a pleading dirge at the end smears misery across the screen, exceeded only with a reference to Auschwitz – stop, stop stop Genocide across the final frames.

 

What further circulates, however, supported in turn by that indubitably well-meaning and necessary Concert for Bangladesh, starring George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, is the globally distributed image of Bangladesh as a space of trauma. Abject nationhood sells, in the hands of such philanthropic friends. Other films or images of a tranquil Bangladesh find distribution deals harder to come by unless they can market the exoticist angles.

 

Hood’s lyrical description of the opening sequence of Morshedul Islam’s Khalaghar (PlayHouse, Dir. Islam, 2006) illustrates the dual tendencies in more recent times:

 

‘The setting is a lush and dense tract of riverbank. The camera focuses on a boat coming along the relatively narrow and secluded stretch of the river. Other than the boatman nothing comes into view; the only other sound than the splash of water by the moving punt is a gentle twittering of birds. It is a truly idyllic scene, which lasts for just about two minutes before the boatman draws to the bank under the cover of low over-hanging branches and in scary silence six young men emerge from the jungle behind the camera to meet the boat. Without a word the boatman proceeds to unload a cargo of arms, passing out guns to the men on the bank. Not a word is spoken’ (Hood 2015:122-3)

 

Reflections in the water play an important role in the sequence, ripples and shimmering in the image, the youth collecting the guns framed under the tree, before a bell rhythm introduces the opening credits. It is a full five and a half minutes before a word is spoken, when the teacher is informed of news about the fight for freedom. The idyll contrasts with an indication of the guerrilla war. Hood is right to double up on noting that words are unnecessary for the effect. Bangladesh, like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are rendered as paradise with violence; only sand, dust, mountains, or swollen rivers are interchangeable, and these stereotyped images, along with the all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood ready reckoner, circle the globe. Partition horrors, the emergency and the pogroms dull the tune. Of course other images and critiques of stereotypes are possible. A counter-narrative is found in Humayan Ahmed’s Shyambol Chhaya (2004) where towards the end the Bengali freedom fighters approach a Pakistani Army post disguised as musicians, who, when they get close enough, ‘exchange their instruments for guns and grenades’ (Hood 2015:140). This book and these films take us beyond the lingering consequences of long years of colonial misrule, restoring initiative where there is otherwise only the fading of the vibrant Raj pink of Empire’s nostalgic fantasy – rose-coloured as if the Jallianwalah Bagh massacre of unarmed civilians or Churchill’s wartime ‘necessary’ famine were mere administrative anomalies. If Empire left its outcomes in arbitrary lines and compromises that were unworkable from the get go, Islam’s film Khalaghar, Mokammel’s 1971, and Hood’s book as a whole, alongside many other films and commentary (Prasad et al.,) are efforts to help us negotiate the difficulties and stereotypes that refuse, perhaps especially through invitation and containment, to otherwise succumb to critique.

Film India archive

Pretty excited to find parts of the FilmIndia archive online, especially 1948 with a (idiosyncratic) review of Sunny’s Mela (stars Nargis and Dilip Kumar). Also I am quite taken by the concept of ’emotional masochism’ used to describe the film. Other films reviews are in a caustic tone, with the phrase ‘hotch-potch’ appearing in at least three article titles I read, and ‘hotch-potch of coincidences’ possibly the most often repeated phrase. But great details, covers, and things not to be forgotten. Full credit for making this available (John McElwee donation to the Media History Digital Library, scanned from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art Library). A lock on resources, but opened up a little, thanks heaps.

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Orientalism for kids – again

Am gearing up for another round of kiddy tv and hoping there are new programmes since the mind worms of Iggle Piggle and Peppa Pig did their damage. This time Theodor and I are reviewing the options for Annabel’s rapidly arriving toddler indoctrination sessions. First exhibit on review is Nicklodious’s ‘Shimmer and Shine’.

Flying carpets, shalwar kameez, wayang kulit shadow puppets, princesses and dragons (with bad breath). The two genies have 3 wishes an episode to bestow, of course wishes go astray, are wasted frivolously, but a lesson is learned. Nothing new then, and some pretty standard 1001 nights fare, along with a geography-hopping sampling of almost any magical tradition anywhere. Ok, not so worried about that, but there is a dad who eats popcorn – very suspicious. He may work in films. Big eyed anime influence, suburban values and cinema in-jokes. Does the obvious fun they had making this mean the stereotypes are somehow undone? Nope, but a popcorn munching genie is better than that 60s comedy dream of Barbara Eden.

