Hartmut Bitomsky – Playback (1995)

Looks like an awesome Bitomsky film, deals with images on film shot between 1910-1920.Playback is a documentary film about a workshop that took place at the Nederland Fimmuseum in Amsterdam in 1995, and which was supported by the Goethe Institute. The subject of the workshop was the early documentary cinema between 1910 and approximately 1920 – and also making of this video.

The participants included film students, filmmakers, visual artists, film historians and archivists from the Filmmuseum, and surrounding them was a crew of cinematographers, sound technicians and camera and production assistants, who recorded almost everything that was going on.

During the two weeks of sessions more than 30 films were reviewed, a few times in a movie theater and additionally on TV screens, and in discussed in general group sessions, in which reports were prepared and presented by individual participants. Later on, various video installations were set up, which were then again recorded by cameras. Finally, the workshop was presented to the public at the Rotterdam Film Festival, where the films were shown and the first results of the workshop discussed with the festival audience.

What are these old and seemingly old-fashioned films able to tell us today? Do they still convey to us a meaning, and if not, does the difficulty in understanding them lie with us or them?

And is there any need to preserve films if they are no longer capable of communicating to us in a manner that corresponds to our contemporary way or perceiving and understanding reality?

While we are working on coming to terms with these kinds of questions in the workshop, the following quotation from Umberto Eco appeared, who was visiting Amsterdam at that time: ‘Creativity is not so much the inventing of new materials as it is the rearranging of materials that are old’. This rearranging of old materials is exactly what the video Playback does. It conjugates, so to speak, old films by using various media and by offering interpretations, and through forms of perception and experimenting with ideas in order to find out how much we are alienated from our (even recent) history and how much work is involved in showing it again.

“Playback” is a documentary of workshop in Amsterdam, for studying films which was made in 1910`20s.It’s important that this film is also a documentary of people studying ‘media literacy’.For example there is a sequence that people discuss with each other while they watch fragments of silent films called ‘beauty contest’.One says ‘They’re called ‘beauty contest’ but they’re all beautiful’,one says,’No,they might have been forced to face the camera like Pasolini’s “Salo”,and they look sad.’,and another one says,’But there is a part that a boy stands close to a girl as if he protect her’…Probably “Playback” is influenced by the sequence of Rouch’s “Chronique d’ete” that people who were filmed comment after projection of the film,but it is a great documentary of the meeting between people and images that separates the time of 80 years,and of inventing an idea and discourse from there. And we can imagine someone makes a documentary of people who discuss while they’re watching “Playback” in future.It’s a rare documentary opening to the future.

Bitomsky says the collapse of the direct relation between image and reality because of digital image’s appearance and disappearance of images in war, are challenges to documentary.It may lead falling down of truth of image,and our judgment under presence and consumerism is submit itself to ‘official announcement’?Will it become impossible for us to persuade a trace in an image?If we could be liberated from prompt reaction and secure the space and time to think,we can have something that was potential surface to view. He says “the task of the future documentary will be to create doubt. You could say, the more sophisticated literacy that could read not only images but also the method of working images.” Cinema is the only place because it lost position of the mass media. The circulation of preservation, criticism, and creation of image can offer us how to defend ourselves.

1.36GB | 1h 19m | 576×432 | avi



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