While working on the book reviews for the upcoming FOAM #22 I came across some other interesting reviews.

This is a learned view onto Steve McQueen’s “Hunger”

This is an interesting thread on prisoner portraiture on a very worthwile blog:

Ralph Humrich suggested this very nice blog from Marc Feustel

I don’t remember how i found this one, but it’s the first one I encountered with a content warning:

Ogawa Shinsuke, “Magino Village”

Ogawa Shinsuke (1935 – 1992) is a documentary film-maker somehow between utter obsurity and fame within a circle of connoisseurs (a japanese prize for the best documentary film is given in his name for example). A few weeks ago I had the chance to see „Magino Village. A tale of thousand years“ (1986) , which took ten years in the making.

Shinsuke got early fame with films on the protests against Narita Airport in the sixties, but in the late seventies settled with his production company in the small village Magino and concentrated all of his efforts to document the farming and harvesting of rice, to a point where he and his small team started growing rice on their own field.

„Magino“ starts with depicting the first harvest in 1978, with close-ups that resemble teaching and scientific movies, with a lot of explanations and diagrams, and then after about 30 minutes (the film takes nearly 4 hours) moves to a second settting, a retelling of mythic stories from the past, with the help of a famous bhudo dancer. Later the story of a rebellion of the village people in the 17th century is told using the villagers as actors (claiming their rights in front of a court, facing torture),
later still, it’s 1979 the team returns to the rice paddies, and in the following winter they start digging in their field, find ancient pottery, and invite an archeologist to discuss the very distant past with them.

This may sound very humanistic or idiosyncratic, but the film has a lot of humour, for example a Shinto priest pacifies the gods (the pottery) that have been woken up by the filmmakers, and he says: „You gods of the valley have been touched by the managers and team of Ogawa productions“ – which to me sounds just about incredible.

The film documents a huge effort to understand a specific region (it’s myths and principles, it’s „materialistic foundation“) , and to engage in one’s surroundings. Iti is timed by the agricultural seasons and the undertaking to travel into history and reinvent it is astonishing.

Ogawa is also worth mentioning because of his collaborations in the „blue group“, film makers that wanted to document, narrate and engage at the same time (something of the sort Errol Morris would do today). Kazuo Hara for example visits japanese soldiers from WWII (elderly bourgois men) in the early 80’s and confronts them very eerily with their war crimes in „The Emperor’s army nakedly marches on“, and it’s noticeable that whereas the men seem to have agreed to meet Hara, they are utterly surprised as to the extent of what will be discussed, up to a point where fighting starts.

These movies today are only shown at festivals, but they offer a chance of seeing possible ways of documentation that are very uncommon.


In his acerbic essay on the history of the ethnographic documentary film Eliot Weinberger reminds us, that the original meaning of the word „documentum“ was not only example, evidence but also lesson. It came into use in the middle ages and is semantically not far away from monument (something worth being remembered, worth being set apart), testimony and testament, „the last will“.
I admit to getting lost each time Giorgio Agamben explains the difficulty of the use of the word „example“. How it is something that is worth being highlighted, set apart, and at the same time being just an exchangable item among others that could „act“ as examples by the same right.

I suppose everybody knows someone that is extremly good at giving examples and somebody else that never gets the right example when explaining something, I guess. So a good example helps understand a specific principle?

I’ll slightly change the subject to show some problems: There is a rule
in roman or latin jurisdiction stating „Exceptio probat regulam (de rebus non exceptio)“, but there’s just as many people who claim „Exceptio confirmat regulam“ (search it out on the internet)(the first means „the exception tests / examines / proves the rule, the latter just means „the exception proves the rule“).

I’m getting to the end here more confused than I was in the beginning, although it could be understood that at the heart of all evidence is a decision that ultimately examines and challenges the nature of evidence itself.

(„The Camera People“, in „Outside Stories“,Eliot Weinberger, New York)

The Emperors army marches on nakedly

In 2009 I watched movies by both Ogawa Shinsuke and Kazuo Hara for the first time, they occupy a large space in mind. On rewatching Hara’s “The Emperor’s” I still am confused. It is doubtless a documentary I was watching about a very special man confronting his surroundings and the viewer with an incredible story, but there is also no doubt why there’s a Michael Moore blurb on the dvd, because the events would surely have taken place differently without the film team around.

5th Warsaw Fotofestival in April 2010

Inga Schneider and I have been invited to curate the german pavillion during the 5th Warsaw Fotofestival. I am organizing a group show with the theme sentimentality. Right now I am seeing interesting work from Laura Bielau, Verena Löwenhaupt, Jörg Koopmann, Aymeric Fouquez and others. Because it’s the first show I work on I get confused a lot about frames, hanging, insurance and so on, but Inga is helping me a lot.