Wednesday, September 30, 2009

John Greyson's 14.3 Seconds

As a faux-documentary, Greyson's 14.3 Seconds can be deceiving in its depiction of a history that never was. However, taking into consideration Foucault's ideas in "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History", Greyson's film takes on a new meaning and becomes a kind of example for some of the notions presented by Foucault. In building an essentially "false" history with the archive footage, Greyson illustrates, in film, Foucault's "historian's history"'s breakdown and ultimate failure in providing an adequate means of both understanding the present and of establishing a notion of origin for this present. His "archival footage" represents the "historian's history", rooted in clear facts, dates and pieces of film. These artifacts, which seem to be telling a clear story on the surface, are gradually destabilized by an increasingly dubious array of explanations that make us question not only the explanations themselves, but also the artifacts supporting them. The constant censorship which grows inconsistent (things are censored that were not censored earlier in the film) and the increasingly dramatic story about the interpreter and officer in charge of the restoration not only make us question their authenticity, but also the authenticity of the footage. As such, Greyson, like Foucault, draws attention to the inherent failure of a narrative-style history, which can not only be manipulated by the historian, but also fails to show all facets of a situation in an effort to be more concise and to the point.

This point is further expanded upon and linked to the Palestinian struggle, in Godard's Ici et Ailleurs, which mixes documentary and scripted sequences, along with narration and Brechtian techniques. Here again, documentary techniques such as interviews or seemingly unscripted documentary footage is deconstructed by both narration (as in the scene where the narrator informing us that the woman that was presented as pregnant is actually an actress) and by blatant association with images that evoke certain feelings that might be sought out by the director. The parallels between the French family and the Palestinian revolutionaries serve to create compassion for the Palestinians, and the ones between Hitler and Golda Meir to create negative connotations of Israel. Godard makes us aware of these "manipulatory" techniques and is essentially showing the ease with which images, ideas and ultimately history, can be manipulated to suit any number of needs. As such, Ici et Ailleurs functions as both "a melancholic morning-after" of a "failed and betrayed revolution"[1] and an illustration of Foucault's take on Nietzsche's genealogical view of history.

Together, these films provide a blueprint for looking at Palestinian film in the context of a historical background that is not tainted (or at least not as tainted) by a specific political drive in an otherwise highly politicized environment. That being said, the very depoliticization of an issue can in fact be considered a political stance on its own, so instead of looking at Palestinian film without a political viewpoint, one would better be served by merely being aware of the different dissonant voices of history which consequently invoke one political view or another. This awareness, combined with the awareness of the manipulatory aspects of film, can not only grant us a better understanding of Palestinian film but can help further contextualize material which is presented in an already extremely polarized context. And while it might seem odd that a Canadian and a Frenchman could in some way contribute to the better understanding of a national cinema that belongs to either filmmaker's nation, it is perhaps this very distance from the subject matter that grants them a much needed perspective - a perspective which might otherwise be hard to achieve from within "the trenches" of said nation.

[1] Emmelhainz, Irmgard. “From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestine

Question.”, p5


14.3 Seconds. Directed by John Greyson, 2008.

Emmelhainz, Irmgard. "From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestine Question." Third Text 23, no. 5 (September 2009): 649 - 656.

Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" In The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rainbow, 76-100 . New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.

Ici et Ailleurs. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Gaumont, 1974.

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