Selected by The Machine That Kills Bad People, this screening features two rarely seen black and white, 35mm and 16mm films. Larisa Shepitko’s feature The Ascent
, set in the Eastern front forests of Belorussia during the second world war, is paired with Ute Aurand and Ulrike Pfeiffer’s Umweg, a travelogue through 1980s West Germany.
was the late Soviet director Larisa Shepitko’s last film. The experimental feature follows Belorussian soldiers and their ensuing capture by invading Nazis. Based on a novella by Russian novelist Vasil Bykov, the film confronts the complexity of the human condition in the face of war. The soldier protagonists, Sotnikov and Rybak, are at once at war with the enemy; battling the physical terrain of a harsh Belorussian winter; and undergoing their own personal struggles with power, trust and loyalty. The Ascent
received the Golden Bear at the 1977 Berlin Film Festival.
Ute Aurand and Ulrike Pfeiffer’s 1983 collaboration Umweg
was filmed during the winter of 1981 while both filmmakers were participating in New Films by Women from Berlin, a tour of recent work that visited eight cities in then-West Germany. Using the train window as a framing device, their film rhythmically captures the hypnotic winter landscapes they pass through, interspersed with thoughts that imbue the passing scenery with optimism and narrative ambiguity.
A specially commissioned essay by Laura Staab accompanies this screening.
Larisa Shepitko, The Ascent, 1977, 35mm, black and white, sound, 109 mins
Ute Aurand and Ulrike Pfeiffer, Umweg, 1983, black and white, sound, 16mm, 11 mins
The Machine That Kills Bad People is, of course, the cinema – a medium that is so often and so visibly in service of a crushing status quo but which, in the right hands, is a fatal instrument of beauty, contestation, wonder, politics, poetry, new visions, testimonies, histories, dreams. It is also a film club devoted to showing work – ‘mainstream’ and experimental, known and unknown, historical and contemporary – that takes up this task. The group borrowed their name from the Roberto Rossellini film of the same title and find inspiration in the eclectic juxtapositions of Amos Vogel's groundbreaking New York film society Cinema 16. This bi-monthly film club is programmed by Erika Balsom, Beatrice Gibson, Maria Palacios Cruz and Ben Rivers.