Celebrating Harun Farocki (1944-2014)

Renowned filmmaker Harun Farocki passed away last week at the age of 70 years old, leaving behind a filmmography spanning over 30 years with over 100 titles.  A favorite in the Facets catalog and a friend to our director, Milos Stehlik, Farocki will be deeply missed.  Today we celebrate his legacy and his contributions to film.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1944, Farocki didn’t begin making films until the late 1960’s when he studied at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin.  Although his work began during the birth of New German Cinema, Farocki’s films did not match his contemporaries’ aesthetics. Rather than making feature length narratives, he created experimental documentaries and essay films.  Farocki utilized found footage, re-enactments, live action, scripted narration, and more to create provocative pieces about war, technology, industry and media.  One of his earliest pieces, InextinguishableFire (1969), remains one of his most powerful as the short reveals the industrialized process of making napalm and its horrific effects.  The film never gained distribution in the United States and its message went unheard except to European audiences.  Almost 30 years after its production, American documentary filmmaker Jill Godmilow made What Farocki Taught (1997) as an homage to Inextinguishable Fire by recreating it shot-by-shot. .
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still from Inextinguishable Fire (1969)
In the 1980s, Farocki grew interested in the power film and video holds within media.  This theme became popular in his work as his films began to explore the ways in which an image – be it a painting, a photograph, or a film – captures, constructs, and reconstructs how people see and interpret the world.  An Image (1983) reveals the industrialized process of producing a photo for Playboy while Videogramsof a Revolution (1992) condenses over 100 hours of video footage of the Romanian revolution into a feature-length documentary.   Farocki strips away the glamour of photography and the biases of documentary filmmaking to expose reality and how media creates different perceptions of it.
The world’s most exciting non-fiction filmmaker. – Jill Godmilow on Farocki
In the late 1990’s, Farocki began exhibiting work in galleries and museums.  Farocki explored the materiality and use of film/video by combining split-screens, multiple projectors, and documented or found footage in expandedcinema pieces.  Projects like Deep Play (2007) and Serious Games (2009) use multiple projections and raw footage to create unique documentary displays in galleries.  While Deep Play explores the ways in which video captures an event, the FIFA World Cup, Serious Games explores how the military uses technology as a mode of training, entertainment, and therapy through videos and video games.  In today’s society where the influx of visual imagery never ends, Farocki’s explorations into media will persist as profound and thought-provoking documentations of media history.
 expanded cinema piece, Feasting or Flying (2008)
A master of documentary film, Farocki’s work never forced its viewers into particular feelings or biases.  Rather, he asked audiences to re-conceptualize how they see the world and to consider the role of media and technology in their lives.  A friend to Facets and a beloved filmmaker all over the world, Harun Farocki will be missed, yet never forgotten.

Author: Gina Marie Ezzone is a senior at Denison University where she studies Cinema and Queer Studies. She is the president of the Denison Film Society where she works as a programmer and projectionist. This summer she is the Programs Assistant Intern at Facets. Check out her work on Vimeo.
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