Oh damn, there’s a prince in it, daft boy in specs – and now sitar fusion cartoon songs. I preferred the Beatles cartoon trip to India bit posted on my film course blog.
This is what we do on Sunday mornings…

trashed film paragraph on Reagan-Arnie-Trump

I dunno where else to dump this, which will now not be used in a review I was writing on regional film traditions:


Yet here is a topic ripe for serious comparative consideration if one, as necessity needs must, thinks across to the USA where a movie star became president, another became state governor – and only missed his ultimate ‘I’ll be back’ moment of becoming president because he was ineligibly born in Europe. Presently a real estate mogul is republican frontrunner on a virulently crazy platform of thinking Jesus wants him for a sunbeam (hat-tip Gore Vidal), his finger itching to blow immigrants, Moslems, Mexicans, Ruskies and whoever else to kingdom come. Reagan was a comic actor after all, Schwarzenegger a muscleman, or mechanical robot – his nuanced performance as a machine is itself interestingly dialectical. There are, nevertheless, distinct kinds of heroes in the social films – the robin hood character, the working class hero, the prince among fools – such that affection can build upon identification of repeated performance in such roles. Reagan did not benefit from the monkey movies perhaps, but the muscle man for California makes a certain Sky-net sci-fi sense.

Review of Ewa Mazierska and Lars Kristensen (eds.) (2014) Marx at the Movies

This very good review by Bruce Williams in Film-Philosophy.

of

Ewa Mazierska and Lars Kristensen (eds.) (2014) Marx at the Movies: Revisiting History, Theory and Practice, London: Palgrave Macmillan. 293 pp.

 

includes a nice summary of my chapter:

In the realm of the classical cinema, John Hutnyk’s ‘Citizen Marx/Kane’ draws a parallel between Citizen Kane and Marx’s book (218-243). When read together, these two seemingly disparate works symbiotically enrich the viewer’s understanding of both. Through an exploration of such notions as the allegory of property, philosophic biography, and the fetishisation of objects, Hutnyk asserts that a Hollywood classic like Kane can render Capital relevant to the present day. He illustrates that what we see in the film that is not in Marx’s book ‘is the personification of a class system’ (240). For Hutnyk, a Marxist reading of Welles’ film serves to debunk the obscuring of the oppressive regime of capital and the alibis in the name of philanthropy that capitalists deploy ‘for their acquisitive plunder’ (240).

 

 

Read the whole review: Bruce Williams in Film-Philosophy.

Europe for President (2008)

