A screening of Naeem Mohaiemen’s United Red Army (70 min, 2012), based on tapes of the 1977 negotiations between the Japanese hijacker of JAL 472 and the control tower in Bangladesh, along with a selection of films from the Afghan Films archive that document the early Communist period, 1978-79 (approximately 20 minutes). Followed by a discussion of excavations in the archives of Asian radicalism with Naeem Mohaiemen, Mariam Ghani, Chitra Ganesh, Zohra Saed, and Alix Rule.
Co-sponsored by the NYU Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, Alwan for the Arts, and 3rd i NY South Asian Film Collective.
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United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part 1)
Naeem Mohaiemen’s United Red Army is the latest installment of The Young Man Was, a multi-year project constructing a history of the 1970s ultra-left. On September 28, 1977, the Japanese Red Army hijacked JAL 472 and flew it to Dhaka. As a negotiation began between the control tower and the lead hijacker (codename: Dankesu), a whole series of unintended consequences are set off. Outside the plane, Dhaka witnesses fierce internal struggles of an unsteady military government, a Hollywood actress on her truncated honeymoon, and an interrupted episode of The Zoo Gang. Two weeks later, the hijack of Lufthansa 181 ends very differently–German commandos storm the plane in Mogadishu, killing the hijackers. The aftershocks include the Stammheim suicides and the execution of Hanns-Martin Schleyer. Act one of a certain 1970s scene ends.
The film pivots off the audio recordings of the five-day negotiation. Shumon Bashar wrote in Tank: “the crackly voices of these two strangers hurled into a forced, awkward intimacy… the tone with which they started their discussion was peculiarly polite, until the accord between ransom and reason reached breaking point.” Andrew Burke said it “feels like a lost chapter of Chris Marker’s epic history of the revolutionary upheavals of the 1960s and 70s” (Alt Shipping).
The Afghan Films Archive
Afghan Films, the national film institute of Afghanistan, opened in 1968 and has represented the Afghan state through its many dissolutions, reconstructions, and shifts in ideology. In spring 2012, artist Mariam Ghani worked with Afghan Films staff, telecine technician Vijay Chavan, filmmaker Faiza Khan, and members of the media archive collective pad.ma to launch a digitization project in the archive, which dealt with both the peculiar forms of history present in it, and its possible futures. Ninety films from various periods and genres of Afghan Films can now be seen online through pad.ma’s browser-based, metadata-rich database.
Naeem Mohaiemen explores histories of the international left, and the contradictions of borders, wars, and belonging in South Asia, through essays, photography, and film. Research themes have been described as “not yet disillusioned fully with the capacity of human society” (Vijay Prashad, Take on Art). Naeem is a critic of the exclusionary hegemony of Bengali nationalism and was editor of Chittagong Hill Tracts in the blind spot of Bangladesh nationalism (Drishtipat/Manusher Jonno Foundation). Essays include “Islamic roots of Hip-Hop” (Sound Unbound, MIT Press), “Live true life or die trying” (Visual Culture Reader, 3rd Ed., Routledge), and “These guys are artists and who gives a shit” (System Error, Silvana). He is a PhD student in Anthropology at Columbia University. http://shobak.org
Zohra Saed is the co-editor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature (University of Arkansas Press, 2010). Her poetry and essays have appeared in: Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality (Seal Press); Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (Olive Branch Press); Speaking for Herself: Asian Women’s Writings (Penguin India); Seven Leaves One Autumn (Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi); and most recently Sahar Muradi & Zohra Saed: Misspelled Cities (Notebook #105, documenta 13). She is currently a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, and teaches courses on Central Asian literature and film in the Asian Studies program at Hunter College.
Alix Rule is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology at Columbia University, where she is an INCITE Graduate Fellow. She has written criticism on topics ranging from contemporary art to the ideology of social innovation. She is the recipient of a Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant Award for a series of articles on artist schools.
Mariam Ghani is an artist, writer and filmmaker who works at the intersections of place, memory, history, language, and loss. Her recent exhibitions and screenings include the Rotterdam and CPH:DOX film festivals, dOCUMENTA (13) in Kabul and Kassel, MoMA in New York, and the Sharjah Biennial 10. Recent texts have been published in Filmmaker, Mousse, the Radical History Review, the New York Review of Books blog, and documenta’s 100 Notes, 100 Thoughts book series. Ghani holds a BA in Comparative Literature from NYU and an MFA from SVA, and is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.
Chitra Ganesh’s drawing-based practice excavates buried narratives typically excluded from official canons of history, literature, and art. Her work has been widely exhibited locally and internationally, including at the Asia Society, PS1/MOMA, the Berkeley Art Museum, the ZKM, MOCA Shanghai, Saatchi Museum, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, and Gwangju Contemporary Arts Centre. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and Art Semiotics from Brown, and an MFA from Columbia University. She is a current Guggenheim fellow, and teaches at Parsons.
Chitra and Mariam have collaborated since 2004 as Index of the Disappeared, an experimental archive of post-9/11 renditions, redactions, detentions and deportations. The Index is both a physical archive of declassified official documents and first-person testimony, which can be visited by researchers, and a platform for public dialogues and poetic interventions around related issues and ideas.