... in film


31 Dec 2010 | 224 words | afghanistan documentary review war movies film

Just finished watching the award winning war documentary restrepo. hard not to be impressed with this documentary (gives a whole new meaning to embedded journalism) and hard not to feel empathy with the soldiers who served more than a year at the end of the world (or as they themselves refer to it, ‘the valley of death’)

Village elders and solider at shura

Aside from the firefights and the portraits of the (extremely young) soldiers restrepo perfectly illustrates the futility of the US-led war in Afghanistan. the whole film shows that that there is absolutely no reason why the US should be in Afghanistan in the first place, their presence there simply makes no sense at all. It appears that the heavily armed twenty-somethings and the red-bearded, toothless village elders inhabit parallel universes. unfortunately for the red bearded, toothless village elders they are getting shot at (and their cows get killed) from the other universe, without there being any meaningful means of recourse for them.

Fortunately for the village elders the US retreated from the Korengal Valley in april 2010. If restrepo serves as an indicator the US would be wise to retreat from the rest of the country as well (before they are forced to do so)

p.s. this picture pretty much makes the same point:

Donkey collapsed under weight of election materials

Dark fibre

23 Apr 2009 | 323 words | copyright india film media photos piracy technology

In march we spend a week in bangalore with jamie and the darkfibre crew. we had flown there to take pictures of them while they were shooting for dark fibre (more pictures will become available later).

Dark fibre crew at work on the rooftop terrace of a IT office building in South Bangalore

It was fun and extremely interesting to watch the production from behind the scenes and i am really looking forward to the film (jamie has promised that there will be a trailer on the 13th of may). in the meanwhile there is an interview with jamie and his co-director peter mann on the website of the center for internet and society in bangalore:

‘Dark Fibre’ is set amongst the cablewallahs of Bangalore, and uses the device of cabling to traverse different aspects of informational life in the city. It follows the lives of real cablewallahs and examines the political status of their activities.The fictional elements arrive in the form of a young apprentice cablewallah who attempts to unite the disparate home-brew networks in the city into a grassroots, horizontal ‘people’s network’. Some support the activity and some vehemently oppose it — but what no one expects is the emergence of a seditious, unlicensed and anonymous new channel which begins to transform people’s imaginations in the city. Our young cable apprentice is tasked with tracking down the channel, as powerful political forces array themselves against it. Not only the ‘security’ of the city, but his own wellbeing depend on whether he finds it, and whether it proves possible to stop its distribution. Meanwhile, mysterious elements from outside India — possibly emissaries of a still-greater power — are appearing on the scene. This quest for the unknown channel is reminiscent of a modern-day ‘Moby Dick’, with the city of Bangalore as the high seas and our cable apprentice a reluctant Ahab. The action is a combination of verite, improvisation and scripted action.

Steal this footage

The league of noble peers has just made available the raw footage of 19 interviews filmed for steal this film 2. the footage is not only available online but also fully text searchable based on the transcripts of the interviews:

Thanks to the magic of 0xdb and Pad.ma, plus the hard work of a number of Peers in transcribing STEAL THIS FILM II footage over the last six months, we are able to offer a full text search of the base material from which we made the film. If your search term is found, you are taken to the frame/s at which it occurs and given its immediate context. Try it out! You can also browse the whole list of clips, if you don’t know what you’re looking for in advance.

Even better, the entire material on footage.stealthisfilm.com is available in the original resolution (1080i HDV) and under a Creative Commons Attribution Share alike license. As far as i can tell, this is the first time such a comprehensive set of raw materials for a film has been made available under a open content license:

We are making this footage available in high quality format (HDV 1080i), having cleared permission from the interviewees to release it under an attribution share-alike license from Creative Commons. Practically this means that you can use this material for your own projects, including commercial work, provided you credit us and make your work available in turn under a share-alike license.

It will be interesting to see if this really works. my hunch is that there will be very few filmmakers who have use for these interviews (although most of them are quite informative if you are interested in the politics of information) and are willing or able to release films that incorporate footage from these interviews under a CC-BY-SA license themselves. Personally i would assume that it would be more useful/realistic to ask others using parts of the interviews to make available (parts of) their footage as well (instead of the finished film). This would be in line with how free software licenses operate: if you use freely licensed source code (footage) you have to make available the resulting source-code, but you can do whatever you want with the binary code (finished film).

Rright now that does not seem to be possible as it would be very hard to define which part of their footage downstream users should make available (and making all raw material available is pretty much impossible given the enormous amounts of bandwidth/discspace/work this would require). Given this the attribution share alike license does not seem that bad of a choice and of course filmmakers who, in exchange for using some of the STFII footage, do not want to make available their films under a BY-SA license can probably just pay jamie/the league of noble peers for separate permission…

Tehran has no more pomegranates!

