Is standstill forbidden? The sort of “progress” cinema needs
The opening conference of the Berlin Critics’ Week 2022 on February 9.
Participants include Nadav Lapid (director, “Synonymes”), Bojana Kunst (philosopher), Simone Baumann (managing director of German Films), Georg Seeßlen (author and critic), Cíntia Gil (curator), and more. In cooperation with the section Film and Media Art of the Akademie der Künste.
The Berlinale is about to begin – with a focus on working conditions within the film industry, set by their Talents programme. The newly formed German government, in their coalition agreement, have vowed to “Dare More Progress”. It’s a sentiment that was proclaimed often throughout the pandemic, especially within the cultural sphere: never again back to the old ways! For two years now, diffuse promises and differing concepts of progress – ideas that land somewhere between capitalism and social revolution – have been floating in the ether, and with them, the hope that society and art might gain new knowledge or insights during the recurring lockdowns by hitting the reset button. For in these ‘standstill’ periods, social routines are suspended, and some even thrown into question. The term itself calls to mind the threat of stagnation; at the same time, it invites a casual refusal of productivity. But is this state of ‘standstill’ really the seedbed of change? Regression, revolution or deceleration – where will the next steps lead societies around the world?
During the opening conference of Berlin Critics’ Week, we will explore the paradoxical site of tension where the various dreams of progress relate to a society that has hit pause and stepped back to reflect, with two panels and two lectures at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. We want to discuss how the notion of a progressive cinema and a progressive film culture currently stand, and how they each relate to the ways that ideas of ‘standstill’ are manifest in art and politics today.
Which particular kinds of progress can bring film culture and politics forward, and which kinds are best avoided? To discuss their attitudes towards progress, we have invited Simone Baumann, the managing director of German Films, who recently co-produced the documentary “The Cars We Drove into Capitalism”, as well as curator Cíntia Gil, the former Festival Director of the Sheffield DocFest. We will ask both Baumann and Gil – who stepped down from Sheffield DocFest earlier this year because of “irreconcilable artistic differences with the Board of Trustees” – as well as the other guests what conclusions they, as decision makers, have drawn from the past months; by what standards should the film industry and the festival landscape organise themselves, in order to strengthen and support current and upcoming voices in cinema?
Unlike in economics or social politics, the concepts of ‘standstill’ and ‘progress’ are not always mutually exclusive, especially when talking about aesthetics or philosophy. Therefore, in a second conversation, we specifically address the question of which aesthetic strategies become important during these periods of societal standstill? Which cinematic movements gain momentum in social crises – and which become obsolete? We will discuss, among others, with filmmaker and Golden Bear-winner Nadav Lapid, whose restless film “Synonymes”, made a year before the pandemic, virtuously upended categories such as identity, nationality, migration and society, striking a nerve. We want to find out whether his film already feels historic today and how he has looked at his images since.
A keynote by Bojana Kunst and a lecture by Georg Seeßlen will frame the talks. In her work, Bojana Kunst (“The Life of Art – Transversal Lines of Care”) negotiates, among other questions, the ways that creativity and productivity are influenced by time, and the relationship between art and capitalism. We asked her to put into words for us her perspective on the dialectic between ‘standstill’ and ‘progress’. Georg Seeßlen (“The Second Wave: Corona & Culture: An Aesthetics of Crisis – A Crisis of Aesthetics”) is currently a participating observer of our closed industry workshop “Perfect Film Funding in an Imperfect World“, where we playfully develop and discuss alternatives to existing models of film funding with international representatives. He will report on the results of the discussions in his lecture.
Currently confirmed speakers of the opening conference:
Bojana Kunst – Philosopher, dramaturg and performance art theorist, professor at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies, Justus Liebig University Gießen
Georg Seeßlen – Author and film critic
Simone Baumann – Managing Director of German Films and producer
Cíntia Gil – Film curator, previous Festival Director of Doclisboa and Sheffield DocFest
Nadav Lapid – Director, his most recent works are ”Ahed’s Knee” (2021) and ”Synonymes“ (Golden Bear-winner, Berlinale 2019)
Jemma Desai, UK: Programmer, researcher and writer; Head of Programming Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival
Flavia Dima, Romania: Film Critic, curator and programmer
Marina Gumzi, Slovenia/Germany: Producer, scriptwriter and researcher of screen culture with a background in dramaturgy and performance art; Managing Director of Ljubljana-based production studio NOSOROGI
Shine Louise Houston, USA: Founding producer and director of Pink & White Productions, (CrashPadSeries.com, PinkLabel.tv), creates adult cinema and queer-made porn
Yulia Serdyukova, Ukraine: Film producer, curator and queer feminist activist; one of the organisers of Filma. Feminist Film Festival; founder of yutopia films, which focuces on producing films of various formats and genres with strong authorial points of view and a critical approach towards dominant discourses
JP Sniadecki, USA: Filmmaker and anthropologist; Professor of Documentary Media at Northwestern University in Chicago and member of the Sensory Ethnography Lab
Tan Bee Thiam, Singapore: Producer, director, writer and editor with the independent film collective 13 Little Pictures
Davani Varillas, Mexico: Member of the Colectivo Los Ingrávidos, an avant-garde film collective formed in 2012
Zeynep Güzel, Turkey: Filmmaker (first feature “Come Rain or Shine”, 2019) and Co-Founder of New Film Fund, Turkey’s first private documentary fund, established in 2015
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The photo motif for this year’s opening conference was provided by Leipzig-based photographer Regina Susanne Borchert (https://regina-susanne.de).