Artists' Television Access

HOW WE FIGHT Program 2: Conscripts

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Thursday, October 9, 2008, 8:00 pm, $6

Clean Thursday by Aleksandr Rastorguev

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kino21’s series, How We Fight, presents international works that explore soldiering and depict the experience of war from the point of view of those on the ground.  From Argentina, Russia, Iraq, Germany, France, Holland and the U.S., several of these films are US premieres. On Thursday, September 25 we begin with Iraqi Short Films, a brand new compilation of videos shot in battle by soldiers and militia members in Iraq. Subsequent programs include video diaries of the battlefield and pre- or post-combat rumination, extended observational portraits and interview-based works.  There are depictions of Russian conscripts in Chechnya, PKK rebels in the mountains of Iraq, American veterans returned from Vietnam, and mercenaries and peacekeepers stationed across the globe, from Bosnia to Rwanda, from the Middle East to the USA.

The series continues with two films portraying the words and worlds of conscripted soldiers. Tonight is a study in opposites, on one hand frank questions about slaughter in Interviews with My Lai Veterans and on the other, poetic and ironic observation on fighters’ repose in Clean Thursday. But these films share an unflinching ear and eye for the soldiers who have fought on the ground in two of the world’s most powerful armies.

Filmed two years after the My Lai massacre took place in Vietnam, the Oscar-winning Interviews presents five soldiers who recount their personal experience and understanding of that gruesome day, each one with a different perspective. While Interviews focuses on how soldiers interpret and narrate their role in massacre, Clean Thursday gives the converse: a sensuous and candid look at how soldiers live their moments between the carnage. During the Russian occupation and “cleansing” of Chechnya, a group of rear-guard soldiers is in charge of keeping their army clean. An old steam train transformed into laundry wagons and bathhouses is where most of Rastorguev’s film takes place. Soldiers arrive from the front, sweating and trudging through mud. For a day or two of respite, they wash, swear, remember family, brag about sexual conquests, and recount the hell of a war they’ve survived, as they clean their bodies and clothes only to “once again” kill or be killed at the front.

How We Fight: Conscripts, Mercenaries, Terrorists and Peacekeepers is presented with the generous support of the Potrero Nuevo Fund of the Tides Foundation, the LEF Foundation, and Goethe Institut San Francisco.

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