Syrian video archives

by Judith

The Summer
is a time to relax and enjoy the pleasures of freetime, but taking a step back
from daily routines may also inspire more serious modes of reflection and
contemplation. It is in that context that I would like to draw your attention
to two remarkable video initiatives from Syria. The first is the anonymous
collective Abou Naddara. The collective trains and equips aspiring
filmmakers throughout Syria who regularly upload short video clips from a country
of which we hear the most shocking stories but rarely see how actual people
live their lives. Videos in the form of oral eye witness accounts play an
increasingly important role in Abou Naddara’s archive. Equally impressive, and
visually more interesting is the footage of everyday life in war torn Syria.
This beautiful clip shows the work of cooks. The close range footage of
routinized hands and the damp coming from the rice with lentils stimulates the
senses. It is as if we can touch and smell the food. The song that seems to be
now intradiegetic now extradiegetic is pure voice, deliverd by one of the
workers. The whole scene presents an embodied experience of an everyday
struggle to retain a sense of human dignity under the exposure to extreme

A more
direct engagement with violence can be found in the clip “The Way to School.”
Yet, here too, the relatively high quality of the footage, the journey against
the current of hurrying school children and parents, the lack of spoken or
embodied engagement by the camera operator with the unfolding scene suggest a
much more distanced and to some extent aestheticized visualization of the
conflict than the ubiquitous camera phone eye witness accounts that circulated
especially at the start of the conflict in 2011-12. Somehow, while the use of
relatively high quality cameras and post-recording editing has a distancing
effect, it also adds a subjectivity to the representation that is much more
intimate than the urgent footage shot by citizen journalists.

The second
initiative I would like to highlight is the Syrian Mobile Film Festival,
which shows that (semi-)professional equipment is not necessary to produce
highly personal and aesthetic narratives of daily life in contemporary Syria.
It is worth browsing through the archives of previous editions. This touching
video was shot during the world cup in Brazil in 2014:

Chris Potter Underground – Open Minds (2011)

by Vincent Meelberg

This documentary, directed by Jim McGorman,
provides a unique insight into the way a contemporary jazzfunk ensemble
prepares for a concert. Apart from discussing their compositional methods, they
talk about playing and improvisation in general, too. These are not only
excellent musicians, but are also able to very eloquently articulate their
views on music and performance.

Oh, and the music is groovy as hell as well!

‘Do not use it until you need it!’

by Edwin van Meerkerk

Even to its own standards, Hollywood is copying itself more than ever, some have claimed. Copycat behaviour has, however, always been a trademark of American blockbuster movies. One fine example of this is the cult movie Krull, released in 1982. In a multimillion-dollar attempt to ride the waves of success created by the Star Wars trilogy – making it the most expensive film of the early 1980s –

director Peter Yates created yet another blend of science fiction and fantasy. Rather that telling a fairy tale fantasy story with space ships, as George Lucas had done, Yates introduced cyborgs and laser guns to a medieval style fantasy world. Enter

Krull is the ultimate example of a plan gone wrong (it has been noted before). Plot line, characters, costume and set design, in every detail of the film, ambition has blown up in the face of its maker. Having said that, Krull is certain to entertain you for the full two hours and one minute, even when you’re just wondering when our hero Colwyn will finally know when he finally needs his weapon (’Do not use it until you need it!’). And if you’re watching the movie with your friends, there’s a nice additional game: who spots Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) or Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter) first?

Summer edition / Zomereditie


This summer, the Arts and Culture Studies staff presents a selection of fragments from films, documentaries, and tv shows we study, or watch for pleasure. We hope you will enjoy watching, and have a good summer!

Deze zomer presenteert de staf van Algemene cultuurwetenschappen een serie fragmenten uit films, documentaires en televisieprogramma’s die we bestuderen of in onze vrije tijd kijken. We hopen dat je veel kijkplezier beleeft en wensen je een mooie zomer!

Kung Fury

by Martijn Stevens

Fury is an over-the-top action comedy written and directed by David Sandberg.
The movie features: arcade-robots, dinosaurs, nazis, vikings, norse gods,
mutants and a super kung fu-cop called Kung Fury, all wrapped up in an 80s
style action packed adventure. Kung Fury takes place in a variety of exotic
locations; 1980s Miami, Asgard and Germany in the 1940s, to name a few. […]
Kung Fury was funded mainly through a Kickstarter campaign, where people from
all around the world showed their support for this crazy project. David worked
on the film for a more than a year with almost no budget but a strong vision,
with the help of friends and family.