Vita strumpor, flygplansmotorer och dialektik

WeComeAsFriends_Sputnik Mediterraneo

Efter att ha sett dokumentärfilmen We Come as Friends – se föregående inlägg – tänkte jag att en så pass intelligent dokumentärfilm borde ha en intelligent regissör. Därför sökte jag på nätet och läste några intervjuer med regissören, österrikaren Hubert Sauper, som numera bor i Frankrike, och han verkar mycket riktigt vara både reflekterad och sympatisk.

Sauper kommer med många intressanta och tänkvärda iakttagelser om att göra dokumentärfilm, om konflikter på den afrikanska kontinenten och om att som europé göra dokumentärfilm om dem. Sauper har gjort tre uppmärksammade dokumentärfilmer: Kisangani Diary (1998), om ett folkmord i Kongo, Darwins mardröm (2004) om ekonomisk kolonisering i Tanzania, samt We Come as Friends (2014) om inbördeskrig och nykolonisering i forna Sudan.

Jag har plockat ut tre av de mest intressanta kommentarerna från de lästa intervjuerna. I den första diskuterar Sauper relationen mellan finansieringsprocessen till We Come as Friends – som bekostades av en av EU:s kulturfonder – och frågan om (konstnärlig) yttrandefrihet:

Journalist: But I think more filmmakers are subverting this, finding a way of arguing that their film does serve these goals in order to get the funding, but then make a film that is more interesting in the end. To get the funding you need but also make the work of art that you want.

Sauper: I was at the UN headquarters this morning, talking to the UN head of communications worldwide about how the UN is now helping filmmakers. But it naturally leads to a good image for the UN. It’s a bit problematic. I don’t want to oppose it frontally because I think a lot of great people found this kind of niche to make films happen. But maybe this is not very sustainable for an art form. I’m still in a good position, because in Europe I get money from the European Union. They give me maybe 200,000 euros [to make We Come As Friends]. I had just made Darwin’s Nightmare, which made the European Union look terrible, so a lot of people in the European Union were going after me, trying to stop it. But still the European Union is capable of understanding that it needs internal critique, and they gave me money for my next movie.

In the U.S. it is probably not like this, so I feel privileged for it. It’s extraordinary when someone gives you a couple hundred thousand dollars and says, “Come back in five years with a movie.” How many people can do that [these days]? If you work for The New York Times, they send you with like $15,000 to the Sudan, you come back in two weeks and end up on two pages. What can you do? Not much, you know. And if his or her opinion is too much off the main thinking of the paper or TV station, it’s just not going to happen. But I can do it. So I feel like it’s the last niche of free speech, of totally free speech.

Journalist: Which is afforded by having the budget and the freedom to move.

Sauper: Afforded by the budget and by the form. I get to be in the position of court jester in a way. And I’m an artist who gets to do what I think is relevant, and I say it in a way that I think is relevant. (

I den andra kommentaren reflekterar han om hur samma motorteknik som han använde i det egenhändigt byggda flygplanet (”Sputnik” som ses på fotografiet ovan), och som möjliggjorde We Come as Friends, också används i bestyckade drönare och kryssningsrobotar:

Journalist: You are called a madman several times in the film for flying that airplane.

Sauper: People go: “You can build an airplane?” And it’s really simple actually. It’s a structure that’s been improved for a hundred years. It’s like building a shack in your backyard. You have to respect a few things—you have to use light materials, you have to make sure it’s screwed together. It’s really not so difficult. I got the engine sponsored by a company called Rotax, for Bombardier. It’s built in a little town outside of Strasburg, very close to where Hitler was born, and they build airplane engines for the whole world. They just gave me an engine and said to thank Rotax in the credits. It cost $20,000. Then I went online and found out that this very engine is driving the predator drones. So, if you go to a wedding party and your kids are blown up, it’s powered by this engine. It’s used also for cruise missiles that carry nuclear warheads. Whatever you do, you are part of this mess.

