True Fake: Troubling the Real in Artists’ Films

True Fake: Troubling the Real in Artists’ Films


Eric Baudelaire, The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images (clip), 2011.

April 6, 2021
True Fake: Troubling the Real in Artists’ Films
Part Five: Faux Documentary and Complex Reality
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Join us on e-flux Video & Film for Faux Documentary and Complex Reality, the fifth and final part of the online series True Fake: Troubling the Real in Artists’ Films programmed by Lukas Brasiskis.

Can faux documentaries become a form of resistance to alternative facts claiming to be truth? How does the power of the false become political? Can fiction, posing as fact, pull the audience out from the depths of informational echo chambers? Featuring Peter Watkins’ The War Game (1966), Eric Baudelaire’s The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images (2011), Walid Raad’s The Dead Weight of a Quarrel Hangs (1999)and Omer Fast’s 5000 Feet is the Best (2011), this last part of the series examines the potentials of the production of faux stories to expose hidden or censored truths as counter-arguments to the dominant regime of truth.

This last part also features the online discussion “Staying with the Troubled Real: Before and After Post-Truth,” with Eric BaudelaireDavid BlandySara MagenheimerAlison Nguyen, and Tess Takahashi, moderated by Lukas Brasiskis—live on Thursday, April 15 at 1pm EST.

The films in Part Five | Faux Documentary and Complex Reality will screen for two weeks, from Tuesday, April 6 through Monday, April 19, 2021. A repeat screening of all films in the series from parts one through five will take place on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. 

True Fake: Troubling the Real in Artists’ Films 
Part Five | Faux Documentary and Complex Reality

Tuesday, April 6—Monday, April 20, 2021

Peter Watkins, The War Game, 1966
46:11 minutes

Intended for broadcast on BBC in 1965, Peter Watkins’ nuclear war docudrama was withheld and remained untelevized for nearly twenty years. Continuing his previous experiments in blending fiction and documentary techniques, The War Game presents data drawn from Watkins’ detailed research—statistics extrapolated from nuclear bombings, quotes from high-ranking officials, Civil Defense documents, and scientific studies and accounts of the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts as well as the non-nuclear devastation of Dresden, Hamburg, and other cities during World War II. Since the 1960s, the film has become one of the most known examples of the faux documentary style, using actors and staged interviews to achieve realistic and shocking effects, and convey the political message that prompted BBC director general Hugh Carlton Greene to proclaim the film “too horrific for the medium of broadcast.” Ironically, the film went on to win the Oscar for best documentary feature after being released in theaters in 1966.

Eric Baudelaire, The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images, 2011
65:40 minutes

The political and personal epic of the Japanese Red Army is recounted as an anabasis—a journey that is both a wandering towards the unknown and a return towards home. From Tokyo to Beirut amid the post-1968 ideological fever, and from Beirut to Tokyo at the end of the Red Years, the 30-year trajectory of a radical fringe of the revolutionary left is recounted by two of its protagonists. One of them is May Shigenobu, daughter of the founder of the small group, who witnessed it closely. Born in secrecy in Lebanon, a clandestine life was all she knew until age 27. But a second life began with her mother’s arrest, and May’s adaptation to a suddenly very public existence. The other is Masao Adachi, the legendary Japanese experimental director who gave up cinema to take up arms with the Japanese Red Army and the Palestinian cause in 1974. For this theorist of the fûkeiron (a movement of Japanese filmmakers who filmed the landscape to reveal ubiquitous structures of power) his 27 years of voluntary exile were without images, since those he filmed in Lebanon were destroyed on three separate occasions during the war. It is therefore words, testimony, memory (and false memory) that structure The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images. Two intersecting accounts mix personal stories, political history, revolutionary propaganda, and film theory. 30 years of self-invention in which the recurring theme is the question of images: public images produced by the media in response to terrorist operations planned for the television era, and personal images that are lost or destroyed amid the chaos of the struggles. Adopting an experimental documentary format, the accounts of May Shigenobu and Masao Adachi overlay new fûkeiron images, filmed in Super 8 in the contemporary landscapes of Tokyo and Beirut.

Walid Raad, The Dead Weight of a Quarrel Hangs, 1999
16:57 minutes

This three-part video project investigates the possibilities and limits of writing a history of the Lebanese civil wars (1975–91). The videos offer accounts of the fantastic situations that beset a number of individuals, though they do not document what happened. Rather, they explore what can be imagined, what can be said, what can be taken for granted, what can appear as rational, sayable, and thinkable about the wars.

Omer Fast, 5000 Feet is the Best, 2011
32:12 minutes

5000 Feet is the Best is based on conversations with a U.S. Predator drone operator, that were recorded in a Las Vegas hotel. On-camera, the drone operator discussed the technical aspects of his job and his daily routine. Off-camera and off-the-record, he briefly described incidents in which the unmanned plane fired at both militants and civilians. The film repeatedly turns from documentary to reenactment and fiction, weaving together the drone operator’s account along with scenes depicting other crimes in and around Las Vegas. 

“Staying with the Troubled Real: Before and After Post-Truth,” live discussion with Eric Baudelaire, David Blandy, Sara Magenheimer, Alison Nguyen, and Tess Takahashi, moderated by Lukas Brasiskis
Thursday, April 15, 1pm EST

Ruminating on the divisions between true and fake in relation to technological, political, and societal realities, the scholar and programmer Tess Takahashi and moving-image artists Eric Baudelaire, David Blandy, Sara Magenheimer, and Alison Nguyen will discuss videos and films screened as part of the series True Fake: Artists’ Films Troubling the Real. Changes of traditional forms of representation and definitions of false and true in a world in which digital technologies have reshaped the experience of the real; new forms of power in a networked society; limits and potentials of the contemporary public sphere; and strategies for moving-image artists to navigate between documentation and fiction are among the topics to be addressed in the discussion moderated by Lukas Brasiskis. The discussion will be livestreamed on e-flux Video and Film, with audience Q&A available via chat. 

About the series
The unparalleled technological change happening over the past decades has caused a drastic shift in the perception and experience of reality. In the 1990s and early 2000s, traditional certitudes were cast into doubt indicating that belief in factual truths became just an option among a wide variety of angles and perspectives on the real. Consequently, academic discussions about the crisis of truth found resonance in the art world. A number of artists started to make works reflecting on or criticizing the “post-truth” discourse, causing what art critics and historians call the “documentary turn in contemporary art.” However, in the last ten years, when scientific facts about the irreversibility of  global climate change have coincided with the unprecedented growth of science denialism, and when a reactionary rhetoric of “alternative facts” as well as the online spread of “fake news” have become a real threat to democracy, the question of the relationship between reality, mediated facts, and identity begs to be reconsidered.

Responding to the current political, technological, and environmental conditions, this series of screenings highlights 20 contemporary and historically important films and videos that examine unstable boundaries between fact and fiction, nature and artifice, objectivity and subjectivity, mediation and exposition. The title True Fake has been chosen as a statement alluding to audiovisual images perceived as fabricated or non-indexical and yet that surpass a simple true/false, documentary/fiction division.

Accompanying the series is a complementary e-flux journal reader dedicated to further inquiry around the often unstable and ambiguous relationship between reality and documentary facts. The series will also include a live discussion with some of the participating artists and other guests, date to be announced.

True Fake: Troubling the Real in Artists’ Films runs from February 9 through April 20, 2021. Screening from today and for the next two weeks are the four films in Part Five | Faux Documentary and Complex Reality. A repeat screening of all the films in the series from programs one through five will take place on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Watch the films here.

For more information, contact program [​at​]

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April 6, 2021

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