Film Series / Events

Search All Film Series (1999-present)
Browse All Film Series

November 5 – November 15

Vision/Power/Technology: Harun Farocki on Film and Video

For over forty years, German filmmaker Harun Farocki (b. 1944) has been making films about the centrality of vision and the multifarious image in the modern world – and about the ways in which everyday behavior is molded by technology and changing modes of production. These twinned themes have inspired a sizeable body of work that asks its spectators to think about not just what they see but how they see, and how meaning is made. While documentaries and essay films predominate within Farocki’s prodigious oeuvre, he has also made fiction features and installation work, and even short segments for the German Sesame Street.

After studying at the German Film and Television Academy from 1966 to 1968, Farocki supported himself at the very beginning of his filmmaking career by working for West German television and as a film critic, serving from 1974 to 1984 as the editor of the celebrated German film journal Filmkritik. As his international reputation began to grow in the 1980s, Farocki turned to teaching; more recently, he has received acclaim for his film and video installations in museums and galleries around the world.

Farocki’s films and videos return again and again to a web of ideas: the changing nature of work; the dangerous ways that war and technology spur each other on; the relation between power and the image, particularly in an era of widespread surveillance; the networks of power relations that link the prison, the workplace, the supermarket and the shopping mall. In many ways Farocki offers a cinematic equivalent of the writings of the French historian/philosophers Michel Foucault and Paul Virilio.

Farocki has worked in two principal veins: the observational documentary and the essay film, with many of Farocki’s best-known films and videos falling into this latter category. Indeed, Farocki can be considered with Chris Marker to be the foremost proponent of the essay film today. In recent years Farocki has gradually turned more and more to observational work, while never entirely abandoning the essay film. Like Frederick Wiseman, Farocki’s observational films eschew commentary or elaborate montage in favor of watching a process unfold. His work betrays a genuine and almost joyous fascination with the moving image tempered by an impulse to demystify its hypnotic powers by linking it always to the technologies of production and the powers that allow the image to be everywhere, at once.

Harun Farocki and Antje Ehmann curated the exhibition The Image in Question. War – Media – Art at the Carpenter Center October 21 – December 23, 2010.

Special thanks: Detlef Gericke-Schönhagen, Karin Oehlenschläger, Goethe Institut, Boston.


Special Event Tickets $12
Friday November 5 at 7pm

Inextinguishable Fire (Nicht löschbares Feuer)

Directed by Harun Farocki, Appearing in Person
West Germany 1969, 16mm, b/w, 25 min. German with English subtitles

Farocki launched his career with this angry and arresting dissection of the role of the scientists, engineers and administrators at Dow Chemical who perfected the industrial manufacture of napalm. Inextinguishable Fire is now regarded as a signature work by Farocki, its iconic status confirmed by its shot-for-shot recreation in Jill Godmilow’s What Farocki Taught (1998). The film’s unsettling power remains undiminished and potent.

As You See (Wie man sieht)

Directed by Harun Farocki, Appearing in Person
West Germany 1986, 16mm, color, 72 min. German with English subtitles

This wide-ranging film essay continues Farocki’s concern for the links between technology and warfare, tracing the ways that engineering advances have brought increasing automation and mechanization to physical labor and warfare , formerly the exclusive province of the body. A key sequence involving the dubbing of a porn film implies that this mechanization extends to another bodily province-sexuality itself. As You See lays the foundation for Farocki’s later essay films to come by bringing together little-known fragments of history with sharp interviews and extended observational sequences.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Special Event Tickets $12
Saturday November 6 at 7pm

In Comparison

Directed by Harun Farocki, Appearing in Person
Germany 2009, 16mm, color, 61 min.

Farocki’s newest film continues in the vein of his recent work by using observational documentary to patiently witness processes in action, but whereas many of these films have focused on the service industry or on training sessions, In Comparison returns to Farocki’s abiding interest in labor and production. The film describes the manufacture of bricks in many different contexts, the literal building blocks of the world - from the collective efforts of a community building a clinic in Burkina Faso through semi-industrialized mouldings in India to industrial production lines in Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland.

Nothing Ventured (Nicht ohne Risiko)

Directed by Harun Farocki, Appearing in Person
Germany 2004, video, color, 50 min. German with English subtitles

This engrossing observational documentary follows a pair of entrepreneurs and the venture capital bankers whom they are trying to convince to loan them the necessary start-up money for their manufacturing business. Farocki’s fly-on-the-wall camera watches two days of careful negotiations between the two teams in what amounts to an ethnographic study of the workings of twenty-first century, pre-recession capitalism. The film was one of the inspirations for Christian Petzold’s Yella (2007).

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Special Event Tickets $12
Monday November 15 at 7pm

I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts (Ich glaubte Gefangene zu sehen)

Directed by Harun Farocki, Appearing in Person
Germany 2000, video, color, 23 min.

Farocki uses surveillance video and computer graphics to trace the similarity between the prison, the factory and the supermarket- the convict, the worker and the shopper are all watched, their movements deciphered in the interest of greater control. The film ultimately focuses on the investigation at California’s notorious Corcoran prison, where guards shot and killed unarmed inmates in a series of incidents in the 1990s, the ghastly events captured on camera.

Images of the World and the Inscription of War (Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges)

Directed by Harun Farocki, Appearing in Person
West Germany 1988, 16mm, color, 75 min. German with English subtitles

Perhaps Farocki’s best-known work, this crucial film-essay focuses on aerial photographs of Auschwitz taken during World War II by British pilots. Those who studied the photos, however, took no notice of the camp since they were interested only in nearby bombing targets. That haunting historical detail acts as the allegorical center for an austere reflection on the use of images as surveillance and as instruments of control.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top
Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700