Excellent. I love films about presidential campaigns, <so am downloading this for sure>. Remember the one with Warren Beatty, yeah, then there was Travolta in one, wasn’t he like being Clintonesque – Bill not Hilary – and doing the whole Southern fried handshake from the elbow thing. <Only one hour of downloading to go before I can watch this, yaay>. Oh, and Josiah Edward Bartlett, the greatest US president ever, of course he was more European, but I watched the West Wing all though like twice, at least – <just 323 mb to go – exciting> – and then there was the one with Michael bloody Douglas. Ok, that was a bit like pulling teeth, but because I am mad for President films, I watched it all the way through. Hell, I even watched All the presidents Men, hoping that was a comedy too, like Primary Colours was. And Independence Day, that had a believable president. The very idea – hopefully addressed in your film Thomas? – of the entertainment of the Oval Office. I mean, I grew up with Nixion. <1 hr to go>. I am going to keep on writing about President films until its watchable – because you know, vimeo is slow unless its downloaded and I want my own copy to post and share, because we do need a Europea for prez. <God, vimeo has a 1000 character limit on comments so I am continuing here>. There was Nixon/Frost of course, and the Nixon film proper by Oliver Stone. One of the first things I can recall ever being played over the school announcement system, besides the British National Anthem, which was the Australian one then too, was Nixon’s I am not a crook speech. Formative. Then, the Kennedy Assassination, and the Kennedeys box set series and the Kennedy this and that. Oh, fuck it, once you get to that you are really scraping the barrel. Zapruder? Get a tripod, hold that camera still – it just cries out fake authenticity doesn’t it. Donald Duck cartoon president campaign, I should mention that. Maybe not. Might do a search as I think there was a Bugs Bunny one too, with Elmer Fudd as Dick Cheney – or did I make that up? Well it is an election year, or, no, its not, but it always seems like it. Fake democracy shovelled down our throats all the time, as if New Hampshire were the fount of all democracy – should try actual democracy for a change, it takes a lot more meetings I am sure. And time <more time than it takes to download this vid>. What is democratic about delegating decision making to an unrecallable cabal of high finance lobby-group selected preening puppets? Oh, you already got the puppetry metaphor going strong in this film. <Yep I’ve watched the first couple of minutes now, settling in for the long haul, just 58 minutes of downloading to go>. <a brief word from our sponsors while I post this on Trinketization> And I am back. <81MB downloaded>. I think its actually unloading, I had more downloaded before the break. What about the Lincoln film? I should talk about that, he was a prez, but his media savvy was way up on today’s candidates. I mean, even getting a letter written by Marx from the IWMA. Vote-winer that for sure – and really, I guess Marx’s tone is a bit mocking hyperbole. I bet he would have loved the golden era ot television we live in that brings us all these great presidential tv things. I mean, Geena Davis as the Commender in Chief we would want but will never get her and there is no way HC could be like that, and of course it was just a cash-in really, on Borgen. Now, you used to be Danish right, so you gonna give that a run for its money? <98mb> Oh, just remembered that Star Wars has-been Harrison Ford was president on a hijacked plane in one Presidential film frappery. Talk about your war on terror Air Force one spooky allegory/bad pun potential. I don’t think it was intended as a comedy that one, but it was. The problematic of movie stars as candidates was trialled of course in South India with MGR and NTR, never having the momentum to win national office of course, I don’t even know if they desired such, but they took their states with huge margins well before Arnie Governator paved the way for the rerun of Bush Wacker George – <wheeee 104 mb downloaded>. I am on this like a rash on an interns… No, lets not go there. I was trying to remember the Warren Beatty prez character, but it was just bad, didn’t he go a bit rogue? Not anywhere close to Josiah there. Jammy Foxx in White House Down – the less said about that one the better. <AND this is getting old… so, folks, download this film, it is gonna brighten up your day>. Four More Years Four More Years <I hope that is not how long it takes> Go TA.

Sharmistha Gooptu’s ‘Bengali Cinema’ 2010

have just finished Sharmistha Gooptu’s wonderfully detailed book Bengali Cinema: An Other Nation, and while I understand her decision not to write about Ghatak and Sen et al, I do hope there is a follow up. For sure this will not be the first time such a lament has been aired, but I think there must be a sequel since leaving things pretty much at the end of Apur Sansar is a jolt. Even though there are a dozen pages that skim through the 70s and 80s, the text really stopped at the detailed description of Chatterjee as Apu and this suggests more to come – can only hope there is a sequel that engages with Apu’s subsequent political mobilisation…

Sharmistha Gooptu seems to be custodian of an archive of filmi memorabilia, you can see some of it here.

Ustad Alaudin Khan – by Ritwik Ghatak

(24 mins of music doco from 1963)

someone asked why I posted this. . OK. Maybe because Alaudin Khan was the father of Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi, uncle of Raja Hossain Khan, and guru of Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee, Vasant Rai, Pannalal Ghosh and more…

And that isn’t even to get started on the great films Ritwik Ghatak.

Big Fight, punchy new book to come… #India #Media #Film #SouthAsia (if I can get the final edits done this weekend).


Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 22.47.58“TV is now increasingly entertainment. News is entertainment. You have to create some element of entertainment … people shouting at each other … or some kind of conflict. It is not always about information. I am not saying in the Big Fight you don’t try to inform but if the entertainment element was not there the programme would probably not have survived. You have to package it … First Punch, Second Punch … Otherwise who will see? There has to be some heat” (Sardesai interviewed in Mehta 2008:255)

(these pictures are not directly linked to the quote, which is about NDTV 24X7 news coverage as part of the new book < but there is indeed discussion of the film also>)

<Mary Kom was the winner of the 2008 World Boxing Championship>

the mortality of paraphrase – book scraps left on the cutting room floor.

