“Because so many images already exist, I am discouraged to make new ones; I prefer to make a different use of pre-existing images. But not every image can
be recycled; a hidden value must pre-exist.”
(Harun Farocki, 2008 interview with the South China Morning Post)
As part of the Repeat as Necessary: The Art of Real at the Film Society Lincoln Center program, German director Harun Farocki’s anti-war film “Inextinguishable Fire” (1969, black and white, 29 minutes) screened first followed by Jill Godmilow’s “What Farocki Taught” (1998, 16 mm 30
minutes) a shot-for-shot remake of “Inextinguishable Fire.” Translated from German into English and filmed on color Kodachrome, the backdrops,
props, script, costumes and shots are all copies of the original. Every shot is reproduced — with an occasional superimposition of Farocki’s on set about
her project: “We don’t have a name for this type of film… it replaces the documentary’s pornography of the real.”
Filmmaker and video artist Faroki (1944-2014) made over 100 films, many of which were experimental documentaries, often addressing the use of images to
instruct and propagandize.
Director Jill Godmilow’s films include the 1974 Academy Award-nominated “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman” co-directed with Judy Collins, “Far From Poland” (1984), about the Polish Solidarity movement known for its ground-breaking deconstructive approach to the juxtaposition of fact
and fiction in documentary, and the Sundance fiction winner “Waiting for the Moon” (1987) about Gertrude Stein.
explores the manufacturing and use of napalm by dramatizing the inner workings of Dow Chemical Company’s Michigan headquarters during the Vietnam War,
incorporating only a small amount of actual combat footage. At the beginning of this Brechtian anti-war film we hear the words: “When we show
you pictures of napalm victims, you’ll shut your eyes. You’ll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you’ll close them to the memory. And then you’ll
close your eyes to the facts.”
In the Q & A after the screening of the two films Godmilow talked about her decision to remake “Inextinguishable Fire:” “I was moved by Farocki.
The Vietnam War wasn’t his war. He was German.” Godmilow went on to talk about “agitprop,” a term often used to describe Farocki’s film. “It is agitprop.
Agitate and propagate. That’s what this film does. It agitates. It propagates. There is an essential contract between the audience and filmmaker. The
audience watching a documentary is thinking, ‘Thank God that’s not me.’ You sit in horror but continue to watch the film.”
When asked about authenticity in documentary films, Godmilow smiled, responding: “For me? I’m a thief. I steal everything. It’s all up for grabs.”
Repeat as Necessary: The Art of the Real continues through April 26 at the Film Society Lincoln Center in New York. http://www.filmlinc.com/films/series/art-of-the-real
Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College SUNY, and presents international seminars on
screenwriting and film. Author of Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays! and The Savvy Screenwriter, she is chairperson of Su-City
Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide. www.su-city-pictures.com, http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog