Disruptive film: everyday resistance to power, cinema sans papiers

Ernest Larsen

Sherry Millner

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November 8, 2018 8:00 pm

Disruptive film: everyday resistance to power, is a three nights screening program curated by Sherry Millner and Ernest Larsen. Fifteen short-form experimental political non-fiction films and videos from eleven countries and from 50 years of film history are gathered from both volumes 1 and 2 of disruptive film’s initial program. Since 2008, Millner and Larsen have been seeking out moving-image non-fiction media that approaches its material from a distinctly radical point of view – at once aesthetically and politically. Disruptive film: everyday resistance to power consists of short-films that depict different forms of resistance to power across the globe. In the form of radical experimental non-fiction media these short-films span from 1914 to the early 21st century, thus giving an overview of the diverse approaches to documentary filmmaking. The general ambition of the program is described by Millner and Larsen as follows, it’s the construction of an “alternative history of non-fiction film.” – a history that has at times been obstructed and oppressed. Moreover, they are interested in heterogeneous films, films made at disparate geographical and historical nods, that communicate between each other, constructing then, according to Larsen, “for audience/participants the texture of an event”.

J’ai huit ans,  8 min, 1961, Olga Poliakoff and Yann Le Masson. Secretly filmed in a Tunisian refugee camp, subsequently banned in France but clandestinely circulated to many thousands, I am eight years old powerfully portrays the trauma of the Algerian war from the perspectives of nine boys and their extraordinary drawings of their war experiences. No one who saw this beautiful film in the early sixties could in conscience have reasonably denied the daily brutality of colonization. The film is based on a scenario Rene Vautier developed with the directors–acting upon the suggestion of Frantz Fanon, whose therapeutic approach in the refugee camp included the children’s visualization of what they’d experienced under the ceaseless barrage of the French military.

41 shots, 14:37 min, 2000, Millner & Larsen. the notorious NYPD murder of Guinean immigrant street peddler Amadou Diallo, as he stood in the vestibule of the Bronx apartment building where he lived, is framed as the direct result of then-mayor Guiliani’s no-holds-barred zero-tolerance enactment of the implicitly racist ‘broken windows’ theory of policing. The video essay provocatively displaces the crime to 41 vestibules in safe (i.e. white) lower manhattan that will never be attacked by the new york street crimes unit.

Don’t go gentle into the night, 20 min, 2005, Sylvain George. In October 2005, fed-up with mass arrests and deportations of undocumented persons, dozens of people in a district of Paris revolt spontaneously and temporarily route the forces of order. This is the first French film to confront the police roundups and raids on undocumented migrants. Shooting in high-contrast black and white, with George’s mobile camera roving amid the gathering tumult, this is also one of the rare films that document a direct street action from beginning to end–an object lesson in the thrill of resistance to power.

How do animals and plants live? , 26 min, 2018. The Greek government’s forcible eviction and immediate destruction of the self-organized anarchist-supported migrant squat orfanotrofeio in Thessaloniki in late July 2016. An interview with a young African migrant, physical exploration of the bulldozed ruins of the old orphanage, and translations from a Greek-language children’s schoolbook found when the filmmakers broke into the site of the ruins, (how do animals and plants live?) are accompanied by strikingly relevant visual analogs sparked by these translations in English from the book. Such visuals pointedly ask: how is this possible? to translate is to create the basis for a new commons….in extrapolating on the proposition that no one is illegal, the essay demonstrates the active viability of anarchist principles of self-organization, autonomy, solidarity, and direct action, in relation to ongoing migrant struggles in Europe and elsewhere.

Sherry Millner was the initial chair of the media culture department at the College of Staten Island, Cuny. her many films and videos have been exhibited at festivals throughout the US, Europe, Australia, and Asia. In addition to festival awards for her work, she has been the recipient of residencies and grants from NYFA, NYSCA, the Jerome Foundation, Long Beach Museum, The U-cross Foundation, Can Serrat, Babayan Culture House, and Light Works, among others.

Ernest Larsen writes fiction, media criticism, and frequently collaborates with co-curator Sherry Millner on film and video projects his criticism has been published in the nation, art in America, the village voice, art journal, the independent, among others –along with essays in a number of anthologies. Ernest is also a scriptwriter and contributing producer for several PBS series. he has received grants, residencies, and awards from the Jerome Foundation, Paul Robeson Foundation, Macdowell Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, Gunk Foundation, and The Blumenthal Foundation.