Den tredje kommentaren handlar om hur det jobbigaste han upplevde under arbetet med We Come as Friends var när han såg kristna amerikanska missionärer dela ut vita strumpor till nakna barn av Toposafolket i Sydsudan. Deras byar hade nyligen härjats svårt av olika stridande miliser och strumpor hörde inte till deras främsta behov. Samtidigt togs Sauper stundtals för att vara ytterligare en av de vita kolonisatörerna:

Journalist: Since you mentioned being so terrified or nauseated that you feared you’d drop the camera: was there an encounter, a landing, that was especially difficult for you to film? As the person holding the camera, I mean – not just logistically, because the film is mindblowing logistically.

Sauper: Mentally, I think the limits for me were the missionaries. I had my good friend Barney with me, my brother from another mama, so to say, my copilot. And I shoot most of my stuff on my own, but when we went to this village, where the missionaries were distributing white socks to the naked black people, I just lost my mind. I just said, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t film it.” So I gave the camera to Barney, he kept going, and he made a beautiful scene out of it.

Journalist: It’s one of the very toughest scenes to watch. You’re watching a documentary but it becomes a Bosch painting in real life, or something. There really aren’t proper analogies.

Sauper: Yeah, I was standing in the corner, just like: “What the fuck am I doing here?” And everyone thinks I am another missionary, in the village, because I am another white dude. (Laughs ruefully) They were “bringing the light”, you know? Bringing the Word of God, with their bloody solar-powered Bible. I was like, really, “this is too much”. Even just to see it was too much. I think it pushes the audiences to a limit of bearability, I think.

Let me tell you a tiny detail about this scene – I have a regret, which is that, had I been in the same village five years earlier, I would have seen the same scene with different interlopers. Because five years earlier, these villages were subjected to a Muslim colonization, from the north. The militias from Khartoum and Tripoli and Oman and whatever, they came not with the Bible but with the Qu’ran, and they told the people of the village the same thing: “You shouldn’t be naked. You should dress up, you should walk in step and wear uniforms. You should learn how to read and write, and wash your fingers, and pray to God,” you know? For the Toposa tribe, they have the same kind of thing from Texas, to Tripoli. People came up to me and asked if I was Muslim or Chinese. I was like “…What?” It’s always interesting, the us-and-them distinction, but ultimately the distinction is not there. The title reveals that: the “We” is the Chinese, the Americans, the Europeans, whatever. Whoever “we” is, that’s the whole thing.

Toposastammens olycksaliga belägenhet och missionärernas utdelning av vita strumpor för tankarna till Karl Marx berömda påstående att Friedrich Hegel en gång sagt att alla världshistoriska händelser upprepar sig – med Marx tillägg att första gången är det som tragedi och andra gången är det som fars.

I fråga om Hegel så både gällande flygplansmotorn och den religiösa koloniseringen skildrar Sauper en utveckling karaktäriserad av ett slags motsägelsefull dialektisk rörelse, där samma fenomen återkommer men delvis i ny skepnad. Idéhistorikern Victoria Fareld har kärnfullt formulerat dialektiken som ”ett utvecklingstänkande i vilket det som är statt i utveckling återvänder till sig självt i ett förmedlat tillstånd”. Saupers konklusion att, ”Whatever you do, you are part of this mess”, kan för övrigt sägas ha en motsvarighet i Hegels uttryck att ”allting är i sig självt motsägande”.

Dialektikens grundläggande antagande är också det allomfattande anspråket att allting rymmer sin egen motsats.

Det ska sägas att jag är inne i en av mina dialektiska perioder då jag är övertygad om att den historiska utvecklingen, åtminstone i den moderna epoken (efter medeltiden), på något sätt är konstituerad på så att verkligheten påfallande ofta antar dialektiska drag. För tillfället ser jag därför dialektik nästan överallt. Även när jag inte är inne i en dialektisk period ser jag visserligen dialektik lite vart stans, men nu är frågan alltså snarast vart det inte går att identifiera dialektiska utvecklingsmönster.



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