Iraqi Short Films (2008), directed by Mauro Andrizzi, and X+, directed by Marylène Negro
March 6 and March 7 at Anthology Film Archives's "Internationalist Cinema for Today"
Anthology’s current series Internationalist Cinema for Today offers a medley of subjects, styles, formats, and attitudes from all over. There are missives from an older guard (Peter Whitehead, Philippe Grandrieux) as well as from a modern crop whom curator Nicole Brenez has called the “present-day combatants”. Brenez has borrowed the word “internationalist” in a sense distinct from “international”—no album of mementos from exotic climes, her program presents dispatches of often-painful information (both nitty-gritty and emotional), with the goal of continuing to move viewers’ worldviews beyond the limit of their own egos. As said Jean-Luc Godard, “The cinema is made to send news from where you are.”
Unsurprisingly, the news is frequently ugly. Iraqi Short Films (2008), realized and compiled by the Argentinean artist Mauro Andrizzi, has a misleading title. Not a selection of 8mm short narratives or docs from true Iraqi filmmakers, it is a mixtape of grainy videos shot by members of different parties of the Iraq War—militia members, Blackwater-style private security forces, and U.S. and British troops—depicting all manner of real-life horrors. Decidedly not for the faint of heart, the videos taken together have a high body count, and might be permanently scarring. You see human-filled Hummers decimated, civilians sniped, and young Arab men singing the glories of bin Laden. For this viewer, the overall effect was a nauseating revulsion against every party involved. This might be the sole achievement of Andrizzi’s mortifying playlist—though the ill-proofread quotations from people like T.E. Lawrence and Robert Fisk and his own onscreen notes make it clear he’s opposed to the occupation, his care to show war killing from all sides makes this more anti-war than anti-any one force. As chilling as it is to hear militia fighters (Andrizzi rightly rails against the propaganda term “terrorist”) giddily praising Allah as they videotape their successful roadside bombings with telescopic lenses, it is no less upsetting to hear their American counterparts delight (“See you in fuckin’ hell!”) as target-hitting bombs rain from the sky. Andrizzi’s attempts at irony are clumsy, as when he shows British troops doing a choreographed boogie to “Electric Avenue” (sandwiched between snuff clips from unspecified times and sources to highlight their callous aloofness) and scores another clip to “Mad World”. But Iraqi Short Films is a sickening experience, which is only appropriate.
Marylène Negro’s X+ (2010) is another mixtape, a comp of overlapping clips from films covering American counterculture movements of the 60s and 70s. She lets some snippets play out independently, while elsewhere she superimposes audio and visual until it builds into a kind of forceful noise—call it a cacophony of resistance. As per usual in this kind of essay/found-footage video, it’s not constantly engaging, but there are revelatory moments. Footage of testifying Vietnam soldiers from the great documentary Winter Soldier enter a sort of dialogue with Isaac Hayes from Wattstax, while a wandering character from Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles seems to interact with a riffing Richard Pryor. Other sources include Haskell Wexler’s The Bus, Emilio de Antonio’s Underground, and Leo Hurwitz’s Here at the Water’s Edge.