It has often been noted that war is hell, or ‘heck’ in the old 1970s ‘M*A*S*H’ anti-war comedy version, but the cold war too has its unwelcome replays as austerity today, this time as grotesque rerun of terror and economic malaise.

For many in the West, a first look at ‘Asia’ came with Altman’s 1970 film M*A*S*H following the adventures of a front line medical unit in the Korean war, but the Vietnam War was the allegorical context. The long-running television series featured Alan Alda as Hawkeye and his bumbling foil Major Frank Burns, an incompetent officer and surgeon played by Larry Lindville, who offered the mortal paraphrase – ‘war is heck’. An occasional character, the paranoid Colonel Flag, played by Edward Winter, should also be remembered for his surrealist reinforcement of the absolute winning incoherence of the phrase ‘military intelligence’.

Notes to self – South Asian film and TV from here, where, now.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 13.25.49Writing far from the UK, thinking about South Asian film and diaspora from another corner of Asia, and given trends and movements, the angular influences of culture are thrown into sharp relief. How we figure patters of production and consumption of popular culture is never simple. Even influences are not readily tracked when they are apparent: the old reception models, and the dissemination models that proffered a uni-directional distributive formula from an advanced centre, are faulty. The ‘americanization of popular culture in Asia’, as critiqued by Allen Chun when he stresses the importance of how we ‘perceive the concatenated entity called pop music culture in a local context’ (Chun 2012:503), should remind us that received models are hardly adequate for mapping patterns of practice and use. Hollywood does not shape Bollywood, and French New Wave did not shape Bengali new wave – Mrinal Sen et al – despite it being the case that the connectivity here is obvious to media historians, if not always to all viewers. What does it matter if so-called scholarship makes connections that publics – there are always more than one – might not? We are in a plural universe and there are plural Asias, travelling in several directions at once. At least.

For example, cosmopolitan and transnationalising nomad that I am (ahem, I wish) I am at present absent-mindedly watching what I assume to be the show ‘Japan Idol’ on an overhead TV in a Korean bbq joint. I may be wrong, I am in Japan, but given the restaurant, this could also be ‘Korean Idol’; how to tell without tuning in more carefully? I dismiss the effort, and let this just be, this time, background, even though the sound is awful, cranked out through not very state of the art loudspeakers, although it is not overbearing. I am simultaneously concerned with my meal, typing up notes from reading, and avoiding looking at Facebook. What concerns me most is the preparation I should really be doing, but I am also only attending to it with part of my admittedly lazy brain. I’ve a language lesson and should be better prepared for a test coming up in an hour. Japan/Korean Idol as revision session perhaps? It might be ‘Supergirl’, from China (see Jian and Liu 2009), so I already know that is not really going to help, even though I seem to be able to process popular culture and its moves more than I can the declensions of nouns or the – nightmare – pictographs of Kanji.

My students walk into class with iPhone buds in their ears. They also listen to ‘Japan Idol’, and more or less tolerate my insistence on subjecting them to music from old Indian cinema, or diasporic British South Asian sounds, and commentaries. The point of reference at first, to get them interested, was The Beatles, but they also show me the influence of other traditions and ideas that lead them to an interest in India and this course, and I realise that the direction and question of influence is never straightforward. Despite being able to point to ‘the discursive construction of an “East Asian Popular Culture” as an object of analysis (Chua 2006:200) the criss-crossing of national borders extends and extends. Of course this is true for film, music, television drama, comic books, magazines, websites and fashion magazines. In Japan the visibility of Bollywood, and more, of Bengali Art film, is less than some, but this term rather more than nothing. What they will make of it as they collect points and units for their degree awards is really not clear – the hope that the famous obsessive fandom of Japanese youth can be accessed to promote learning is of course not far away. I have something of that tendency for sure.

Also for the films of Ichikawa Kon, even though my students expected me only to know Kurusawa and maybe Ozu. I am able to introduce them to a great – lost? – figure from their own film culture. But it is Akira Kurusawa who was the better known in Bengal, and who is famously paired with Satyajit Ray as the twin stars of World Cinema from tis part of the world. Ichikawa Kon and Mrinal Sen are perhaps the two antithetical alternatives to that mainstream crown. Kon’s films are sometimes profound, sometimes comic, sometimes political, and while I will not belabour this analogy, and the depth of attachment of the Bengali public to Sen is possibly greater than the Japanese appreciation of their own Kon, I certainly class them together. That other book awaits another time however, even as I note also the potential to write such a comparison through the crucial importance of their wives as partner-actresses and muse-like support. No, that book must wait, my language class first. And in Bengal, Mrinal Sen himself is hopefully still to make another film, even though he is pushing towards his mid-90s as I write.

