Militant Cinema & Activist Film focuses the concepts and techniques of filmmaking, film viewing and dissemination as forms of political action. Through an analytical study of key histories, texts and audio-visual material spanning a multitude of militant film movements from around the globe, the course contextualises its programme within a contemporary political reality, preparing you to engage with the global injustices and atrocities of the 21st century.
You will be introduced to the latest manifestos and the most radical concepts of militant moving image praxes of today, spanning movements from Syria to Hong Kong. In addition, the course features essential texts and discussion on the topics of international law, human rights, and contemporary genocide, incorporating reading, discussion and awareness of key legal frameworks to provide students with effective planning and preparation for their own activist endeavours, or simply for a foundational understanding of political movements and their audio-visual manifestations.
Indicative course outline:
Session 1: Emergency Cinema & Protest Film
Analysing activist videos and footage of state-backed violence from across the globe (Hong Kong, Iran, Palestine/Israel, Syria; anti-gay violence in Russia; and anti-black police violence in the USA,) this session considers the dichotomy and overlaps between protest films and films about protest; the concept of “Emergency Cinema”; the role of atrocity footage; the politics of pixellation; the spaces of non appearance; and the idea of “filming freedom”.
Session 2: Terror, Spectacle & World Revolution
This session dissects the psychology and intentions behind the militant and terrorist actions of radical groups and their audio-visual documentation and representation. Crucial to this session are questions pertaining to the notion of mediating and remediating terror as a spectacle for audience consumption, owning publicity, self-promotion and “playing” global media outlets. Analysing radical films from the early 1970s, such as those of the Japanese political avant-garde, and considering key texts on the concepts of “rerouting” and “hijacking”, the session will then be brought to contemporary setting, interrogating global media attention towards ISIS/ISIL circa 2015. Topics: terrorism; (re)mediation; (re)presentation; hijacking; détournement.
Session 3: Revolt, Genocide & Resistance
This session examines the audio-visual material to have emerged in the context of popular revolution and mass extermination in Syria since 2011. A detailed reading of the legal and conceptual definition of genocide will be undertaken as a means of demonstrating how the crime can be understood to have taken place in Syria in the 21st Century. This will be supplemented with the screening of a series of Syrian activist films and video which will be analysed as outputs that resist the “narrative component of genocide”. We’ll also introduce the resistance concept of “wujoud” as a framework of interpretation and methodology underpinning a body of Syrian audiovisual activist praxis. Topics: genocide; denial; dehumanisation; disinformation; frames of visibility; wujoud; resistance; atrocity footage; embodied resistance; the absent image.
Session 4: “They do not exist” – Palestinian militant cinema
A historical overview of Palestinian militant cinema, from its birth in 1968 following the establishment of the PLO and the Palestine Film Unit, to contemporary video art activism. Palestinian films, in their post-six day war inception, strove to function as an extension of armed struggle, serving as a tool for self-representation and as an assertion of visibility in the face of global powers that had attempted to ignore their existence and their struggle for dignity and statehood. Analysed will be the representation of Palestinian people and their struggle by nonPalestinian filmmakers. We’ll consider contemporary Palestinian video art against topics such as audience reception, awareness of the Palestinian cause, and the topic of evidence with regards to human rights violations and claim to land. Topics: (self)representation; image construction; (in)visibility; evidence.
Session 5: Whose Voice? Third World Liberation, “peaceniks” and Visibility
This session looks at the tensions, contradictions and competing narratives that continue to emerge among opposition and activist communities in the Western world and elsewhere. It charts the division between Black students and non-black anti Vietnam war groups in the USA (and Britain) in the 1960s, the former primarily concerned with the livelihoods and liberation of their own community in their respective countries, the latter with opposing Western government interventions in foreign lands. This dichotomy is then brought to a contemporary context through the reading of key texts in postcolonial theory, supplemented with screenings and discussion around the question of who controls the discourse of resistance, and who gets to be its spokesperson? Divisions between segments of self-styled “anti-war”/“anti-imperialist” groups in the Western world, and those at the receiving end of state-perpetrated atrocities by regimes in countries such as Syria, Iran, China or Russia will be discussed in particular through a selection of films, incorporating works where these divisions have been recorded and interpreted in documentary and activist output. Discussion will include the topics of embodied knowledge of indigenous populations, their cases for armed struggle, and the critiquing of neo-isolationism; the fixity of colonial stereotypes; and a phenomenon referred to as the “markets of solidarity”. Topics: representation; visibility; liberation; violence; imagined narratives; embodied knowledge; solidarity; stereotypes and fixity.
This course will be delivered via online distance learning, and students will require a computer or other internet connected device.
1x Universal Credit bursary place is available for this course. Please see our bursary policy here.