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FILM CLUB: United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part I)

19:00 on 28 November 2018
Timespan

Tickets (includes popcorn and drink):
Full price: £4.5
Unwaged/low income: £3

Director: Naeem Mohaiemen
Bangladesh, Japan, 2012
70 minutes

The Young Man Was project examines the failures of radical, armed leftist movements of the 1970s. The protagonists often display misrecognition, ending up as an “accidental trojan horse” carrying tragic results to the countries in question (from Japanese hijackers commandeering Dhaka airport for “solidarity,” to migrant labor pipelines transformed into PLO “volunteers”). In spite of its failures, Mohaiemen’s reading of the potential of international left solidarity is still, always, one of hope. The first part (United Red Army, 2012) reconstructs the 1977 hijacking of Japan Airlines Flight 472 through a series of crisply polite negotiation tapes.

The Japanese man speaks in halting English; the Bangladeshi negotiator with the clipped confidence of an army officer. A colour scheme suggests order in the exchange: green, red, and the occasional white. But underneath the schema of a dark screen—subtitle sans image—lies a waiting unravelling. The Japanese Red Army had attached to the Palestinian cause, and through that to an idea of global pan-Arabism. But the high-value hostage turned out to be an Armenian banker from California, and the Democratic Party Congressman on honeymoon negotiated a call to the White House only to be greeted by Jimmy Carter’s answering service. The hostage terrain was not an “Islamic Republic,” as the hijackers thought, but a turbulent new country ricocheting between polarities and imploding in the process.

Instead of being the willing platform for the Japanese Red Army’s ideas of “Third World revolution,” the actual Third World hit back in unexpected ways, turning the hijackers into helpless witnesses. The lead negotiator, codename “Dankesu,” says with baffled understatement and halting English: “I understand you have some internal problems.” An eight-year-old watches the television screen with growing confusion – the screen shows an unmoving control tower for hours on end, and he wants his favourite show to start again.

Naeem Mohaiemen’s research-led practice encompasses films, installations, and essays about transnational left politics in the period after the Second World War. He investigates the legacies of decolonisation and the erasing and rewriting of memories of political utopias. Mohaiemen combines autobiography and family history to explore how national borders and passports shape the lives of people in turbulent societies. His work focuses on film archives and the way their contents can be lost, fabricated and reanimated. The hope for an as-yet unborn international left, instead of alliances of race and religion, forms his work.

Courtesy of Lux.

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Posted by: Timespan