A consideration of unpublished – no, even unwritten – comparative tracts within Asia must immediately take into account the framing that such conversations might have in the wake of the emergence of two new economic ‘superpowers’ in the twenty-first century, China and India – which would have perhaps more significance in terms of encounter than that between east an west (Chakraborty 2012:138). I realise the word encounter has a particular history in at least one context here, but I don’t doubt the possibility of separating the brutality of one kind of encounter, with the police, and that more cosmopolitan and engagingly transnational encounter that might add to our cultural repertoire and sensitivities in the coming era. Here the importance of popular culture forms to adopt and borrow a myriad of styles – and even to ‘tame the exotic’ (Monty 2010:123) – offers a powerful allegory for cosmopolitanism even as it must always be remembered that borrowing and exchange has its hierarchies and power brokers all the way down. Remembering the argument made with Virinder Kalra that the visibility of cultural borrowing is just a first step of recognition, and that it matters what happens next (Kalra and Huntyk 2002), the simplistic celebration of hybridity as political vocation is also to be used with caution (see Kalra, Kaur and Hutnyk 2006).

Sometimes cultural representation goes off on its own and makes more mileage and covers more territory through technology than the efforts of contestation for space could ever achieve. Zee TV for example caters across Europe for South Asian diasporic expressive culture in ways that could not find, or have not yet found, mainstream visibility (Dudrah 2010:164). Perhaps the visibility is achieved through exactly the horizontal broadcast that Zee provides, unable to compete for space with national broadcasters forces a transnational and becoming dominant pan-European Asian television. China TV and NHK are somewhat far behind in this respect, and NDTV and web-based services do not yet viably compete. How would we start to valuate the implications of Zee-sharing on a greater South Asia, or, very plausible if we consider the reach of K-pop into Japan and other places, the softening of particular cultural traits for a kind of regional or trans-continental palatability. Contrast Amitabh Bachchan or Nargis with Shahrukh Khan or Ashwariya Rai, and you can begin to see how maybe some of the desi dust as been airbrushed away with today’s global stars.

[The picture is a still from Mela (1948) starring Dilip Kumar and Nargis, with music by Naushaud – and yes, I am aware its not diasporic film, but, its a pretty good film, with great songs, and I am writing about this also, for real]

COTTON FOR MY SHROUD (India 2011 75 min) – 26 May 2015 – plus ‘Damned’ 27/5/15 and ‘Candles in the Wind’ 28/5/15

You are invited to a unique free screening of this award-winning film, together with a Q&A session with the directors, Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl with John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want.

Tuesday 26th of May 2015

Doors open at 7.00 Screening at 7.15 and the programme finishes at 9.30pm

First Floor, Conference Centre, Garden Court Chambers, 57-60 Lincoln Inn Field, London WC2A 3LJ

Book your place with Eventbrite

Watch the trailer here

This is a story about cotton farmers in the Vidarbha region of the Indian state of Maharashtra. The film investigates how Monsanto, in collusion with the government and politicians, promoted genetically modified Bt Cotton field trials amongst farmers. This was accompanied by propaganda about high yields and reduction in pesticide use.

Vulnerable farmers were enticed to take out loans in order to pay for the GM seeds and the exorbitant prices of pesticides and fertilisers. They found themselves trapped in heavy debt to the money lenders on the one side, with cotton merchants manipulating prices downwards on the other.

With poor yields and high costs, many farmers found themselves with a mountain of debt that they could never hope to repay. In despair, the only way out they could see was to put an end to their lives by drinking pesticide, leaving behind widows and orphans.

A quarter of million farmers have committed suicide in India. If we had a comparable number of middle class professionals committing suicide, the world would not be silent. The film depicts a heartless world where capital and its sibling debt kills daily.

…………………………………………….

Myrdle Court Press, Invitation!