01 Dec 2007 | 257 words | film movies review iran cities tehran

Watched a screening of ‘Tehran has no more pomegranates!‘ by Massoud Bakhshi this afternoon, which turned out to be a beautiful film that manages to pay homage to the incredibly strange and complex reality of the city of Tehran. While Tehran is one of the least likely city to fall in love with it had a certain strange attraction to me. tehran has no more pomegranates! manages to somehow capture this attraction and to turn it into an extremely entertaining complex portrait of the city. Bakhshi intelligently juxtaposes old documentary footage (and extremely beautiful pictures of bearded men) with footage he has shot in Tehran over the last 5 years or so (including lots of time lapse shots of crazy traffic). The film starts off with the observation by someone called Asar-o-blad (no idea who that is since google returns exactly 0 results) who in 1241 remarked that:

Tehran is a village near the city of Ray. It’s inhabitants live in anthill like underground holes. Tehranis’ main occupation is theft and crime. They fight each other and can’t obey any king. They grow excellent pomegranates which are found only in Tehran.

The film then goes on to portray various stupid rulers, collective opium addiction, visits by Stalin, Churchill (‘You really have big oil wells’) and Roosevelt, the fall of the Shah and the explosive growth of the metropolis with all of its magnificent transportation problems. Well worth watching (apparently there will be a DVD release by the Jan Vrijman Fund later this year or early next year)

Wearing clown's hats in Beaufort castle

22 Oct 2007 | 543 words | israel lebanon occupation war movies film

Finally managed to source a copy of Beaufort (בופור) with english subtitles yesterday. Had been waiting to find a version that i could understand for a while and it was definitely worth the wait.

Beaufort tells the story of the last IDF unit occupying Beaufort castle in Southern Lebanon in the days before the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon in the spring of 2000. It is one of the most impressive war movies i have seen in a while, also because it is the only war movie that i remember that does not show ‘the enemy’ (in this case the enemy is Hizbullah) at all. This seems to confuse some people a great deal, but i think it worked very well. As a whole, the movie does not really take a position on the israeli occupation policy but generally portrays the situation as fucked up and senseless, which works pretty well for me (plus i somehow like the look of the Mitznefet (a.k.a clown’s hats) that the IDF soldiers are wearing most of the time (picture here)).

When i was in Lebanon in May 2005 (exactly 5 years after the liberation of the south by Hizbullah) we went to visit Beaufort Castle (which apparently exists since roman times, but in its current incarnation is a crusaders castle). It occupies an amazing location, overlooking the southern end of the Biqa’a valley (to the North), the Golan heights (to the East), the South Lebanese Mediterranean coastline (to the West) and the north of Israel (to the South). According to the official beaufort movie website, it also overlooks Damascus but that is pretty much impossible if you ask me.

There is one particular exchange in in the movie that made me think back to our visit to Beaufort a lot. it is an exchange between Liraz, the young outpost commander and an unnamed combat engineer, who has just been send in to blow up the outpost so it won’t be of use to Hizbullah after the departure of the IDF:

Combat engineer: It will be quite a job blowing all of this up Liraz: I just can’t imagine it. Combat engineer: What is the problem? Imagine a mountain with no outpost Liraz: can’t Combat engineer: You got a girlfriend? Liraz: Why? Combat engineer: Answer me, i asked a simple question Liraz: Yes i do Combat engineer: Imagine yourself with her. Here on the mountain, sunset, the most amazing landscape on earth. You are holding her hand, walking around with her, showing her: here was ‘green’, the observation post, here was the gate. She looks around and all she sees is nature, a tourist attraction, no sign of any of this, paradise. Liraz: I just can’t picture this. Combat engineer: It will come, don’t worry…

Now the irony is that these days the place looks pretty much the way that the combat engineer described it (although there are some remains of the outpost, that serve as some kind of memorial of the Israeli occupation) but that a real-life Liraz and his girlfriend will probably never have the opportunity to go there in their lifetime as the IDF has caused way too much harm in Southern Lebanon for any Israeli to be welcome there any time soon…

From Beirut to ... those who love us

02 Aug 2006 | 122 words | film movies media lebanon war creative commons

Is a four minute or so short film produced on July 21, 2006 at the studios of Beirut DC, a film and cinema collective which runs the yearly Ayam Beirut Al Cinema’iya Film Festival. This video letter was produced in collaboration with Samidoun, a grassroots gathering of various organizations and individuals who were involved in relief and media efforts from the first day of the Israeli attack on Lebanon.

Click the image above to watch the movie or go to www.beirutletters.org to download it. The film is available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works License, which means you are free to share or screen the movie as long as you credit the makers and do not re-edit it.

Kurtlar Varsi vs. Valley of the Sun

13 Mar 2006 | 624 words | iraq war movies film united states helicopters review

Have seen one and a half war movies today. First i went to Neukölln to see ‘Kurtlar Varsi: iraq‘ (Valley of the Wolves: Iraq) and then tonight on TV i ended up watching the second half of ‘Tears of the Sun‘.

