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April 17 - April 19

Bodies, Images, Histories: Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi

Milan-based filmmakers Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi are renowned for their accomplished work with archival footage derived principally from the 1910s and 1920s. Thoughtfully juxtaposing images through editing, Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi also invariably re-photograph their material, adjusting the film's speed, adding tinted color and spare soundtracks, and reframing the image to focus on key details. Such meticulous manipulation encourages spectators to read the selected footage, instead of simply watching it, so as to consider not only what the images mean, but how. Much of the work is explicitly political, and grounded in the idea of the cinematic apparatus as a detached observer of modernity's vast upheavals: Colonialism, World War One, statelessness. To what extent, the films ask, is this dispassionate gaze able to critique modernity, and to what extent is it complicit in the upheavals, or at least complacent?

Such questions about the function and resonance of the cinematic image are given particular force by the physical decay of the aging footage preferred by Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi. Often foregrounding the incomplete or distorted parts of the image, the filmmakers point to the contrast between the apparently implacable gaze of the camera and the vulnerability of its material support, a disparity that, in turn, reveals the gap between the compulsive force of political power and ideology on the one hand, and the bodies of the workers, soldiers and colonized submitted to it, on the other. The seeming imperviousness of the cinematic apparatus and the ideologies that deploy it—colonialist powers, authoritarian states—all depend nevertheless on a mutable material base, and on the contingencies of history.

The spare and intense films of Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi wring both irony and a strange, mournful beauty from the bodies on display in the images they select, bearing witness to the ravages of time and the destructive power of the European nations and their armies.

This program is presented in conjunction with a conference by Harvard’s Center for European Studies and Romance Languages and Literatures on Italian Futurism. Special thanks to Ara Merjian.


Special Event Tickets $10
Friday April 17 at 7pm

close-up of a boy's faceOh! Man (Oh! Uomo)

Directed by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, Appearing in Person
Italy 2004, 16mm, color, 71 min.

Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi’s powerful survey of the irreparable damage to human lives caused by World War One derives its exclamatory title from a quote by Leonardo da Vinci arguing that the very sight of the horrors of war is capable of awakening and renewing the human conscience. Unflinchingly organizing the archival footage which comprises the film, Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi create two broad categories—of displaced, sick, orphaned and malnourished children and of severely disfigured veterans. Forcing the audience to systematically confront, all at once, the ravages of war, the seemingly unruffled gaze of the camera, and the filmmakers’ own tolerance for the images, forms a devastating and almost numbing meditation on man’s will to destruction.  A sharp retort to complacent spectatorship, Oh! Man is also a bold testament to the power of the moving image to awaken the viewer and to objectify the camera’s subject.

The Flower of the Race (Il fiore della razza)

Directed by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, Appearing in Person
Italy 1991, 16mm, color, 20 min.

This short film highlighting the glorification of the body by Italian fascism skillfully contrasts footage of staged athletic events with home movies of weddings and family celebrations.

audio from evening Listen to this evening's introduction, discussion and Q&A.


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Special Event Tickets $10
Saturday April 18 at 7pm

sailor with gunFrom the Pole to the Equator (Dal polo all’equator)

Directed by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, Appearing in Person
Italy 1986, 16mm, color, 101 min.

From the Pole to the Equator is the name given to a documentary compiled in the late 1920s by filmmaker Luca Comerio, which drew on footage from around the globe to celebrate the vitality and achievements of European colonialism – most of all Italian fascism. Using this material, as well as other footage shot or collected by Comerio, Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi refashioned Comerio’s work in order to tease out the ideology written upon –and between–every image. The fact that so much of the film had begun to decay gives it a layer of abstraction and serves as a comment on the contingent nature of the images and their ideology and, in Gianikian’s words, “on the violence of colonialism as it plays itself out in different situations and spheres.”

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Directors in Person
Sunday April 19 at 3pm

People, Years, Life (Uomini, anni, vita)

Directed by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi.
Italy 1990, 16mm, color, 70 min.

Using images shot in Russia and Armenia from World War I to the 1930s and retrieved from a Soviet film archive, Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi constructed a meditative film about the status of Armenians as a people without a state. Inspired by the diary of Gianikian’s father, People, Years, Life uses rare footage depicting the region’s major historic events: the end of Tsarist Russia, violence in the Caucasus during World War I, the 1918 Armenian exodus from Azerbaijan. Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi’s treatment of the material manipulates the speed of the images, adds color and music, and magnifies various parts of the image, so that the movement of bodies across the frame begins to carry the weight of exile, mourning, dispossession.

audio from evening Listen to this evening's introduction, discussion and Q&A.

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