‘Dammed’
Screening & Discussion

Join us for a free screening of ‘Dammed’ followed by a discussion with the directors Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl.

Wednesday 27 May 6-8:30PM Unite Auditoriam 128 TheoBalds Road, WC1X 8TN London

“Dammed challenges the paradigm of development that assumes mega dams are critical to notions of progress”.

The film follows the Narmada struggle in 2012 when the NHDC (The Dam Corporation) raised the water level of Onkareshwar Dam, defying court orders.

The dreaded submergence was at hand. No alternate land, livelihood or compensation was provided. This was the last straw. In the face of this corpo-political apathy, the villagers of Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh resisted – sitting in the rising waters, submerged neck-deep for 17 days.
Join us to speak with the film-makers about this specific situation, along with a critical discussion on the politics of caste, privilege and image-making.

Watch the trailer

RSVP via FB.

Reserve free tickets via Eventbrite

…………………………………………….

South Asia Solidarity Group invite you to a Film screening of the award-winning

‘Candles in the Wind’ (India 2014 52 min)

Followed by Q & A with the directors Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl

7.00pm Thursday 28 May
(doors open at 6.30pm)

Room V111, SOAS Vernon Square Campus,

Vernon Square, Penton Rise, WC1X 9EW

(nearest tube: King’s Cross)

Free (booking not required)

Punjab is known globally as the success-story of India’s Green Revolution. Popular cinema from Bollywood keeps this carefully cultivated image alive. This image is a mirage.

Behind the smokescreen of an idyllic Punjab, there is real smoke, from the smouldering pyres of the farmers who are driven to suicide by the debt burden due to high costs of seeds, fertilisers and pesticides set by the almighty corporations in collusion with the State.

With suicides of men spiralling, women are left to bear the burden of their debt, and the responsibilities of taking care of children, ageing parents and the chemically-abused fields.

‘Candles in the Wind’ witnesses the silent determination of these women to survive and struggle against the politics of domination. The film provides a unique insight into the effects of neoliberal globalisation on rural India and the socioeconomic flux which has accompanied it.

Watch the trailer for <a href="http://youtu.be/S__AsI0VKSc Candles in the Wind

Awards: Special Mention, 61st National Film Awards / India; John Abraham National Film Award for Best Documentary / SiGNS Film Festival / Kerala / 2014; Special Mention / IDSFFK / Trivandrum / 2014; Official Selection: Indian Panorama-2014, IFFI-Goa.

Nandan Saxena & Kavita Bahl are independent filmmakers and media trainers.
They received the National Award for Best Investigative Film at the National Film Awards (2011), for the film ‘Cotton for my shroud’. It was screened as ‘Headline Film’ at the World Investigative Film Week at London in 2013.
Almost two decades into filmmaking, they work in the genres of documentary and poetry films. Their oeuvre spans the domains of ecology, livelihoods, development and human rights.

Their most recent film ‘I cannot give you my Forest’ has been awarded the ‘Rajat Kamal’ for the Best Film in Environment, including Agriculture at the National Film Awards (For 2014).

Don Quixote unfinishing again?

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Terry Gilliam still has windmills in his mind, and though the impossible might happen, the unfinishing of this movie with sorrowful countenance is all too common – Orson Welles unfinished one, Gilliam has tried about four times, with Paul Rochefort, Johnny Depp, Euan McGregor, Michael Palin and Gerard Depardieu all unfinishing roles in various versions. There is a great filmed sequence of Depp debating with a fish in ‘Lost in La Mancha’ (2002). I hope this eventually gets on its horse – Rocinante – but not just as a rush job.

This article suggests it is back on, and if there was a way to check bookings on the Canary Islands in October, I would. My unfinished Quixote awaits a second versioning, after the first one got a Melbourne Uni theatre writers grant way back in 1989. I do not see this as pressing I suppose, but the article below previews some new art (main image) done for Gilliam by Dave Warren, which is seemingly suitable for parabalizing interpretation with contemporary political reach. Not that Gilliam will necessarily see it that way, but if he is prepared to consider Palin as the knight, I think radical detournement of his bumbling white supremacist/national treasure role is required.

While those who fervently hope Terry Gilliam finally, actually manages to get his dream/nightmare project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote made have had their hearts broken before, the driven director announced last October that he was dreaming the impossible dream once again. To keep us all excited, Gilliam has now released the first piece of concept art for the latest gambit.

