Passepartout is all about documentaries and visual stuff I find worth seeing.

To Sum It Up: October

This month I bought an obscene number of books, watched many docs and wrote for the latest issue of Modern Times. Below are just a few of the things I find interesting:

1.Red Utopia – Jan Banning‘s new photo book launched half way October. 65 photos of what’s left of communist parties in different countries, 100 years after the Russian Revolution. I look forward to having this book in my mail next week. Banning’s photos are so good, and the subject somehow curious and relevant (surely relevant for a research I am currently doing).

2. Dirty John – a real life story that beats any fiction, difficult to put in a nutshell without spoilling it. Reads like a thriller.

3. A week ago I went to see Franklin Foer talk about his book, World Without Mind – The Existential Threat of Big Tech. He was interviewed by some dutch journalist who’s name I choose to forget, because as an interviewer he was so uninspiring and his questions and comments so flat, it was frustrating too watch. I continuously felt Franklin Foer had so much more to say, and his ideas opened so many new questions that somehow the interviewer never asked.

I tought I heard it all about big data, Facebook and Silicon Valley, and the subject almost sounded clise with doom predictions, but I was wrong, I did not hear it all and certainly did not think about it enough. If you put a magnifier on this subject you get to see how complex it is and how many implications it has on an individual level but also for society. Foer had an almost scary portrayal of how the media works and how much of what’s being investigated and written about depends on clicks and traffic and this shitty little word called ‘trending’. And the clearer things seem to become, the more questions come up.

After this talk I am more aware of my social media use, of how it shapes my behavior and how it influences my perception of different issues and who is important and why. You might want to think about it too.

4. The new issue of Womankind – which is not on their website yet but i think it will be soon – came in my mail last week. I rarely read a magazine from cover to cover, but this is how I read Womankind. It’s mainly about life and places, and stories about people, all written in a thoughtful, warm and interesting way. Plus it’s an ad free magazine, which is something I highly support.

5. DOK Leipzig kickstarted its 60th edition this weekend. Are you in Leipzig? You probably aren’t, and neither am I, and that is regretable because this documentary festival is a gem.

The Congo Tribunal (Milo Rau) is in the International Competition and if you have the chance to see it, you shouldn’t miss it. I wrote about this film for Modern Times and as soon as I have a link I will add it here.

The story in a nutshell is that Congo is beautiful and rich in minerals, and this could be a blessing if it wasn’t more of a curse. Congo is a failed state, the large majority of people lives in extreme poverty while only a handfull of people – mainly corrupt politians – benefit from the explotation of the minerals. And for the last two decades, Congo has been a space of conflict, one from which the international companies mining there benefit. For a long time this conflict has been labeled as an ethnic matter.

Instead it is an economic one, and for the 6 million people (figures vary) that died in it in the last two decades, no one has ever been tried. In his known style, Rau created a Congo Tribunal, which is part performance art and part war crimes trial, and for the first time, all sides involved – politicians, mining companies, people, human rights activists – had to sit together and look at the mess and search for the truth. You can read about this project in this Guardian article.

I am fascinated by Congo, I hope to go there one day, and there are so many things happening there. You should know about the magical Virunga park and its gorrilas, now in serious danger. You could get an insight into how poverty is a commodity in Congo, exploted by NGOs and businesses alike from one of my favorite docs, Enjoy Poverty (Renzo Martens). And you could read Tim Butcher’s Blood River, which I am currently reading.

6. The new print issue of Modern Times is out, with everything about the latest docs put in context and information on latest festivals. You can check it and subscribe here.
7. I was looking for a book about the surreal of everyday life in Eastern Europe and eventually about its charm and common points between countries. This is what I wanted. What I found is pretty different but certainly good: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, written by Peter Pomerantsev puts modern-day Russia in perspective, one in which the surreal borders dangerous and worrysome. I always throught the way television is done says everything about a country. Pomerantsev went from London to Russia to work in television for almost a decade, and his insights and real life thriller stories tell both about TVs role in the country and the reality that is never shown on screen.


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