With the US war in Afghanistan about to enter its second decade, filmmaker and Emerson professor John Gianvito felt compelled to mark the milestone cinematically by turning to an influential example of anti-war cinema for inspiration: Far from Vietnam, the 1967 collective omnibus spearheaded by the great film-essayist Chris Marker, who edited the work of a number of collaborators into a dynamic fusion of documentary, activism and cinematic experiment addressed to a war that seemed curiously near and far at the same time. Similarly, Gianvito has fashioned a parallel response to the present state of affairs. This program juxtaposes both films in hopes that spectators will be provoked to compare the responses to US aggression then and now, by filmmakers and the population at large. — David Pendleton
Special thanks: Anne Miller, Eric Jausseran—Consulate General of France, Boston; Delphine Selles-Alvarez, Muriel Guidoni—Cultural Services of the French Embassy, New York; Jean-Baptiste Garnero—Centre National du Cinéma
Directed by John Gianvito, Jon Jost, Soon-Mi Yoo, Minda Martin,
US/Afghanistan 2012, digital video, color, 129 min
Like its predecessor, Far From Afghanistan mixes an experimental approach to film form with fictional narrative, found footage and reportage in response to a protracted war that remains uncannily invisible here on the “home front.” Besides contributing his own sequence, John Gianvito assembled a group of filmmakers active in the US whose work typically blends fiction, non-fiction and formal experimentation. Reportage is provided by a number of short segments from a collective of Afghani journalists called “Afghan Voices.” The result is imbued with a profound anger and sadness about what the war has meant to the populations of both countries. Almost inevitably, the film addresses the ever-closer relationship between image technologies and warfare with its chilling inclusion of actual drone’s-eye-view footage from an attack on Afghan civilians deemed insurgents..
Directed by Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais
France 1967, 35mm, color, 115 min. French and English with English subtitles
In 1967, Chris Marker assembled footage shot by a number of filmmakers opposed to the war in Vietnam into a film essay. Most of these filmmakers were French; their commitment to this project testifies to the political engagement of the Left Bank and New Wave filmmakers at that time as well as to their awareness that US aggression in Vietnam stemmed directly from that country’s revolt against French colonialism. William Klein films pro- and anti-war protests in New York, while Joris Ivens contributes footage from Vietnam; Resnais and Godard contribute two self-contained sequences. Marker masterfully blends these contributions with interviews, newsreel imagery and additional material by Agnès Varda and Claude Lelouch, and lays a typically incisive – and occasionally ironic – voiceover on top.