Crafted by Dave Warren – who worked with Gilliam on ‘The Zero Theorem’ and ‘The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus’ – it’s certainly a compelling image, and comes complete with a Facebook message from the director: “Dreams of Don Quixote have begun again. Dave Warren has started doodling. Will we get the old bastard back on his horse this year? Human sacrifices welcomed. Stay tuned.” Hopefully it won’t quite need that much in the way of good fortune.

“We’ll see if it happens,” Gilliam said back in October. “This is kind of my default position, going back to that. I actually just want to make it and get rid of it. Get it out of my life! I don’t know if it will be good or bad. The dangerous thing is that a lot of people are waiting for it, so I can disappoint a lot of people maybe.” ….

Vision Mix 13.5.2014

visionFace to face (201)) Gigi Scaria [Digital print on archival paper. Image courtesy of the artist]

 

VisionMix international artists’ and filmmakers’ network presents a screening of

“VisionMix Short Cuts” film, followed by a Roundtable.

 

When: 19.00 to 21.00, Tuesday 13th May 2014 

Where: SOAS, University of London, Old Building Khalili Lecture Theatre

Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square London, WC1H 0XGhttp://www.soas.ac.uk/visitors/location/maps/

http://www.soas.ac.uk/ssai/events/13may2014-visionmix-short-cuts.html

 

VisionMix is an international network of video and sound installation artists and documentary filmmakers whose members are based in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and London. Launched in October 2013, VisionMix’s aim is to explore the agency of the artist in lens-based media projects that are acts of resistance, investigating the relationship between the social responsiveness of ‘documentary’ practices, video installation art and other audio/visual art forms. Whether dealing with issues of gender, environmental challenges, migration or issues around ‘marginality’, the ways in which these works mobilize audiences invites questions about the methods used in their production. VisionMix is also planning exhibition-screenings and symposia in the UK and in India in 2015-17.

The film, “VisionMix Short Cuts”  (55 minutes) showcases 12 artists and filmmakers from the India-based members of VisionMix, whose directors have contributed samples of their work, and are interviewed about their practise. These are: Atul Bhalla, Sheba Chhachhi, Ranbir Kaleka, Priyanka Chhabra, Anupama Srinivasan, Sameera Jain, Gigi Scaria, Asim Waqif, Paramita Das, Moutushi, Avijit Mukul Kishore and Kavita Joshi. VisionMix’s curator (and director of this anthology) Lucia King, is an artist-filmmaker and researcher of South Asian artists’ non-fiction film practices, and will contextualize the film after the screening.

The post-screening roundtable invites the UK-based VisionMix associates to explore how local predicaments and today’s art (and non-fiction film) industries are contributing to the artists assumed forms of public intervention, the themes and tactics used in these projects. VisionMix welcomes students, curators, art historians, industry professionals, researchers, filmmakers, artists and those interested in new media developments on an international stage, to join this discussion.

For more information: lucia@luciaking.co.uk

Channeling Cultures – a great new book edited by Abhijit Roy and Biswarup Sen (a chapter by me, and afterword by Arvind Rajagopal). Great to add to the growing chatter on TV and film in South Asia.

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Television plays a very important role in constructing and presenting images of Indian modernity. Channeling Cultures brings together scholars from various disciplines to locate television within multiple histories of the nation as well as current trajectories in global culture and politics. Building on analytical frameworks of postcoloniality, citizenship, democracy, development, globalization and consumerism, this volume addresses questions in televisual form, genre, identity, politics, affect, gender, body and sexuality, and explores regional, national, and global itineraries of Indian television.
Focusing on the genres of news, reality show, and soap opera, the book interrogates some of the standard assumptions of television studies and more broadly global media studies. It provides fresh perspectives on the transition of Indian television from a state monopoly to a market-driven system and liberalization’s nuanced relationships with Indian media in general. The arguments invite the reader to critically engage with many theoretical perspectives ranging from political economy to cultural studies that energize the field of research on Indian television. The book will interest all those looking to critically engage with television, media theory, and popular culture.

Buy it here OUP India

Citizen Marx/Kane

My text on reading Capital in the cinema- with Orson Welles (forthcoming in ‘Marx at the Movies’ – edited collection [email me for details if needed]).

