In this wide-ranging yet intimate interview, the iconic French filmmaker Agnès Varda reflects on her career over tea with Film Quarterly contributing editor Joan Dupont. Varda discusses the themes of feminism and freedom that unite her films, from Le bonheur (1965) to Vagabond (1985) along with her enduring interest in sharing the stories of others, as she did most recently in collaboration with the visual artist JR in Faces Places (2017). Over the course of several conversations, Varda shares insights into her methods and obsessions, her enduring vision and constant reinventions.
In 1998, Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner published an essay entitled “Sex in Public,” which now appears as the utopian vision of a bygone era. Drawing from Jürgen Habermas and Michel Foucault, Berlant and Warner called attention to the public mediation of sexuality in the United States and critiqued the heteronormative ideologies and institutions that hinged on a structural delineation of “personal life.” Where a hegemonic public sphere had been constituted by “a privatization of sex and the sexualization of private personhood,” so they argued, queer culture represented a world-making project involving the development of ephemeral, promiscuous, and often-criminal forms of intimacy—ones “that bear no necessary relation to domestic space, to kinship, to the couple form, to property, or to the nation.”
Maggie Hennefeld on Sacha Baron Cohen’s mockumentary series, and political satire in the age of post-truth politics.
Girish Shambu asks: “What will it take to break the stranglehold of male domination in filmmaking?”
The terrain of history is perhaps nowhere more fraught than in the Israeli/Palestinian context, a highly charged force field of ethno-religious identities, political ideologies, and conflicting territorial claims. Overlaid with collective memories and symbolic meanings, the landscape has borne witness to war and imperial conquest, shifting regimes and borders, perpetual occupation and injustice, and overlapping yet seemingly irreconcilable narratives of past experience. Take 1948: celebrated by Zionists for the establishment of the State of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust, the year is remembered by Palestinian Arabs as the Nakba (“catastrophe”), given the forcible dispossession and expulsion of an estimated 750,000 native inhabitants. And where many Israeli Jews have cast their nation’s founding as a return to political sovereignty after nearly two millennia in the diaspora, Palestinians have sought to assert a counterhistory in a condition of subjugation and exilic dispersal from their land.
Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2017¬–) resonates strongly as an allegorical, science-fictional response to the Trump administration. The show refuses to accept the “new normal” as normal and acknowledges its audience’s simultaneous feelings of resistance and exhaustion. The program ultimately argues that, while hope alone is not enough to sustain anyone through the Trump years, it is the right place to start. Above all, the program points to the power of collective resistance. As Americans face down a fascist president, as they contend with babies torn from their mother’s bosoms at the border, as they confront a powerful resurgence in White Nationalist activism, the country has perhaps never felt more divided, or threatened. And yet the only way to defeat Trumpism is by standing together and collectively pushing back. The Handmaid’s Tale may not show viewers exactly how to do that, but it does show its audience exactly what it would feel like.
First things first: this issue marks the arrival of Rebecca Prime as Associate Editor of Film Quarterly. Rebecca first published a book review in FQ back in 2006 and also had one in the last issue, with articles in other journals in the interim. Rebecca is a film historian, editor of Cinematic Homecomings: Exile and Return in Transnational Cinema (Bloomsbury, 2014), and author of Hollywood Exiles in Europe: The Blacklist and Cold War Film Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2014).
Lucrecia Martel – In conversation – April 22, 2018. This page contains documentation of excerpts from Lucrecia Martel’s appearance at the BAMPFA Pacific Film Archive, in conversation with FQ’s B. Ruby Rich. Video recorded and edited for Film Quarterly by Juan Carlos Davíla and Rana Jarbou. Thanks to Kathryn McKay and Marcus Hu. Support from the Ford Foundation JustFilms initiative.
For many critical theorists, it has become second nature to view science with a degree of suspicion. Complicit in the most egregious offenses of the modern era, science has been identified with everything from positivism and instrumental reason to essentialism and biopolitical control. Such skepticism came to a head in the late twentieth century, as leftist thinkers in the humanities sought to undermine a realist approach to scientific knowledge; social transformation seemed to hinge on the unsettling of epistemic certainty and the subversion of all normative, objectivist validity claims. Yet, as philosopher Bruno Latour has argued, the “science wars” now appear outdated in light of geopolitical exigencies, particularly the accelerating process of climate change. The language of social construction and cultural relativism must give way to an emphatic defense of scientific consensus and global, albeit inconvenient, truth.
Critic Joan Dupont went in search of filmmaker Nelly Kaplan, whom she had met at an awards ceremony in Paris over a decade ago. She was famous for one film, La Fiancée du Pirate (A Very Curious Girl, 1969), which had taken France and the international world of women’s film festivals by storm. She had slipped out of sight; nobody seemed to know where she was or why. At the Cinémathèque Française, there was only a kind of embarrassment when her name was mentioned and no plan to show her films. This past year has seen a resurgence of interest in the work of Kaplan, and the restoration and rerelease of some of her work by Lobster Films. Dupont met with Kaplan at her Paris apartment to discuss past, present, and future.