Allende’s Warning 1972: Valid 45 yrs later

Sad, that Dr. Allende’s words here in 1972 did not change the world. If the USA + Pinochet had not murdered him a month after this speech, the world would be in better shape! (Exceprt from Patricio Guzman’s documentary “Allende” – turn English subs on with “settings” gear-widget in youtube)


IN THE INTENSE NOW (No intenso Agora)

The best of times, the worst of times? No, the most intense of times, is a better way of describing the year 1968. This is the subject of the intensely facinating new film by João Moreira Salles.

Starting from the amateur films his mother shot at the dramatic outset of the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China in the year 1966, Salles compares and questions the historical record on events in Paris, Prague und Rio de Janiero in those rebellious times. His hypnotic narration also questions his own reading of these historical images: there is always more than one interpretation possible. Much of the material is derived from amatuer/alternative sources, which helps avoid the filters applied by much of the mainstream media. This could be considered “the people’s history of 1968”. But even in those “innocent/objective” amateur sources Salles sees things the filmakers him/herself were not aware of: we think we are filming one thing, when in fact there is something else to discover, that was not intended or overlooked. This is a premise which Harun Farocki often applied in his practice regarding the politics of imagery, and yes, in comments after the premiere at the Berlinale Salles noted Farocki as being one of his main influences in filmmaking.

On her tour of China, Salles’ mother was accompanied by the Red Guard, who offered her tour group red armbands to assure their treatment as first-class tourists in an otherwise classless society. They also received Mao’s famous Red Book. She films children singing/dancing to revolutionary songs, not knowing the text as Salles points out. He – somewhat ironically- translates the slogans plastered on the walls post-factum. His mother is just charmed and impressed at the children’s enthusiasm and grace, fascinated by the strange dignity of an exotic society on a new path. The China footage is all silent, it would have been interesting to actually have heard some acoustic records of those times, but Salles’ focuses on the material as it is, silent and coarse-grained: a minimalistic approach which intensifies concentration on image and text.

João Salles lived with his family in Paris in the sixties. His mother did not film any events there, or at least none that seemed of importance to Salles, who remembers Paris only as dark and narrow streets and courtyards. The Paris sequences are fixated on a relatively short time-frame: the spring of 1968, when his family left to return to Brasil shortly afterwards, sure that revolution and violence were about to break out in France. Strikes by over 5 million workers had paralyzed much of everyday life, although in the end the results were not at all revolutionary. They were important nonetheless, as both Union leaders in Nantes or Daniel Cohn-Bendit conclude: to show that there is another possibility, a life of dignity and not just as a mere consumer. A large part of the film deals with the contradictions and confusion of the youth of France and the workers, suddenly surprised at their own power/importance, and uncertain of how to go forwards. Here, Salles has found moments that are both incredibly humourous as well as profoundly tragic.

When one compares the Chinese revolutionary slogans that Salles translates to the ones that were carefully formulated by the P.R. Parisian activists, the claim to who is the more professional revolutionary seems clear. “The heroic Vietnamese People will defeat the American dogs” or “The Soviet Union will faint with envy at China’s success” all turned out to be true. In contrast, the French rallying cry, “Power to the workers and Students” or the more lyrical “Under the paving stones is the beach” are phrases simply in love with themselves. The disappointment which turned to despair for many of these European youth was also a further symptom of intensity that was ego-based: “the beach” sounds sexier than a “classless society”. Salles humourously elaborates on this paradox with material from  Goupil’s “To Die at Thirty” (“Mourir à 30 ans”), that shows French students at age 26 already writing their memoirs.

Salles’ observations are never mocking: he seems to have enormous respect for people immersed in the moment, without fear of the unexpected. The possibily of how things could be completely different. That is why the material showing how both De Gaulle and the Soviet-Czech puppets triumphed over their respective uprisings is so depressingly predictable. These bourgeosie/conservative masses want nothing to change, they are satisfied with the status-quo. Their memoirs interest nobody, whether written at age 26 or 66. They were immune to the experience of the INTENSE NOW. Salles describes his mother’s own experiences in revolutionary China as something she always returned to, as a precious memory, a nostalgic reflection of how different the world could be, or perhaps how different one’s self in the world could be. The China sequences repeat dreamlike: how is it this woman from a bourgeois background was so charmed by revolutionary Chinese society, yet so untouched by the radical events of Paris 1968, in the city where she lived? When is a memory simple nostalgia, and when is a memory something that changes everything that follows?

