Chris Marker’s 100th Birthday Live Stream
Director: Chris Marker
France / 1990/1993/1995 / 29/28/25 min
In French with English subtitles
Intro by Paul Chan
Last streamed on Thu, Jul 29
On the occasion of Marker’s 100th birthday, we present three of his previously unreleased documentary shorts—Berliner Ballade, Prime Time in the Camps, and Blue Helmet (Casque Blue)—which capture political upheaval in eastern Europe and the indomitable spirits of those affected. An Icarus Films release.
“What interests me is history, and politics only interests me to the degree that it is the mark history makes on the present.”
In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the France 2 news program Envoyé spécial sent Chris Marker to East Berlin in the lead-up to the first free elections in decades. Berliner Ballade is the film Marker made, but the program that commissioned it never aired it in its entirety. Now restored to its full version, the film takes us onto the streets of Berlin, showing crowds of pedestrians, sausage vendors, and even people creating fake Berlin Wall souvenirs to sell. These images are juxtaposed with archival footage of the wall and its surroundings, Hitler in a triumphant motorcade, and a stark row of crosses bearing the names (when known) and death dates of those killed trying to cross over into East Germany. Berliner Ballade is punctuated with short interviews featuring artists and activists grappling with what life in this new Germany means for the left. As the votes are tallied, the Christian Democrats carry the day. It is the start of a new reality for Berliners, and one many clearly greet with mixed feelings.
Prime Time in the Camps
Housed in the Roska refugee camp–a former military barracks–Bosnian refugees find themselves cut off from their former lives, and from the rest of the world. It is 1993, and as the Yugoslav war rages and the siege of Sarajevo drags on, a group of young people decide to break the isolation by making their own television programs. A Belgian NGO provides them with gear, and they pirate satellite feeds from different sources, edit the footage, and assemble a news program complete with co-hosts. In the process, they learn about the biases of different outlets, and commit to presenting the news as fairly as possible. They also interview residents of the camp in a moving weekly special report feature “interview from a room” feature. And some of them work on a longer-term project, using video to preserve memories–a critical consideration, since so many keepers of stories have been killed. The programs are recorded on videocassette and “air” on a tiny TV in a packed screening room at the camp. Prime Time in the Camps is one in a series of short films by Chris Marker on the war in Yugoslavia. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the camp’s TV crews in action and interviews and excerpts from the TV programs, the film captures the importance of grassroots media and the need for people to share their stories.
Blue Helmet (Casque Bleu)
For six months in 1994, François Crémieux served as a French UN peacekeeper near the Bosnian town of Bihać. He never saw combat, barely even experienced physical discomfort—but he was left deeply shaken by the experience. In Blue Helmet, Chris Marker keeps the focus squarely on Crémieux, an eloquent young veteran who recounts his experiences rapid-fire, as though he’s been desperate to share them since returning home. The film consists entirely of Crémieux shot in close-up, interspersed with stills from his tour of duty. The story he tells is one of infantry indifferent to peacekeeping ideals, training by racist officers, missions that range from occasionally useful to completely pointless, and rules of engagement that benefited only the aggressors. Despite its apparent simplicity, Blue Helmet is a powerful firsthand account of a peacekeeping mission that didn’t just go wrong, but never had any opportunity to go right.
Paul Chan is an artist, writer, and publisher who lives in New York. He is the winner of the 2014 Hugo Boss Prize and his work has been exhibited widely in many international shows, and his work is currently on view at NY’s Museum of Modern Art. Chan’s essays and interviews have appeared in 4 columns, Artforum, Frieze, Flash Art, October, Parkett, Texte Zur Kunst, Bomb, and other magazines and journals. He founded the independent press Badlands Unlimited in 2010.