OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program

Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past

Catherine Portuges: The Political Camera: Comparing 1956 in Three Key Moments of Hungarian Film History

From avant-garde experimental filmmaking to feature-length documentary and fiction, from home-movie and amateur footage to short subjects, cinema serves as a powerful force in shaping spaces of popular perception and subjective experience of the socialist past. "The Political Camera: Comparing 1956 in Three Key Moments of Hungarian Film History" considers the relations among the uses of the film archive, filmmaking, and spectatorship in both public and private spaces in order to reflect critically on issues of socialist memory, Stalinism, the cold war, and visual representation in Hungarian cinematic practice.
I propose to re-read a number of controversial feature and documentary films all of which utilize archival materials, focusing on the contested terrain and multiple re-interpretations of the uprising of 1956, including extracts from Hungary in Flames. A Nation's Fight for Freedom/(Ungarn in Flammen, 1957); István Erdélyi's documentary footage shot during the Revolution); György Révész's At Midnight (Éjfélkor, 1957; István Szabó's Szerelmesfilm (Love Film, 1970); segments from Péter Forgács' Privát Magyarország (Private Hungary, 1991-06; Márta Mészáros's A Temetetlen Halott (The Unburied Dead, 2005); and Ernö Nagy's Ötvenhat (ELTE ‘56, 2006). In the context of this workshop, sponsored by the Open Society Archive, I would like to offer a comparative and ultimately collaborative analysis of these and other films, produced at three key moments of Hungarian history—the late Cold War, the Kádár era, and the post-communist period.
The workshop offers an important opportunity for engagement with current debates and counter-narratives in the process of re-examining 1956 and the socialist past on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the revolution. Within this framework and where appropriate, more general contemporary questions of reception and spectatorship will be interrogated, such as Szabó's response as a filmmaker to disclosures of his purported activities between 1957-61 and debates in the aftermath of the release of Mészarós's contested representation of Imre Nagy and his circle in The Unburied Man. Such references are integrated as an occasion to foreground larger questions of authenticity, fiction vs. non-fiction, and trans-regional interconnections with regard to spectatorship, the moving image and the status of cinematic representation.
Additional examples will be interpolated where edited inter-cutting of archival footage with fictionalized narrative provides a useful case study of the uses of the archive in negotiating issues such as personal exploration vs. historical investigation.
My contribution will be liberally accompanied by video and DVD extracts from the films under consideration, as well as supplemental archival materials selected from the Hungarian Film Institute and the U.S. Library of Congress to contextualize my presentation. I look forward the opportunity to engage in discussion in all three categories of "Visions after the Fall," a subject that has been central to my own research, publication and curatorial activities over the past 15 years.

Catherine Portuges is Professor and Graduate Program Director; Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies; and Adjunct Professor in the departments of French & Italian and Communication. She is author of Screen Memories: the Hungarian Cinema of Marta Meszaros (Indiana, 1993); co-editor of Gendered Subjects: the Dynamics of Feminist Pedagogy (Routledge, 1985) and co-editor of a forthcoming book, Cinema in Transition: Post-communist cinema in East/Central Europe. Her articles on French and East European cinema, post-communist visual culture, international filmmakers, women directors, autobiographical theory and literature, and the intersections of cinema and psychoanalysis have appeared in Yale French Studies, Genders, Discourse, Slavic Review, and L'Esprit createur, and in books including Re-Writing New Identities: Nation, Gender & Immigration (Minnesota, 1997); Cinema Colonialism Postcolonialism (Texas, 1996); Lacan Politics Esthetics (Buffalo, 1996), Nationalisms & Sexualities (Routledge, 1992); French Women Writers (Greenwood, 1992); Before the Wall Came Down (U. Press of America, 1990); and Life/Lines: Theorizing Women's Autobiography (Cornell, 1988). Some of her recent articles include "Ten Years After: Austro-Hungarian Cinema at the Millennium," "Home Movies, Found Images, and Amateur Film as a Witness to History: Péter Forgács' Private Hungary," and "István Szabó's Sunshine."

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Date: June 11, Sunday

Time: 10.30-11 am



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