A beautiful film on many levels, although one could argue against the Fado music at the film’s end, which has a sentimental effect on an otherwise profound piece of work. But then, this film lives for the moment of the unexpected, even offering a view of the other Mao, writing poetry about the river and flow of time. Perhaps he would have enjoyed sharing a Pastis with Salles’ mother on the banks of the Seine.

12.02.2017  Jan Ralske / immediately after the film’s world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival




IF I WERE PRESIDENT (William Blum) /Wenn ich Präsident wäre

“If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize — very publicly and very sincerely — to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce that America’s global military interventions have come to an end. I would then inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but -– oddly enough -– a foreign country. Then I would reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings, invasions and sanctions. There would be enough money. One year of our military budget is equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That’s one year.

That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House.

On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.”

Meine (grobe) deutsche Übersetzung:

„Wenn ich Präsident wäre, könnte ich Terrorangriffe auf die Vereinigten Staaten innerhalb weniger Tage für immer unterbinden. Zuerst würde ich mich – öffentlich und sehr ernsthaft – bei all den Witwen und Waisen, bei den Verarmten und den Gefolterten und bei den vielen weiteren Millionen Opfern des amerikanischen Imperialismus entschuldigen. Anschließend würde ich in jedem Winkel der Welt verkünden, dass die Zeit der amerikanischen Militärinterventionen für immer beendet ist.
Ich würde als nächstes Israel informieren, dass das Land nicht den USA als 51. Budesstaat angehört, sondern – grosse Überraschung – ein fremdes Land ist. Danach würde ich den USA-Militäretat 90% kürzen und dieses Geld einsetzen, um Entschädigungsleistungen an den vielen Opfer und um Reparationsmaßnahmen zu ermöglichen: für die Zerstörungen, die durch USA Bombardierung, Invasionen, und Sanktionen verursacht wurden.
Da wäre viel Geld zu verteilen. Unserer Militäretat für nur ein Jahr reicht für mehr als $20.000,00 pro Stunde, für jede Stunde, die seit dem Geburt Christis vergangen ist. Das ist nur ein jährlicher Etat des Pentagons.

Das würde ich alles tun, innerhalb meinen ersten drei Tage im Weissen Haus.

Am vierten Tag würden sie mich ermördern.”

Happy 40th anniversary of Vietnamese Liberation!

Which also happens to be the day that I return  my USA-passport to sender, stick-it-where-the-sun-never-shines, suckers! USA has got nothing more on me… what a liberating feeling!. (Photo above, April 1975, by Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/Corbis)

To see how the USA still just seems incapable of learning from its deadly mistakes:

THIS rah-rah propaganda film released this week by PBS/Robert Kennedy’s daughter… putting out a feel-good “heroic” story of how “our boys” errr “rescued” some S.Vietnamese… ummmm “employees”/”girlfriends”… against all odds on that fateful day, to mark the 40th anniversary of the USA ummm… LOSING that war

John Pilger’s report of same historic date, unlike Kennedy/PBS he was there on the ground:

There is in the Vietnamese language, which is given much to poetry and irony, a saying that “only when the house burns, do you see the faces of the rats.”

Most of those “heroic” boys in Kennedy’s documentary were actually machine-gunning S.Vietnamese trying to “escape” to their paymaster on that fateful day: those unfortunates didn’t happen to be the US-marine girlfriends/military big-wigs.

Besides being a bad day for the USA, April 30th was also death-day of another serial mass-murderer named Adolf Hitler. Quite a date.

saigon defeat

More Vietnam-Liberation pics HERE.

People in glass houses and unturned stones…

Schäuble’s tirade against Greece: here’s a quick recommendation for a “counterpunch” to Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Economic Minister, who once “forgot” 100,000.00 DM in a drawer. Who is really corrupt and can’t handle money?

This corruption scandal in the year 2000 had its key-player “committing suicide”, and the public prosecuter was found dead in a car “accident”. The 100,000 was never found, but still cost Schäuble his position as head of the CDU. Germany got Angela Merkel as his replacement: she then promptly made him the Minister of Finance, not batting an eye. You just can’t make this stuff up.

