|… Given the present reality, however, Melik Ohanian’s art project, where he travelled to the California desert where Punishment Park was filmed, and projected the film onto the sky there, was a brilliant idea. As a statement about the place of critical film in today’s society,|
|I can’t imagine a more disturbing – and useful – metaphor.|
The above cited lines of filmmaker Peter Watkins conclude an recently written statement concerning his work, the (non-) reception of it and his view on massmedia policies, but equally its opportunities – just to state: it is quite an interesting read. The document (pdf) has been published in connection with an exhibition of Melik Ohanian and the screening of his ‘Invisible Film‘, which is based on P.Watkins ‘Punishment Park’.
Some excerpts will be published here, and the entire text is available at the pdf link above. … And I just can assure that it is very worth to look up the films of Peter Watkins, but I now give the space over to his voice:
The War Game (which featured ‘ordinary people’ in all the roles) was produced with the specific aim of raising a public debate on the media silence surrounding the development of nuclear weapons.
La Commune de Paris was an attempt to link history with contemporary developments, with the ‘actors’ (professionals and non-professionals) developing most of their own dialogue and expressing their own opinions.
Punishment Park is another example of this method of working. Many of the people in this 1970 film were expressing their own views and experiences of living in an America which was waging a ruthless war in Vietnam, and savagely suppressing dissidence at home.
Punishment Park has tragically become all too relevant all over again, especially following the events of 9/11. Two million people are locked up in American jails and prisons – a higher percentage of its own citizens behind bars than in any other country in the world. American brutality is in evidence at its concentration camp at Quantanamo Bay in Cuba, its sordid prisons in Iraq, its recently discovered military prison gulag in Afghanistan, where the inmates – Afghan prisoners of war – are sexually harassed, deprived of sleep, and subjected to other various degrees of abuse and humiliation….
… Western society has seen fit to block all serious questioning on the role of the mass audiovisual media in contemporary society. With few exceptions, the potentially serious and important medium of TV has been relegated to pumping out mass distraction (in the form of ‘popular culture’), advancing the consumer society, and generally supporting the entire process of globalization This criticism applies equally to commercial cinema, and to much of ‘coffee-table’ cinema (which in many cases simply provides audiovisual fodder for endless supermarket-style film festivals world-wide).
This trend in the application of the mass audiovisual media (MAVM) over the past 30-40 years has included no public debate on the actual impact of any of its forms of expression on the social and political process. Any potential for debate has, in fact, been carefully suppressed. …