Saturday 16 August 2014

This program offers audiences an opportunity to engage with the diverse and compelling genre of the contemporary war film, and was conceived to accompany the UQ Art Museum exhibition Conflict: Contemporary responses to war. Curated by John Edmond, PhD candidate in The University of Queensland’s School of English, Media Studies and Art History (EMSAH), the program includes a thoughtful and complementary line-up of narrative, documentary and experimental film.

10.30am – 11.55am
Essential killing MA (Jerzy Skolimowski 2010) 
83 minutes Blu-ray

"Vincent Gallo stars as Mohammed, a Taliban insurgent who has been captured in Afghanistan, waterboarded and then placed on a rendition flight to central Europe for further interrogation. The sun-baked landscape of Asia is replaced, in a kind of surreal inversion, with sub-zero Polish forests through which sleek black armoured vehicles move swiftly towards some secret facility. But Mohammed escapes, and his condition becomes increasingly desperate as his captors pursue him through the forest. It's a manhunt thriller that exceeds the margins of realism, and shimmers with the eerie force of a nightmare or hallucination."

"What is so startling about Essential killing is that it is almost entirely silent. Gallo's Mohammed does not say a single word throughout his ordeal, except some muffled, garbled phrases during flashback sequences. All we have is Gallo's vivid presence and that extraordinary, hawk-like face, blazing with the determination to stay alive." Peter Bradshaw

12.45 – 2.20pm
Soundtrack to war M (George Gittoes 2005) 
94 minutes DVD

"Soundtrack to war showcases spontaneous music performances by a striking cast of the battle weary – performances made without rehearsal, under the blaring Iraqi sun, with the backdrop of a destroyed city, grit and dust and the distraction of gunfire and bursting mortar shells."

"American culture came into Iraq, wired into its tanks and helicopters – a live soundtrack to war, with lyrics such as Let the bodies hit the floor, Round out the tank and Bombs over Baghdad … forever linked to the violent events they accompanied. As the war extended into its second year, many [soldiers] started writing and performing their own songs. It was rock, rap and roll … This film takes us on the … emotional rollercoaster ride of the young and talented who have found themselves in the hell of war, and who want to stay alive." George Gittoes

Fallout Program
(the following films are unclassified)
2:30 – 4:00 pm

The Freestone Drone (George Barber 2013)
13 minutes Blu-ray

"Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – drones – have become an everyday feature of contemporary military activity, replacing humans in reconnaissance flights, small-scale combat missions and covert operations. The US Army operates some ten thousand UAVs – a six-fold increase during Obama's term – deploying them over locations like Pakistan and Yemen".

"George Barber's The Freestone Drone follows a mission from the point of view of the machine. The drone's camera surveys cityscapes, encounters individuals, reports, and in flight becomes aware of its own utility and destiny. Drone operators routinely study the washing to learn about their targets – it is foretold that the Freestone Drone is to die entangled in a clothes line."

"The video combines found and made footage to produce an uneasy, seductive montage, anchored on the drone's private thoughts. Barber brings together war, love, life, death, and sends the drone over not only Waziristan, but also to New York and a London suburb. The drone then travels through time, projecting images of the past and possible futures." Video Data Bank

Sans-titre (Neïl Beloufa 2010)
15 minutes HD-file

"A luxurious villa in Algeria, built in modernist style, is the setting for the action in Sans-titre (Untitled). Or actually, it isn't. In fact it is a reproduction of a villa, fabricated from cardboard with photographic wallpaper pasted onto it. Against this disorientating background various people talk about the period when the house was in the possession of terrorists, who were supposed to have used it as a hideout for a while. There are plenty of these anecdotes about the terrorists, and they constantly contradict each other. While one witness declares that the house was left behind in perfect condition, another says that it was wrecked. A table was broken in two, says the owner of the house. And the curtains caught fire – but that could also have been caused by the strong moonlight."

"What were the terrorists doing in that house, which, with its huge windows, would seem to have been the worst possible hiding place? Neïl Beloufa, an Algerian-French artist, based his film on an event that actually happened: the raid on a villa near Algiers by terrorists in the 1990s. Beloufa interviewed the landlord, the neighbors, the gardener and other servants. These are represented by actors – usually filmed from the back – who wander through the paper replica of the villa like ghosts. Even the lush garden and the empty swimming pool are mere photographic prints. The witnesses' oral accounts are edited onto their re-enactments." LIMA

Circle in the sand (Michael Robinson 2012)
46 minutes
"In a broken near future, a band of listless vagabonds ambles across a war-torn coastal territory, supervised and sorted by a group of idle soldiers. Rummaging, stuttering, and smashing through the leftovers of Western culture, these ragged souls conjure an unstable magic, fueled by their own apathy and the poisonous histories imbedded in their unearthed junk. Suspicion, boredom, garbage, and glamour conspire in the languid pageantry of ruin. Feel the breeze in your hair, and the world crumbling through your fingers." Michael Robinson

"Michael Robinson’s Circle in the Sand invokes the cosmos with generous throws of glitter. With a strikingly costumed cast wandering the post-apocalypse, the film plays like a zonked L’Avventura (1960). Three sparkle-eyed women walk the California coast, while a forlorn troupe of military men wait on patrol. The ladies unearth misbegotten artifacts of a forgotten world in the sand: anonymous Yelp reviews, skipping Counting Crows CDs, and dayglo nails are just the beginning. Stretching beyond the short format, Robinson’s imagination remains prodigious in the particulars. The credo bookending the film – ‘We wanted to destroy knowledge but within knowledge’ – does nicely as a description for the collagist’s quixotic task." Max Goldberg, for Keyframe/ Fador

Free. All welcome.
Click to RSVP 

Production still from Soundtrack to war 2005
Director: George Gittoes
Image courtesy: the artist