HERE and HERE (and youtube HERE) for German, and HERE  and HERE for English. (New: HERE youtube with eng. subtitles)

Meanwhile souvenirs from a Greece solidarity demonstration in cold and wet Berlin today, 14.03.2015



Screening at Berlinale “Forum-Expanded” 2015

I am please to announce that an experimental essay film I made with Antje Ehmann, “Wie soll man das nennen, was ich vermisse?” (What Do You Call This Thing I Am Missing?) will be screening at the Expanded Forum section of the Berlinale International Film Festival in February, 2015. The film is presented as a double-channel installation, which is both a tribute to Harun Farocki and his film methods as well as related to the Expanded Forum’s theme of “closed doors”.

Opening is on Wednesday, February 4th, at 7 P.M. at Akademie der Künste (West) , Hanseatenweg 10, 10557 Berlin. (detailed info HERE) UPDATE: Review in the TAGESSPIEGEL here.*

Preview/short excerpt available HERE


*Berlinale-Ausstellung in der Akademie der Künste
Tür auf, Tür zu
06.02.2015 Von Mattes Lammert

…Eine ganz wunderbare filmgeschichtliche Hommage ist auch die Montage „Wie soll man das nennen, was ich vermissen“. Diesen Titel eines Text des kürzlich verstorbene Filmemachers Harun Farocki haben seine beiden engsten Mitarbeiter Antje Ehmann und Jan Ralske als Anlass genommen sein Werk für diese Ausstellung nach Tür-Szenen im weitesten Sinne zu durchforsten. Obwohl nur auf zwei kleinen Bildschirmen gezeigt, zählt diese Arbeit zu den Berührendsten in einer Ausstellung, der es gut getan hätte, sich auf weniger Werke zu konzentrieren.

“Vergangen, vergessen, vorüber” screens at German Museum of History (DHM)

“Vergangen, vergessen, vorüber” (“Long-lost and Lay-Me-Down“) to be shown at the German Musuem of History (DHM) on November 8th, for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. On November 9th, 1989 the Berlin Wall ceased to be the border between East/West that it once was.
As a hiccup in the continuation of West Germany’s culture of “negative” celebration (see earlier post) the Deutsches Historisches Museum will show my film with Bruno S. (of Werner Herzog fame), shot during the period shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The series, “Borderland Berlin”, also includes films by Gordon Matta Clark, Ross McElwee, Helga Reidemeister… Currently the program’s website is only in German, at
My text there is also available in english – see post/link at bottom of page.

Here is a 2-minute excerpt from the film:

p.s. For the nighthawks, the film will also be showing at Ex’ n’ Pop, Potsdamerstr. 157, Berlin on October 29th at 10 p.m. in the “redux” version (2013).

Text for VVV: “Borderland Berlin”1989 Film Series at DHM

You could call the fall of the Berlin Wall a “peaceful revolution”, but you could also describe it as the result of an 80-year old war against the Soviet Union. The 9th of November, the Fall of the Wall, was a dark day for Bruno S. for personal reasons: he considered the GDR as the unloved child he himself once was. A perspective which is not so different from Heiner Müller’s statement that the GDR was nothing more than “a nursing home for former concentration camp victims and Communists”: no longer needed by the baby-boom generation.

In 1993, the year “Vergangen, vergessen, vorüber “ was made, criticism of German re-unification was considered tabu. For many foreigners living in Germany at the time, the suddenly re-discovered German national pride had an unsettling effect: a day, when the Germans tearfully embrace each other in joy on a historic occasion, usually was never a good day for world history.

Bruno S., an eternal outsider, artist, musician and actor always had a very critical, first-hand view of recent German history. So it was possible for me to quickly reach agreement with him, to make a film with this critical attitude in mind. Bruno had only one condition: his former experiences as an actor for Werner Herzog made him very distrusful of “film people”: he would appear in the film only if I did too. With this pre-condition, I found inspiration for the form of the film in Pasolini’s “Uccelacci e uccelini” (Hawks and Sparrows): an expedition of a teacher/pupil duo to the social/historical front-lines. The no-man’s-land of the former Berlin Wall would be our home ground. It was astonishing how quickly things were changing, how quickly history was frantically being erased: the huge Lenin statue was demolished, the center of the former GDR government, the “People’s Palace” was destroyed, to be replaced with a duplicate of an aristocatic castle. Dozens of streets were re-named because certain personalities had to vanish from new Berlin’s city map. We tried to find the logic behind this changing landscape.

