(1997) 30 minutes, with Gloria Jean Masciarotte and Ted Mandell
This is a stubborn film, containing a perfect replica, of Harun Farocki's astute 1969 film, "Inextinguishable Fire" - about the production of Napalm B by the Dow Chemical Company for the War in Vietnam; about the abuses of human labor; and about documentary filmmaking.
Taking as its subject the formal and political strategies of Harun Farocki's 1969 black and white film "Inextinguishable Fire", WHAT FAROCKI TAUGHT is literally and stubbornly a remake - that is, a perfect replica, in color and in English, of Farocki's astute, some would say crudely-made film, produced in Germany at the height of the Vietnam War. In 1969, Farocki attempted to make "visible", and thus comprehensible, the physical properties of Napalm B, and to demonstrate the impossibility of resistance to its production by Dow Chemical Corporation employees and ultimately to its use by the U.S. military forces fighting in Vietnam.
Farocki's film is radical in technique - taking up one of the hottest of political questions - the production of terror - and cooling it down to frank, rational substance through the strategy of "under-representation", refusing the pornography of documentary "evidence" and replacing it with Brechtian reconstruction and demonstration. Employing a set of propositions about the multi-national research corporation and the production of weapons of war in a unique "agit-prop" style, "Fire" reaches beyond the specific terrors of napalm and provokes baseline questions about the ethical uses of labor.
Because Farocki's "Fire" was never distributed in the U.S. at the time of its making and even today is unavailable to American audiences, Godmilow's WHAT FAROCKI TAUGHT was conceived as a gesture of film distribution - taking this small, film footnote to a war, a barnacle stuck on the side of the moth-balled vessel of Vietnam, flicking it forward past the recent, more sophisticated, and successful technologies of Panama and the Persian Gulf, to see if the "ping" of recognition and the radical potential of the documentary film project can be revived.
In an epilog, Godmilow prods contemporary filmmakers toward "Fire's" political stance and strategies, emphasizing its direct audience address and refusal to produce the "compassionate voyeurism" of the classic documentary cinema.
Bill Horrigan, film curator, Wexner Center
Read the full text of Tom Gunning's introduction
to WHAT FAROCKI TAUGHT