Just as environmental media have a penchant for the spectacle of “disaster porn,” so does political media reveal a strong attraction to what Politico’s Sarah Kendzior, in “The Day We Pretended to Care About Ukraine,” calls the “apocalypstickle.”
An ugly word for political observers’ weird fascination with apocalyptic imagery. Brueghel, Bosch . . . and heightened internet traffic.
Readers of this blog know that my recent book presents what’s essentially a Whiteheadian (and Peircian) theory of cinema. (A theory, not the theory. And when compared to something as deeply Whiteheadian in its details as, say, Donald Sherburne’s A Whiteheadian Aesthetic, mine is, at best, “inspired by Whitehead.”)
Every violent suppression of dissent is violence against the humanity that is being born. The world to come is at stake in these encounters.
That’s what I tweeted last night while watching what looked like the squashing of a revolution, when riot police appeared by the thousands and began moving in on the territory held by Ukrainian protesters in downtown Kyiv (Kiev, pronounced “kay-eev” in Ukrainian). Watching these events on the multiple live video feeds available to a global audience was transfixing. Together with the constant stream of commentary in social media — I followed Facebook, Twitter, and the feeds on the streaming TV sites, but there were other options available — made it seem like a genuinely global insurrectionary event.
The following are some reflections on this experience, contextualized within global geopolitics, Ukrainian politics, the ecology of media, and the recent history of analogous events elsewhere (such as those I have blogged about earlier in Iran and Egypt).
A. O. Scott’s article on the Abraham Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination captures something of the 50-year transition from the first cinéma vérité president (Kennedy) to a world in which everyone is their own cinéma vérité celebrity — stars and legends in our own minds.
The Zapruder film in a sense predates all that — it comes just before the era of seamless televisual (ir)reality (which Scott describes well) and puts a boundary around it. Somewhere buried in it is the firstness of that primal trauma: the shot (and the secondness of Kennedy’s death).
Yet its many afterlives become part of that (ir)reality, in which proliferating meanings are woven into the phantasmagoric televisual texture of we-no-longer-know-what.
“The Zapruder film remains powerful partly because it seems to dwell in a zone of ambiguity that has become, over the years, a more and more familiar place. We accept it as true, without knowing what it means.”
I did a double-take when a producer from BYU Radio — Brigham Young University’s faith-and-values based talk radio station, which broadcasts to millions around the world through Sirius XM satellite radio — approached me for an interview about Ecologies of the Moving Image. I presume the majority of listeners are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, i.e., Mormons, as is a good portion of the content. (Which got me interested in LDS cinema. Go figure.)
The interview was live-broadcast on the station’s morning show last week. You can listen to it here, starting at about the 84-and-a-half minute mark and running for 20-odd minutes to the end of the show.
I found its morning show host Marcus Smith to be charming, intelligent, and very open-minded.
The following is reblogged, excerpted and modified, from e²mc.
How do films deal with historical atrocities? And how might they enable them in the first place?
The Act of Killing is Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling documentary about the perpetrators of the mass murders committed by the Suharto regime’s paramilitary death squads in mid-1960s Indonesia. The filmmakers interview some of the worst of the perpetrators and — controversially — invite them to re-enact the killings for the camera, filming these scenes in the style of their favorite film genres. This interplay between mass murder and Hollywood movies — gangsters, westerns, and musicals — is a focus of the film.
I’ve begun teaching a course on film and ecology and using my book Ecologies of the Moving Image as the main text.
Since the topic is related to the theme of this blog, and since I’ll be creating reading guides and posting links to film clips and related materials for my students, I thought I might as well share those publicly here.