Artists' Television Access

HOW WE FIGHT Program 4: Peacekeepers

 presented by

Sunday, November 9, 2008, 8:00 pm, $6

Hedy Honigmann

kino21’s fall 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.

As the fourth program of our series we shift to the peacekeeping soldier, screening Dutch filmmaker Hedy Honigmann’s Crazy. Known for her documentaries on Paris street musicians (Underground Orchestra), Peruvian taxi drivers (Metal and Melancholy) and Brazilian fans of the erotic poetry of Carlos Drummond de Andrade (O Amor Natural), Honigmann is a master of the interview. Here she turns her attention to soldiers who are “peacekeepers,” Dutch veterans of UN peacekeeping and humanitarian forces who were stationed in Korea, Lebanon, Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

Structured primarily around conversations with nine former soldiers, Honigmann’s film incorporates home videos, photo scrapbooks, news footage, letters, and journals. It is not easy to speak about the experience of war; about the trauma of witnessing brutality, massacres, and starvation; about the after-effects of PTSD, depression, or attempted suicide. In spite of this difficulty, it is Honigmann’s solicitation of the soldiers’ words and feelings that give the film its force. In particular, her request that they share the piece of music most vividly encapsulating their wartime experiences leads them to let down their verbal guard. As they, and in turn we, listen to this music – which ranges from Seal’s “Crazy” to Puccini’s “Turandot” and Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” — something is let loose. What words fail to express or what the soldiers’ denial of their vulnerability suppresses, the force of the music eloquently conveys through sound and body language as they listen. A powerful testament to what it means to endure or witness the excruciating suffering of warfare, Honigmann’s film about the futility of the peacekeepers is one of war’s most compelling indictments.

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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