John Muse on STRANGE TRUTH

STRANGE TRUTH is a film series at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and Haverford College that starts this very Wednesday. The series is organized by Professors Vicky Funari (Artist in Residence), Joshua Moses (Anthropology), and John Muse (Independent College Programs). John Muse, currently teaching “Film On Photography,” took the time to answer a few questions about Wednesday’s program, featuring the work of the late Harun Farocki.

From "An Image"

From “An Image”

1. Are you teaching any of Farocki’s work in your classes?

These very films plus essays on Farocki by Kaja Silverman and D.N. Rodowick.

2. Would you categorize these films as documentaries? Why or why not?

Neither are documentaries per se.  “Images of the World…” is what’s known as an essay film.  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essay#Film  Essay films are typically pointed, argumentative, but can also be searching and reflexive.  Or they can be personal, more like journal entries or meditations on a theme than presentations of the facts.  “Images of the World…” is more like the former, Engaging as it does with history, politics, and technologies in a reflexive mode, one that asks viewers to think about seeing and what they’re seeing.  “An Image” is stranger.  Lacking narration, a fly-on-the-wall methodology, or interviews, it’s structured more as a fiction film where the characters just happen to be real people all of whom are engaged in careful but seemingly ridiculous work.  The film reveals what the photographic image will hide: the labor required to produce it.

3. What are the connections between a film about a Playboy shoot and a film about reconnaissance of Auschwitz?

Both films teach us how cameras and the technical systems within which they function not only reveal the world but hide it as well.  All views are partial and constructed, and we see both the partial view and that which lies beyond.  The cameras that captured Auschwitz couldn’t on their own make anyone see what they showed.  The crew that captures the model during the Playboy shoot has to work very hard to create the impression of easy spontaneity.

4. What do you hope to gain from attending the screening?

Hmm.  I’ll rewrite the question: what do I hope to gain from screening these films at the BMFI?  I hope that my students, Tri-Co students, BMFI members, and denizens of the Mainline, can see the work of one of the most important and most influential filmmakers of the 20th and 21st century.  Farocki died in 2014; around the world there are publications, conferences, and exhibitions are honoring his legacy.  The BMFI screening will contribute, if only modestly, to these commemorations.

5. Which screening in the Strange Truth series are you most looking forward to?

Farocki!  Of course.  And the Scott Stark.

Thank you so much Professor Muse!

For more information visit hav.to/strangetruth. Students can catch a 6:45 Blue Bus from Stokes that goes directly to the BMFI on Wednesday.