Screening series presented by Verzio in conjunction with the C/O exhibition Watched!, with support from the Open Society Foundations. We invite you to explore and reflect on these films along with the exhibition.
Location: Amerika Haus . Hardenbergstraße 22-24 . 10623 Berlin.
With unparalelled speed and efficiency, digital revolution turned surveillance to an everyday global phenomenon. It can no longer be seen from a distance as an element of anti-utopian literature or a feature of oppressive dictatorships affecting „the life of others” – daily exposure of private lives of citizens in all regimes is a part of today’s societal reality. Both governments and corporations collect and retain information on our daily communications, and the increasingly imposing terms and conditions of this new social contract is an unavoidable 21st century reality. What are the immediate and far-reaching effects of living in a culture of surveillance? And what tools — both today and in the past — are available for the citizens to challenge and reflect on this new social contract?
At a time when governments and corporations around the world expand their efforts to track our communications and activities, this selection of reflexive documentary and experimental films heightens the viewers’ critical awareness about the multiplicity of the forms and means of surveillance. The program opens with the Oscar-awarded Citizenfour, which follows the recent NSA surveillance revelations, from first contact with whistleblower Edward Snowden in early 2013, to his secret interviews and the ensuing global fallout. The films’ themes range from addressing the long-term effects of the socialist-era secret police intervention with private life and creative work of individuals (Engelbecken, I Love You All) , to surveillance in the US maximum-security prisons (Prison Images), during a covert drone war in Pakistan (Drone) , and even in the imaginary world of the future where the total control equals full elimination of individual personality (Faceless). Creatively redeploying CCTV and other found footage, the films in the selection demonstrate not only the terrifying extent of technological control, but the ways of creative resistance to the watchful eye of a mechanical “big brother.”
Verzio Festival Director and Surveillance Film Program Curator
Sat 18.02.2017 20:30
Laura Poitras / 2014 / USA, Germany / 112 min / English, German, Portuguese
With unprecedented access, this gripping, behind-the-scenes chronicle follows director Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald in their remarkable encounters with whistle-blower Edward Snowden in a Hong Kong, hotel room as he hands over classified documents that provide evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA). The film places viewers in the hotel room with Poitras, Greenwald and Snowden as they attempt to manage the media storm raging outside and are forced to make decisions that will affect their own lives and the lives of those around them. Citizenfour is a detailed eyewitness account of these discussions and also shows the far-reaching consequences of Snowden’s revelations. What is the connection between freedom and privacy? What happens to democracy when national governments control all of our data? The film received an Academy Award in 2015 for Best Documentary.
Thu 23.02.2017 20:30
Tonje Hessen Schei / Norway / 2014 / 79min / English, Pashtu, Urdu
Drone charts the process and steps of the CIA's covert drone war in Pakistan. It explores what it is like to live under the constant threat of these pilotless, yet powerful aircraft in the remote regions of Pakistan, but also explores the consequences felt by the pilots, the moral stance adopted by the engineers behind the drones and the arguments of politicians who fight to justify their use. From the recruitment of young pilots at gaming conventions, to the people willing to stand up against the violations of civil liberties, the film raises questions about the biggest military revolution of our age, and offers insights into the nature of drone warfare. A look at the erasure of the empathetic, accountable human in 21st century warfare.
Thu 09.03.2017 20:30
Manu Luksch / 2007 / Austria, UK / 50 min / English
In a society under the reformed 'Real-Time' Calendar, without history and future, everybody is faceless. A woman panics when she wakes up one day with a face. She slowly finds out more about the lost power and history of the human face and begins the search for its future. The film interrogates the culture of surveillance by redeploying authentic CCTV images recorded in London, the most surveilled city on Earth. Faceless was produced under the rules of the Manifesto for CCTV Filmmakers. The manifesto states, amongst other things, that additional cameras are not permitted at filming locations, as the omnipresent existing video surveillance (CCTV) is already in operation. The UK Data Protection Act and EU directives give individuals the right to access personal data held in computer filing systems but protects the privacy of third parties. In CCTV recordings, this is done by erasing the faces of other people in the images, creating a 'faceless' world.
Thu 16.03.2017 20:30
Gamma Bak, Steffen Reck / 2014 / Germany / 80 min / German
Completed 25 years after the fall of the Wall, this film is a striking historical document taking us back to the time when the directors Gamma Bak (West Berlin) and Steffen Reck (East Berlin) had a cross-border relationship. The film brings together personal archival materials, amateur films and recordings of theatrical performances of the East Berlin avant-garde theatre group Zinnober of which Steffen Reck was a founding member, and secret police files on the protagonists and their circle of friends. Engelbecken reflects the mixed emotions felt when facing a troubled past and explores the lasting feelings of guilt and sense of betrayal resulting from being forced into exile.
Thu 23.03.2017 20:30
I Love You All
Eyal Sivan / 2004 / Germany, France / 88 min / German
In February 1990, a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ministry for State Security of the GDR is dismantled. This marks the end of the "Stasi", the East German secret police, of which protagonist and storyteller Mr B. was an officer. Relieved of his duties and purpose, he delivers a detailed account of twenty years of his life and work within this institution. I Love You All is built around his personal testimony, supported by never before seen archive footage from the Stasi, revealing their reach into the everyday lives of the East Germans, and not least their own staff. A film about surveillance, blind faith, and eventual disillusion.
Thu 06.04.2017 20:30
Harun Farocki / 2000 / Germany, France / 60 min / German
Images from prisons, quotes from Robert Bresson and Jean Genet as well as documentaries from the Nazi period exist in dialogue with footage from surveillance cameras of maximum-security prisons in the United States. Prison Images offers a look at the new control technologies, at personal identification devices, electronic ankle bracelets and other tracking devices. Cinema has always been attracted to prisons and today's prisons are full of video surveillance cameras. These images are unedited and monotonous; as neither time nor space is compressed, they are particularly well-suited to conveying the state of inactivity into which prisoners are placed as a punitive measure. What kinds of images have been produced by the surveillance cameras and training videos for prison personnel? In Farocki’s film, the penal institution becomes an anthropological laboratory, in which life and death are rehearsed in front of the camera’s unblinking eye.