Sunday, August 26, 2007

Strutting with Purpose

The film, Rockers (directed by Ted Bafaloukos, 1978) is lots of fun, but its central problem is wealth (re)distribution.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Quei loro incontri

Europa 2005 - 27 Octobre

"an unsigned cinetract ... the first of a series commissioned by Enrico Ghezzi for Fuori Orario (a legendary mavericks-and-visionaries-only Italian TV show) to celebrate Roberto Rossellini’s centenary. Asked to imagine a moment in the life or the death of Ingrid Bergman’s character in Europa ‘51 (1952), their reading of Rossellini yielded a video-ugly pamphlet—as subtle as a knee to the groin—mourning the death of two Parisian youngsters who, chased by the police, hid in a high-voltage electric transformer and burned to death. A little later, the banlieus were burning. The film is like nothing else in Huillet and Straub’s oeuvre since Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg’s Accompaniment to a Cinematic Scene (1972), their tract on Modernism and collaborationism, WWII and Vietnam, the Old World, the New World, and the Third World.

"Only 12 minutes long, Europa 2005 - 27 Octobre is obviously an incidental work, but it’s nevertheless/therefore important, for it reminds us that Huillet and Straub are political artists who recurrently tackled very real, precise, and timely political subjects, something too many of their self-appointed acolytes couldn’t be bothered with. And even if Straub’s overly judgmental musings get on one’s nerves, they’re still preferable to the docile, “understanding” silences or demagogic ravings which make up the present style of political non-discussions: with Huillet and Straub one can at least fight. They possess unquiet hearts and minds, unreconciled, unconsoled, hopeful. They care."

--Olaf Möller

Monday, August 13, 2007

Personal Politics

(Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

My favorite book title ever is for Althusser's memoir, which I haven't read: The Future Lasts Forever. (So many chances to keep trying, at least...)

I have not yet read any of the news pieces about Rove's departure from the White House staff--the headlines alone induce in me intense revulsion. Why celebrate his departure? Because a "bad guy" is gone? Because the Bush administration is a sinking ship? Please. The damage is done. The engines for further profit-making have been put firmly in place. No "electable" Democrats will be able to--or want to--change it either. My only hope for the Democratic candidates, one of whom will surely win the 2008 election, is that maybe they'll be able to help the American working class. A little. No more.

Once I felt something secured within me. One of those very rare moments when you know you've changed a bit. I was reading a collection of texts related to the Paris Commune. The journals of the Goncourts gave very interesting descriptions of the Commune's former members, its then-victims, after the workers had been crushed by the military. The way the writer (which Goncourt was it? I don't recall but think it was Edmond) wrote with such humanistic sympathy for the downtrodden, ugly, defeated masses. All this energy put into the proper eulogistic tone for failed revolution, for utopia deferred, denied, and instantly I thought, as though I were talking to the author himself, "You didn't help them. You stood back while they were slaughtered, you and your kind, and all your sympathy came to naught because it wasn't solidarity."

Nice fairweather progressive and liberals ... we stand by while the monstrous machine keeps going. And people wonder why Marxists disdain Democrats, why radical people of color distrust white liberals, why "clerks" in and around the academy (I include myself in this group) are ridiculed and largely powerless. It's because we're the ones who watch the resistance get murdered and then shed a tear for it.

When I had an idea for what From the Clouds to the Resistance could be, it was to break out of this mold and to latch on to the struggle of those who knew better.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


"Man shall be trained for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly." (Nietzsche)

A few propositions to be worked out, challenged, refined here. 1a) That conservative and right-wing cinema exists as a structurally viable minoritarian "pole" in mainstream film & media so as to venture critique of capitalist modernity, that is, as the only critique of capitalist modernity in this arena: John Milius, Mel Gibson, elements of 300. 1b) The corrolary here is that left-wing commercial cinema is gutted, reformulated to fit capitalism's ends, resistance packaged & revolution sold: V for Vendetta, The Matrix, etc. 1c) The function is the illusion of parity between "right-wing" and "left-wing" cinema when none really exists. A more exact understanding of this relationship is to be analyzed & articulated. 2) That in much neoliberal commercial cinema (as well as the "left-wing" product) there is a great deal of reversibility, so that film-texts are constructed so as to accomodate a "reading" and its opposite so as to sell conflicts for viewers to engage in (taking sides in the Culture Wars as portrayed by the media) in order to mask larger and true conflicts.

(Sembène material still in the pipeline ...)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Soldier Video

Is this video authentic? It has been making the rounds for a while and from my own initial, cursory look I can't find any authentification. To what extent would it matter? Yes, there are certain lines between truth & fiction, of course. But if this is staged, and especially if its anonymous YouTube posting do not indicate otherwise (but simply leave the matter ambiguous) would this not be a case of fiction "arriving at" truth? Former soldier Stan Goff says this rings his "Reality Bells." If it rings true but is a recreation, what role or value does it have for the progressive movement? Or for those all over the world--inside America and out--who would see it? Has it been inspiring outrage outside of the radical or antiwar blogosphere? (Has it been inspiring that much outrage inside it?) At the forum Rap Godfathers there's a link to the video followed by discussion that is hardly rosy about the role that troops play in US militarism ...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sembène & Money

Some preliminary thoughts here on Ousmane Sembène as I gradually get into posting in earnest about his work--because From the Clouds needn't be all about finished products, but about collaborations, labor, criticisms, correction, new ideas. I have still only seen a few films by Sembène, and will see more over the next few weeks, but thus far the two major polarities seem to be sketching themselves out along the backdrop of Senegal's (and Africa's) place and identity in world history and geopolitics--the axes are feminism (or women) and money. The circulation of money from Europe & North America to Africa (and, of course, away from it) is the catalyst and backdrop for Mandabi and it is a kind of background motif in Faat Kiné, where characters make comments about Old and New Africa, "black" (i.e., not European, not "civilized") ways of conducting business, and education or vacations abroad (to France, to Canada). Sembène's cinema is also of course highly supportive of matriarchy--if not as an absolute, then as a materially necessary combatant to patriarchy and all its offensive defense mechanisms. Tradition is important to a lot of these characters, including very sympathetic ones, but they (and hence Sembène) make clear that not all tradition is to be kept blindly, such as the climactic moment with the long-absent fathers in Faat Kiné. Consider also, in Mooladé, that it is a tradition of female togetherness, of solidarity in their roles as daughters/wives/mothers, that allows the women to band together to overcome a tradition of FGM.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Television Is Democracy?

"Freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of conscience are not a thorn in the side of government," Rice told the ministers. "Disagreeing with your government is not unpatriotic and most certainly should not be a crime in any country, especially a democracy."


Television is democracy! The right for corporate airwaves to come into your home is a red-blooded, god-given right, eh?

"RCTV's 3,000 employees ''felt their lives were taken away from them,'' said Pérez Hansen, who has worked at RCTV for 15 of his 35 years. Azuaje, a 42-year-old cameraman, is a 23-year RCTV veteran. Rísquez, his 28-year-old assistant, has worked at RCTV for six years. The 31-year-old Ríos is a 10-year veteran.

''When we say we are a family, it's not just some story,'' Ríos said.

They said RCTV management has promised to continue to pay their salaries and generous benefits. But Ríos says RCTV employees are now being denied personal bank loans because of their uncertain future.

Pérez Hansen admits that during the 2002 coup against Chávez there was an ''informative silence'' -- it did not cover pro-Chávez street marches demanding his return to power -- but the group insists that's only part of the story.

Pérez Hansen and Ríos say they received calls from sources in the security services warning they would be attacked if they tried to cover the pro-Chávez marches. Ríos said she was so frightened she spent the night at a friend's house.

And Pérez Hansen recalls tough editorial decisions. RCTV decided not to air reports of supermarkets being plundered for fear of inciting more violence, he said.

