About the lists: Calls to socially distance and self-isolate are driving people to look for things to watch. But the sheer amount of options out there can be overwhelming. For this reason, we at the Centre for Screen Cultures are producing themed playlists of film, video, and television so you can organise your own series or festival at home (or home school). They will update here and here: https://screenculture.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/category/media-playlists/
A playlist for Mapping Time by Eileen Rositzka:
After several weeks in lockdown and self-isolation we might feel that we are slowly losing track – of ourselves, of the world, of everything. In order to make sense of what is happening around us, we follow our basic mapping impulse – maybe not (only) by studying an actual map of our neighborhood, but by mentally organizing space and time of our being. That is, without getting all too philosophical about it: we think. And we are not alone. Films (or video projects and installations) think with and through us, presenting us with images, memories, and experiences that may challenge our everyday perception. This list is for those who like putting things into perspective – including questions, answers, and possibilities.
Encounters / His and Her Stories
As we know from history, maps have been made to chart (and dominate) supposedly unknown territories. When history gets personal, when an experience between walking the line and crossing borders becomes the story of someone’s life, confronting the unknown means to confront past events with present and future opportunities.
A foray into the science-fiction genre might be an obvious choice in this regard. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016) ticks all the boxes of an alien invasion movie, but it is a rather contemplative film about a woman who basically tries to save the world. Without giving away too much, the plot can be summarized as follows: Linguistics professor Louise Banks decodes the sign language of so-called ‘heptapods’ from outer space, and she will also blow your mind.
An apocalyptic yet hopeful piece of eco-fiction is Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018): a team of female scientists and explorers is sent into a mysterious zone where the rules of nature don’t apply – instead they encounter sites of decay and fantastical mutations. Offering some connections to Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) or even Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013), Annihilation is for those who would like to know what Alex Garland has done beyond 28 Days Later, and those who might have read Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, on which the film is based.
The documentary feature Tell Me Who I Am (Ed Perkins, 2019) is the story of twin brothers Alex and Marcus Lewis. After Alex loses his memory due to a motorcycle accident, Marcus helps to recreate the memories of his childhood – however, he leaves out a few decisive and traumatizing details, demonstrating in what way “mapping” and “recollecting” can also mean “omitting”.
The film is currently streaming on Netflix.
Die Frau mit der Kamera (Woman with a Movie Camera, Claudia von Alemann, 2015) is the portrait of German photographer Abisag Tüllmann – a life and work between journalism, urbanism, and theater. More than 500 black-and-white photos, all of which taken by Tüllmann, take us on a journey from the 1960s to the 1990s, enriched and accompanied by archival documents, letters and memories, and featuring excerpts from films by Helke Sander, Alexander Kluge, Günther Hörmann, Ulrich Schamoni, and others.
The film is part of a free online streaming program curated by the Arsenal cinema, one of Berlin’s most important venues for arthouse cinema and experimental films (and known for its own programming strand at the annual Berlin Film Festival, the Berlinale Forum). Their lockdown coping strategy is as pragmatic as it is poetic: “arsenal 3 is an experiment. It explores, for example, the question of whether a temporal restriction can create a cinema space. With a beginning and an end, at which discussions with the filmmakers take place. We still have to adjust the rhythm to this end: for this reason, we are now turning our weekly programs into fortnightly ones. For it’s not just cinema, but also our concept of time that we’re learning afresh.”
Die Frau mit der Kamera can be accessed for a limited time at: https://www.arsenal-berlin.de/en/join/arsenal-3/login.html
Where is Today? What Remains?
In order to make assumptions about the future we might also have to re-think and re-map the present, focusing our attention on the invisibilities of everyday life, and paying attention to what happens “under the surface”. This second complex encompasses fictional films and artistic projects of various lengths, employing different concepts of time, duration, and representability.
Mukojima Diorama (2019) by artistic director Allison Moore was originally projected onto the façade of a recently demolished Nagaya rowhouse in Tokyo – a video mapping event within the framework of the 39art festival in March 2019. The video is a collage of windows and door frames opening up to the curious eye and revealing quotidian rhythms and activities. One might be reminded of Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and surprised by the aesthetic peculiarities of this work.
Short footage of the event: https://vimeo.com/333982161
Full film: https://vimeo.com/410321986
In Between Spaces (Sam Wiehl and Robert Strachan, 2015) was developed during a series of night walks along the Sefton Coast in 2015. By means of digital technologies (audio field recordings, video, digital rendering of sea organisms, GPS mapping) the coast is abstracted and reimagined as an ever-transforming space. The film’s strategies of visual defamiliarization make it look like an almost extraterrestrial landscape waiting to be explored (in 26 minutes).
Full Film: https://vimeo.com/138000545
In a way, The Grand Bizarre (Jodie Mack, 2018) is an education of the senses. It follows the distribution of textiles across the globe. The visual material for the film has been collected over the course of five years. In the most literal sense, director Jodie Mack interweaves patterns, backgrounds, and popular music. Prepare to be overwhelmed by colors and maps.
The Grand Bizarre is currently streaming on MUBI.
A taster of Jodie Mack’s work in Let Your Light Shine (Jodie Mack, 2013)
As much as Mack’s film experiments with our senses, Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves (2013) is a character study that maps the movement and motivation of its protagonists against the critical background of ecological fundamentalism: Three environmentalists plan to blow up a dam, which entails a whole set of consequences – Reichardt’s unique pacing and insistent camera will make you wonder and your mind wander.
What remains of Europe in the future? Will it survive as an idea and a lived territory? Questions asked by Manuela Zechner in her docufiction essay Remembering Europe (2016). Combining interview snippets and poetic thoughts, the film “tells a story of Europe through fragments and contradictions, feelings and flashbacks”.
Full Film: https://vimeo.com/151393094
Last but not least, we will return to contemporary genre cinema with See You Yesterday (2019), a film about two teenagers, C.J. and Sebastian, who invent a time machine for a science expo, but end up trying to change the past where C.J.’s older brother Calvin is mistaken for an armed robber and shot down by the police. For his debut writer-director Stefon Bristol comes up with a simple time-travel narrative of acute social relevance that mixes adventure. Beyond its obvious nod to Back to the Future (1985), See You Yesterday tackles the issue of racist over-policing – as reporter Adi Robertson writes: “a compelling blend of nuanced drama, teenage adventure-comedy, and thought experiment”.
See You Yesterday is streaming on Netflix.
Eileen Rositzka is a post-doc researcher at the Berlin-based Center for Advanced Film Studies, Cinepoetics. She holds a PhD in Film Studies from the University of St Andrews, where she wrote her dissertation on the “cinematic corpography” of the Hollywood war film – an analysis of the genre’s specific modes of staging spatial perception. Having worked as a lecturer and research associate at Freie Universität Berlin, she is currently developing a book project which aims at formulating a theoretical approach to mapping as cinematic thinking.
Her PhD thesis has been published under the title “Cinematic Corpographies: Re-Mapping the War Film Through the Body”. Other publications include chapters on cinematic realism in The Handmaid’s Tale and on aspects of feminism and femininity in the James Bond franchise.