Raven: Wouldn’t you like to speak like the others, to wear the same clothes
as them, eat the same food, drive the same car?
Ninetto: Sure! Do I look dumber than the others?

“Uccelacci e uccelini” Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967

When the film was finished, it was invited only to festivals outside of Germany.The serious joyfulness of re-unified Germany was not inclined to appreciate the humour or critical aspects of Bruno’s lectures. So now the film is simply a historical document: the green fields of Potsdamerplatz with no shopping malls, the drama/traum(a) of a “New Germany”. And sadly, Bruno himself is no longer around.

(c) Jan Ralske 2014


Deutsche Version:

Man kann den Fall der Berliner Mauer am 9. November 1989 als “friedliche Revolution” bezeichnen, man könnte ihn aber auch als Ergebnis des 70-jährigen Krieges gegen die Sowjetunion interpretieren. Für Bruno S., ein ausgestoßenes Heimkind, war der 9. November aus anderen Gründen ein schwarzer Tag: er sah die DDR als ungeliebtes Kind, ähnlich wie Heiner Müller sie einmal beschrieben hatte, als “ein Pflegeheim ehemaliger KZ-Insassen und Kommunisten”, das für eine neue Generation ausgedient hätte.
Im Jahr 1993, als dieser Film entstand, war Kritik an der Wiedervereinigung unerwünscht. Für viele hier lebende Ausländer hatte der neue deutsche (National)Stolz etwas Beunruhigendes; ein Tag, an dem sich die Deutschen vor Freude in die Arme fielen, war nie ein guter Tag für die Weltgeschichte gewesen. Bruno S., der ewige Außenseiter, Künstler, Musiker und Schauspieler, hatte auch einen sehr kritischen Blick auf die jüngste deutsche Geschichte. Und so wurden wir uns schnell einig, darüber gemeinsam einen Film zu machen. Die einzige Bedingung von Bruno war, dass auch ich vor die Kamera treten müsse, denn inzwischen hatte Bruno wenig Vertrauen zu „Filmleuten”. Inspiration für die Form des Films fand ich in Pasolinis Uccellacci e uccelini: eine Expedition eines Lehrer-Studenten-Paares zur Erkundung der gesellschaftspolitischen Frontlinien. Das noch vorhandene Niemandsland in Berlin wurde zu unserer Heimat. Es war atemberaubend, wie schnell sich alles veränderte, wie schnell die Geschichte ausradiert wurde; der große Lenin am Leninplatz wurde zu einem Haufen Steine am “Platz der Vereinten Nationen”, der Palast der Republik wurde gesperrt und später abgerissen, dutzende Straßen umbenannt. In dieser Landschaft versuchten wir mit Bruno als Wegweiser eine Logik, ein Muster in den Ereignissen zu erkennen.

Rabe: Würde es dir denn Spaß machen, genauso zu reden wie die anderen, dieselben Kleider zu tragen, dasselbe zu essen und dasselbe Auto zu fahren?

Ninetto: Na sicher! Bin ich blöder als die anderen?

Uccellacci e uccelini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967

Als der Film fertig war, wurde er fast ausschließlich zu Festivals im Ausland eingeladen. Im vereinten Deutschland dagegen passte er nicht ins (Selbst)Bild. Nun ist er zu einem historischen Dokument geworden, vom unbebauten Potsdamer Platz und vom Traum(a) eines „Neuen Deutschland“. Und auch Bruno gibt es nicht mehr.

65th Birthday and 25th Death-day for the German Democratic Republic

WEST GERMANY – a culture of negative celebrations

Recommended reading: a concise philosphical look at the motivation behind the never-ending demonization of the GDR, published in JUNGE WELT by Hagen Bonn. (original German)

He writes that the history of West Germany is the history of negative celebrations. Every year, we are reminded of June 17th (defeat of “rebellion” in GDR), then August 13th (division of Germany), then the 9th of November, as the Fall of the Berliner Wall but much more quietly that day is also the anniversary of the Nazi “Reichskristallnacht”…

We are supposed to associate the 3rd Reich and the GDR as equal negatives according to West German official history. The unasked question : is state-sanctioned facism really as dead (since May 8th,1945) as GDR socialism is supposed to be dead (since November 9th, 1989)?

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