Harun Farocki Essay Films

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In 1966, after several years of writing film criticism and other cultural journalism for local papers and hanging out in cinemas and film clubs, Farocki was accepted at the DFFB, West Germany's first film school.

Just two years later, in May 1968, after he and fellow radical students occupied the school (rechristening it the Dziga Vertov Academy), he was kicked out.

Or, rather, does it reflect a change in the status of the social world and its images?

That Farocki's cinema was a cinema engagé was abundantly clear from the very beginning of the first film he made after having been kicked out of the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB) in 1968, a film which garnered for him his first significant critical notice in European film circles.

The film is exemplary in its attempt to combine radical form with a radical message: to simultaneously challenge dominant forms of culture and combat the war in Vietnam at home, in the First World. This biographical summary draws on Tilman Baumgärtel's account in his extraordinarily useful and now standard reference work on Farocki's career, Vom Guerillakino zum Essayfilm: Harun Farocki – Werkmonographie eines Autorenfilmers (Berlin, 1998), pp. 3 3Farocki's own early biography has traversed First and Third Worlds, something which contributed to his early political awakening.

He was born Harun Faroqhi (he later changed the spelling) in 1944 in what was then Neutitschein (now Novy Jicín in the Czech Republic), to parents who had emigrated from India to Germany in 1921.

It shies away from spectacularly portraying human suffering ‘and turning it into kitsch’, as Farocki will remark in a very different context in his 1988 Bilder der Welt und die Inschrift des Krieges (Images of the World and the Inscription of War, 1988).

Instead, the film focuses on the production process of napalm in the United States by restaging this process with the barest of Brechtian cinematic means.

Jill Godmilow, who made a virtually exact replica of NICHT löschbares Feuer as What Farocki Taught (1996), has described it as an exemplary piece of agit-prop cinema.

It is also remarkable for its mode of enunciation: ostensibly a film about napalm, the film shuns, as Farocki's opening remarks announce, any direct imagistic representation of the effects of napalm on its human victims; it only barely portrays its uses in Vietnam.

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