For those who have not followed the hysteric discussions in Germany in the last month: Valley of the Wolves is the Turkish Blockbuster that depicts a Turkish secret service agent’s mission in Iraq. He is on a (unofficial) mission to kill a CIA operative who was responsible for arresting and humiliating a dozen of Turkish soldiers who were stationed in northern Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003. Having the soldiers arrested and taken away with bags over their heads apparently caused an enormous nationalistic trauma in Turkey and our hero (the tagline of the film is ‘Some Men Are Born to be Heroes’) is here (or rather in Iraq) to take revenge (and to break the hearts of local women).

The film has been wildly accused of anti-semitism and anti-Americanism in the German media and while does indeed use anti-semitic clichés to a level where it is hard to not leave the cinema i would not call it anti-American. The film rather portraits the the American aggression against Iraq from a viewpoint that is not identical with that of the aggressors (and the western media). While in general the story-line is at best absurd (like in most of the films starring Chuck Norris) and the dialogues are extremely weak, the film does give you an idea how the global war on terror can be perceived if you have been born on the wrong side of the either-you-are-with-us-or-you-are-against-us rhetoric.

The most striking scene of the movie is the re-enactment of the 2003 Abu Ghraib torture photographs which makes some of the pictures (the dog & pvt. England) come alive on screen. You can argue that this is a cheap trick (like two young leftists in the subway station did), but it also is the most realistic scene of the entire movie as it is undoubtedly based on real events. In the end it is this scene what keeps the movie form being a bad, anti-semitic, pathetic and pseudo religious piece of crap as it it gives it some credibility. To me it almost feels like the rest of the movie just serves the function of tying the Abu Ghreib scene and the arrest of the Turkish soldiers together. The interring question is if the film would have had the same success without the blatant anti-semitism…

Tears of the Sun, to the contrary, features Bruce Willis as a cynical American special force commander that goes into the jungle to save a (attractive female) american doctor and (being under the influences of her charms) ends up disobeying orders (and losing a couple of his men) in order to protect (her and) the 70 or so refugees, whom his superiors considers ‘excess baggage’.

Valley of the sun (just like Kurtlar Varsi, where the Turkish super agent finally manages to kill his American counterpart but looses the beautiful chick) does have an happy ending (complete with a copy of the palm tree napalm air-strike scene from apoclypse now) in which the black hawk helicopters arrive to take the exhausted special forces soldiers and the refugees home while smiling african kids wave the helicopters good-bye as they depart into the afternoon sky…

While i cannot help to feel relieved when the black hawks arrive in the sky this particular combination of films makes me wonder how many people outside of the first world are left to muster the optimism of thinking that help is on its way when they see a black hawk helicopter approaching in the sky…

How to get fired from a callcenter

12 Feb 2006 | 121 words | labor india movies film berlin

Yesterday i saw john & jane, a film about call center workers in new bombay by Ashim Ahluwalia, which is running as part of the berlin film festival. The film is an impressive, beautifully shot (but sometimes slow) portrait of six persons working in a call center (‘4th dimension’) which provides a range of services to callers from the US.

Of the six call agents only one, Glen, is unhappy with his job. in fact he seems to hate it. Glen was present for the Q&A session after the screening and i made a crappy phone recording of him explaining how he got finally got fired from the call-center ‘because he was stoned’ (click here for the 1.1mb mp3 file).


More on helipads in São Paulo

I blogged about the helipads in São Paulo back in october of last year. Seems like i am not the only person fascinated by the phenomenon of intra-city civilian helicopter traffic: The transmediale06 media arts festival in Berlin features a short video by french artist Richard Nicolas about the helipads of São Paulo:

The sky of Sao Paulo is always swarming with helicopters: 350 daily departures and landings – or one flight every four minutes. The city ranks first in helicopter air traffic and its air fleet – with 500 counted passenger planes – internationally ranks third after Tokyo and New York. The Brazilian bureau for civil air traffic confirms 220 helipads. The video-performance shows a bird’s eye view from the hustle of São Paulo and its huge choice of helipads.

The video is absolutely beautiful. if you are in berlin go check it out! It can be seen in the transmediale Lounge on the big projection screen (there are two other videos on that are projected alternating on the same screen, so you might have to wait for a while for it to appear). It even features a birds eye view of my favorite helipad.

Polite pirates

12 Nov 2005 | 160 words | india movies piracy bombay film

There is fantastic quote in todays Times of India. In an article outlining the practices of Bombay underworld don Abu Salem there there is an description of a phone call he made to Bombay based movie producer Subash Ghai in order to get the overseas distribution rights for the movie Pardes:

Though he terrorised the film world, he was also an incorrigible fan who was taken in by the skin and glamour of the industry. Subash Ghai, in an interview with this reporter a few years ago said while admitting that Salem had called him up asking for overseas rights of the film Pardes, “He actually started the conversation this way, ‘Sir, I want the rights for Pardes. Don’t mistake me. I have been your fan ever since I saw Karz.” When Ghai told Salem that the matter of overseas rights was already settled, Salem very respectfully asked for a print of the film so that he could pirate it.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: