War at a Distance (Harun Farocki)
Expounding on Farocki’s familiar themes of production and warfare (particularly in the depopulated, automated factory assembly line integration processes of Images of the World and the Inscription of War), War at a Distance is a brilliant, intelligently reasoned, and provocative video essay on the interrelation, not only between war and the advancement of technology, but also between technology and the depersonalization (and redefinition) of modern warfare. Assembling images from advanced military simulation training programs, remote, robotic image sensing and mapping, military-released air strike footages during the Gulf War that present technological warfare as dissociated (and non-aesthetic) visual images that are not intended for the human eye but nevertheless “see” their target, and clinical exercises in synthesized spatial and topographic pattern recognition that are increasingly devoid of human intervention (and in the case of war, human casualty), Farocki creates an intelligent examination on the evolving meaning of images, cognition, and recognition, and a compelling discourse on war as an increasingly abstract, impersonal, dissociated, and alienated form of a historically conventional “human” act of populational engagement.
Das Kapital version .07 (Marcello Mercado)
Mercado’s sprawling, abstract, and occasionally lucid film explores similar territory as Farocki in capturing the chaos and unchecked destruction that results from the removal of the human element in the pursuit of automation and artificial intelligence. Presented as a series of debugging commands and overlaid, CAD-like graphics, 3D modeling, and spatial orientation reference points against the uncomfortable din of indecipherable white noise, Das Kapital version .07 is an admirable work in progress, but suffers from its tedious, repetitive fusion of mathematically nonsensical, digitally rendered images and grating, concussive noise. It is one thing to show the audience the alienation of technology, it is another to alienate the audience with (gratuitous) use of technology.
Elevated Nation (Eric Saks)
An amusing short take on the National Security Agency’s compilation of surveillance “trigger words” in the age of post 9/11 heightened security, Saks taunts the mysterious and omnipresent national surveillance apparatus with the repeated cueing of the trigger phrase “steak kinife” set to the abstract images of colored liquid droplets dissipating in column of water.
Soothsayer (Bobby Abate)
Excerpting text passages from several renowned celebrity psychics (among them, the infamous Jean Dixon whose claim to fame was the seeming prediction of John F. Kennedy’s assassination) set against formally posed, digitally-rendered doomsday scenarios and caricatures of human casualty, Soothsayer is a respectable, well-conceived, and accomplished tongue-in-cheek short film on the folly of political irresponsibility in an age of weapons of mass destruction.
History of the Sea (Alfred Guzzetti)
Guzetti’s scenic and beautifully photographed, but thematically slight short film juxtaposes an audio recording of foreign language lessons with picturesque images of tranquil, exotic images that create an indelible visual dreamscapes.
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