 

The cinema hall as a place to sell Eskimo Pie.

 

‘No matter how many customers there are, it’s still an empty building’ (Orson Welles in Welles and Bogdanovich 1998: 8)

 

This chapter addresses the question of how, today, to start reading that rich book that is Marx’s Capital:– of which an immense, even monstrous, accumulation of commentary on the Marxist mode of literary production appears to have already shaped its elementary forms. In reading Capital, if anything about beginnings should be considered necessary, it is usual to say it is good to start at the beginning – not always of course, but usually to start with what is immediately at hand. Commentaries, primers, prefaces, intros, first sentences, first chapters: start at the beginning and continue on from there. This is itself debated, but my argument is that we can only approach Capital through the already existing commentary, even as we would like to start as if the book were new. And the commentary that exists is not only that which is explicitly marked as such, but also includes all the ideas we have already received about so many things – about Marx, capitalism, communism, exchange, commodities, and so much more. A vast accumulation of things that filter reading, so that it would be naïve to simply say that materialism might start with things themselves, even if it makes sense to start with commodities, the objects that are the souvenirs or detritus of our lives.

 

The key to the beginning of volume one is where Marx starts with ‘a monstrous accumulation of commodities’ [‘ungeheure Waarensammlung’ – translation modified by author], but there are many possible starts and many people don’t get much further than chapter one, or they take chapter one as the ‘proper’ beginning. I want to suggest that there is something more here and so want to begin with something else, or even someone else, who might seem the total antithesis of the celebrated critic of the commodity system. A monstrous figure to expose the workings of monstrosity all the more (the monstrous will be explained). My reading is angular, so I choose a character from a parallel history of commerce, although glossed through a film. I have in mind William Randolph Hearst – moneybags – portrayed by Orson Welles in the classic film Citizen Kane. In this chapter, I want to develop this as an introduction to Capital, through its incarnation in the figure of moneybags Kane, and to begin to get at commodities through a focus on the kind of obscure, miniature, almost irrelevant and insignificant of objects to hand – those baubles and trinkets that mesmerise Kane, and us all.

Read the whole thing here: Citizen Marx-kane.

In the Name of the People

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The Royal African Society invites you to the launch of

In the Name of the People

Remembering Angola’s Forgotten Massacre: 27 May 1977 |Tuesday 20 May 2014, 7-8PM
Speakers: Lara Pawson, author; Ngola Nvunji, UK-based Angolan journalist and community activist; Keith Sommerville, lecturer, University of Kent. Chair: Mary Harper, Africa Editor, BBC.

On 27th May 1977, a small demonstration against the MPLA, the ruling party of Angola, led to the slaughter of thousands of people. These dreadful reprisals are little talked of in Angola today – and virtually unknown outside the country. In The Name of The People, journalist Lara Pawson’s new book, tracks down the story of what really happened in the aftermath of that fateful day. In a series of vivid encounters, she talks to eyewitnesses, victims and even perpetrators of the violent and confusing events of the 27th May and the following weeks and months. From London to Lisbon to Luanda, she meets those who continue to live in the shadow of the appalling events of 40 years ago and who – in most cases – have been too afraid to speak about them before. As well as shedding light on the events of 1977, the book contributes to a deeper understanding of modern Angola – its people and its politics. Join author Lara Pawson and a panel of experts to discuss the book and Angola’s past, present and future.

Date & Time: Tuesday 20 May 2014, 7-8PM

Venue: Brunei Suite, SOAS, WC1H 0XG

Register by clicking HERE

Film Screening and Bar Night

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from 7pm Friday 25th April

entry by donation, free popcorn and cheap drinks
hosted by Plan C London – all welcome
followed by a bar night and tunes

Finally Got the News (1970)
Produced in Association with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers
dir. Stewart Bird, Rene Lichtman, Peter Gessner, US, video, 55 min.

Finally Got the News is a forceful documentary that reveals the activities of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers inside and outside the auto factories of Detroit. Through interviews with the members of the movement, footage shot in the auto plants, and footage of leafleting and picketing actions, the film documents their efforts to build an independent black labor organisation that, unlike the UAW, will respond to worker’s problems, such as the assembly line speed-up and inadequate wages faced by both black and white workers in the industry.