For the moment, the group is enjoying the support of their peers. Ríos says major Latin American TV operations like Argentina's Telefe and Mexico's Televisa have inquired about buying some of their programming.

But its members are aware that, like any news story, the issue could fade from public view, and RCTV's employees will have to face the hard economic reality of a station without a broadcast license."


As per usual, the corporate media presents a story of its own as dispossessed, disenfranchised--suggesting to its readers (Miami residents in this case) what if this left-wing disease were to ever attack your society!? You'd lose your comfortable middle-class job (or, at least, your right to expression--seems you may keep your benefits). RCTV played a participant role in a capitalist coup; as a state leader Chavez seems bound to neutralize a major media organ; would Condi Rice really defend similar actions affecting the Bush Administration? No--but of course this is the difference, as Fox News plays its own participant role in US politics and elections. This is not about freedom of speech; it is a matter of who owns the airwaves. The corporate media and the US government would of course have us believe that corporate ownership and control of the airwaves is "democratic," and that state ownership and control in a strong, successful left-wing state is essentially "totalitarian." Who's actually limiting speech here? Is Chavez using shock troops to violently disperse protests against him? Like police have done against "unwanted" elements in the USA, see video in post below.

Ousmane Sembène


It is with a heavy heart that we note the passing of Ousmane Sembène, the great Sengalese artist: a filmmaker, a writer, a progressive mind. His work was something genuine and special, and his passing is along the same lines of that of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea or Danièle Huillet: we have lost someone whose commitment to great and challenging artistry was rivaled only by a commitment to people and to progressive politics, who seriously bridged gaps between participation with people and aesthetic power and complexity (pioneering artists who were strong and fortunate enough to not be lapdogs of a studio, or art dealers, or any moneyed interests).

From the Clouds will dedicate a short series of posts to Sembène very soon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


"It would be easier, much easier, for the Portuguese empire to reinstall itself in Brazil than for the Venezuelan government to return the license to the Venezuelan oligarchy."

--Hugo Chávez

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Holding Pattern

Specters, specters--there is also a specter haunting this little corner of the Web. Comrades, friends: please bear with us as things come together over a little more time. There are, indeed, "buildings to be built."

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

LAPD and the Immigration Rally

Hat tip to Brownfemipower for indicating this footage.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Blimp over Caracas

Venezuela launches Zeppelin to tackle rampant climb.


Around the hot-dog stalls of the run-down suburb where the airship took its first flight, most people felt the unmanned eye-in-the-sky could help counter routine hold-ups, shootings and carjackings.

"It is a necessity," said street vendor Pedro Marin when asked about the 15-meter helium-filled blimp that had been looming silently over his stall beside a busy highway.


In the refined cafes of east Caracas, there was more cynicism, condemning the blimps as a waste of money that would not work in bad weather or at night, when Caracas is at its most risky, resembling a shuttered-up ghost town.

"It reminds me of 1984, of George Orwell. This is Big Brother. It is not going to solve crime," said Jose Luis, a lawyer who declined to give his family name.

Is this not the story of the American media's handling of Venezuela and Hugo Chávez? Many people--workers, mainly (and often more codedly embodied as the distasteful brown tide of humanity)--support Chávez, but there's always an articulate opposition mentioned very prominently in stories like these, an opposition coded in the US media as being the sterling conscience, the cautious allies of freedom, whose misgivings about government policy are to mirror our own. We must believe them, see, because they are educated people (like a lawyer who alludes to Orwell) who refuse to give a surname because the leftist government might harm them for their exercise of speech.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The Way Around Turkey

"On March 15 in Athens, the heads of state of Russia, Greece and Bulgaria signed an agreement of cooperation in the construction and exploitation of an oil pipeline from Burgas, Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis in Greece. Connecting the Bulgarian port on the Black Sea with the Greek port on the Aegean, it will provide for a transport route for Russian oil to the Mediterranean that would bypass Turkey and the Bosporus Straits, which Turkey controls."

... continue here.