‘Confronting the Other’ with Claire Denis at Indiana University

Confronting the Other, an exploration of Claire Denis’s work as a filmmaker to engage with various manifestations of Otherness, will be hosted at Indiana University and will feature a visit and conversation with Claire Denis, seven film screenings, and a poster exhibition at the BFC/A featuring posters of Denis’s films.

Chocolat, I Can’t Sleep, Nenette and Boni, The Intruder, Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, and  White Material will all be screened between November 3rd and 11th at the IU Cinema (full schedule and details here).  “An Evening with Claire Denis” – a conversation with the filmmaker – will take place on Saturday, November 10th at 7:00pm, and Denis will be present for the screenings of Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, and White Material.

Denis has become well known for her style of unapologetically tackling the implications the Self/Other binaries, particularly in the context of postcolonialism.  From the abstract of “Claire Denis’ Films and the Post-colonial Body” by Susan Hayward:

Claire Denis is one of the few major French contemporary filmmakers whose films to date represent an attempt to forefront the effects of colonialism and post-colonialism on the psyche of both the colonised and coloniser. Her films reflect the complexities of addressing these effects not least because there is no essential colonial or post-colonial body. Rather, in her work, she reveals the multiplicities of the colonial and post-colonial body.

The poster exhibit for Confronting the Other – running from November 5th to December 14th at the BFC/A – will “foreground the organizing thematic” of Denis’s work.  Below are the film posters for Chocolat and White Material, followed by some comments and queries by BFC/A director Michael Martin:

Enigmatic, like that of Chocolat, [the poster for White Material] is, too, unsettling,intimating displacement, although seemingly of a different kind, inviting audiences—western? White? Female? Metropolitan?—to consider why?  In the background, devoid of people beneath the forest canopy and expanse, the protagonist in the foreground whose distress is palpable, is pictured at the epicenter of the frame for which we have no identifiable signs to ponder her circumstance, indeed fate. Yet, like the poster of Chocolat, it evokes the image of “a stranger in a strange land”. Is the female character in Chocolat the same character—fast forward—in White Material?  Is the autobiographical the subtext of this film as it is in Chocolat? And is the character fixed or transient in time and space?

Here, the posters for 35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rum), and for Beau Travail (Good Work):

Confronting the Other is sponsored by the BFC/A, the Department of Communication and Culture, Department of French and Italian, and IU Cinema, with thanks to Institut français, Unifrance, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Jean François Rochard and Delhpnie Selles.

While Denis is on campus, Martin will also interview her; the interview will appear in an upcoming issue of Black Camera.

For now, if you’d like more Denis, here’s a great profile by Andrew Hussey for The Observer, along with a short clip of Denis discussing White Material along with clips from the film.

~ Jonathan Jenner

About BFC/A

The Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University was established in 1981 as the first archival repository dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available historically and culturally significant films by and about black people. The BFC/A's primary objectives are to promote scholarship on black film and to serve as an open resource for scholars, researchers, students, and the general public; to encourage creative film activity by independent black filmmakers; and to undertake and support research on the history, impact, theory, and aesthetics of black film traditions. View all posts by BFC/A

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