Series Description

 
What Farocki Taught
Jill Godmilow | 1998 | 30:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3 | 16mm film
What Farocki Taught
Video Details
Jill Godmilow | 1998 | 30:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3 | 16mm film

A 1998 remake of Harun Farocki's 1969 film, Inextinguishable Fire.

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What Farocki Taught
Video Details
Jill Godmilow | 1998 | 30:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3 | 16mm film

A 1998 remake of Harun Farocki's 1969 film, Inextinguishable Fire.

Close Details

About this program:

Jill Godmilow's What Farocki Taught (1998) has continued to demand our attention through the past twenty years of global, politcal, and artistic change. Relevant in both form and content, What Farocki Taught reenacts Harun Farocki's 1969 film Inextinguishable Fire, discussing the development of Napalm B by Dow Chemical. Both films refuse to be labeled documentary — they instead take cues from experimental film and performance art. These sharp turns away from the history of political filmmaking inspect how our culture ingests political media, finding different ways to present difficult images. Jill Godmilow lovingly adapts Farocki, translating the work for an English speaking audience, and asking what the task of the reenactment really means. What Farocki Taught answers the question by giving credit to, and examining, the examiner. 

"A bracing exercise in political filmmaking and pedagogy for the late nineties — resurrecting the Brechtian frontal attack, both on an economic system intent on the manufacture of death, and on the complacency of documentary realism."

— Michael Renov, USC School of Cinema and Television Studies

"A bracing act of homage from one master filmmaker to another, What Farocki Taught is also a rewriting — a literal re-inscription — of a hidden page from recent film history. Useful as a corrective, honest as a gesture."

— Bill Horrigan, Wexner Center for the Arts

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About Jill Godmilow:

Jill Godmilow has earned a substantial reputation as a film director whose work varies in form from documentary to speculative historical fictions to re-creation. Her work includes Antonia: a Portrait of the Woman (1974), co-directed with folk singer Judy Collins, which was the first independently produced American documentary to enjoy extensive theatrical exhibition in the United States, and was broadcast in eleven foreign countries. Among other honors, it received an Academy Award nomination and the Independent New York Film Critics Award for Best Documentary. Other work includes Far from Poland, (1984), Waiting for the Moon (1987), Roy Cohn/Jack Smith (1995), a cinematic translation of the late performance artist Ron Vawter's extraordinary solo theater piece, as well as What Farocki Taught (1998), and Lear ’87 Archive (Condensed) (2002). Godmilow teaches filmmaking and critical courses at the University of Notre Dame.

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What Farocki Taught

What Farocki Taught is literally and stubbornly a remake — that is, a perfect replica in color and in English, of Harun Farocki’s black and white, 1969 German language film, Inextinguishable Fire.

Taking as its subject the political and formal strategies of Farocki’s film about the development of Napalm B by Dow Chemical during the Vietnam War, Godmilow’s unabashedly perfect copy reopens Walter Benjamin’s discussion of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. What Farocki Taught thus becomes an agit-prop challenge to the cinema verité documentary’s representation of information, history, politics, and “real” human experience.

In an epilogue to her remake, Godmilow prods contemporary filmmakers towards the original film’s political stance and strategies, emphasizing its direct audience address and refusal to produce the “compassionate voyeurism” of the classic documentary cinema.

"As reconfigured by Godmilow, the film is intellectually rigorous and emotionally frightening — a ferocious, committed, important historical/political tract for the amnesiac '90s.”

— Gerald Peary, International Film Festival Rotterdam (1998)