International News Digest

BAUHAUS MAGAZINE REVIVED

After an eighty-year break, Bauhaus magazine is set to return in 2011. As Monopol and the Süddeutsche Zeitung report, the announcement was made by Philipp Oswalt, the director of the Bauhaus Dessau foundation. “We want to inform the public twice a year about what’s going on in the Bauhaus context,” said Oswalt. The original magazine, which ran from 1926 to 1931, played a key role in introducing new artistic, design, and architectural concepts from Walter Gropius and his circle. “We want to cover more from the work that we are doing and to reflect upon it,” added Oswalt. The first issue will have the special theme of art––a fitting choice for the occasion of an exhibition about the Bauhaus artist Kurt Kranz (1910–1997).

SUPPORT FOR IMPRISONED IRANIAN FILMMAKERS

The Iranian director Raffi Pitts is calling upon filmmakers around the world to support his imprisoned colleagues and compatriots Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. As Agence France-Presse reports, Pitts asked the movie industry to stop working for two hours next February 11 as a gesture of solidarity with Panahi and Rasoulof. Both recently condemned to six years of prison for “participating in rallies” and producing “propaganda against the regime” of Iran. “We invite all directors and members of the movie industry––whatever their nationality, borders, religions, or political beliefs––to support our compatriot Iranian directors by stopping work for two hours between 3 PM and 5 PM on February 11, 2011, the day of the thirty-second anniversary of the Iranian revolution,” said Pitts in a statement quoted by AFP. Pitts also penned an open letter against the imprisonment of Panahi and Rasoulof to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The fifty-year-old Panahi, a director of the Iranian “new wave,” was not only condemned to a six-year prison term but also prohibited from making films, writing scripts, travelling outside Iran, and giving interviews to local and international media for the next twenty years. Rasoulof, a young cinematographer, was working on a film with Panahi.

In a separate report cited by Eurotopics, Panahi made a statement in Le Monde. “To judge us is to judge all committed, social, and humanitarian Iranian filmmakers. Our cinema aims to stand above good and evil, it does not judge and does not toady to power and money. It simply does its best to convey a realistic image of society. I have been accused of wanting to promote the spirit of revolt. Yet throughout my career I have always claimed to be a social, not a political director, giving expression to social, and not political preoccupations. I have never sought to put myself in the place of a judge or a prosecutor. It’s not to judge that I became a filmmaker, but to show things as they are.”

SMOKING: CULTURAL HERITAGE

Vienna may soon enjoy a new claim to historical fame: the only place in the world where smoking is part of cultural heritage. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Michael Frank reports from the Austrian capital, the city’s Café Hawelka––an infamous smoky haunt for poets and writers––may soon enjoy the protection of historical monuments under the auspices of constituting a “treasure of integrated culture.” As Frank notes, the listing does not come from Hawelka’s rather unspectacular architecture but nevertheless will spare the café from observing the country’s anti-smoking laws. While the lax law calls for a small room for smokers, separate from a larger room for non-smokers, the café will continue to allow habitués to smoke just as before. Hawelka is not the first café to be listed; the traditional coffee houses Landtmann, Sperl, Prückl, and Ritter already enjoy this status, although their interiors are markedly more spectacular, according to Frank.

FAREWELL TO KODACHROME

Unfortunately for analog photography fans, Kodak’s infamous Kodachrome film could not be listed as a historical monument. Citing a report in the New York Times, Le Monde’s Michel Guerrin notes that the last rolls of the color film were processed on December 30 at Dwayne’s Photo, a family-run lab in the town of Parsons, Kansas. Kodachrome––created in 1935 and long reigning as the most-used film on the planet––was discontinued by Kodak in June 2009 due to popularity of digital cameras. Twenty-five centers continued to develop the film but closed, one after the other, until only Dwayne’s Photo was left. Dwayne Steinle, the owner of the lab, received by post from around the world with “thousands” of rolls to process in the last weeks. Others made the trip in person to Parsons, including the Magnum photographer Steve McCurry who was given the last roll of Kodachrome film made by the Kodak factory in 2009. But McCurry’s roll was not the last to be developed at Dwayne’s Photo. Steinle himself took that honor by developing photographs of his house, his family and the city. The very last image, snapped on December 30, shows the lab’s employees wearing t-shirts with the message: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK ON THE YEAR IN ECOLOGICAL DISASTERS

Slavoj Žižek takes a natural approach to summing up the bygone year. Eurotopics cites an article in the Spanish daily La Vanguardia by the
Slovenian star philosopher, who sees the increasing occurrence of ecological disasters as a reminder of humanity's dependence on nature. “The big ecological disasters of 2010 fit into the ancient cosmological model, in which the universe is made up of four basic elements,” writes Žižek. “Air, volcanic ash clouds from Iceland immobilizing airline traffic over Europe; Earth, mudslides and earthquakes in China; Fire, rendering Moscow almost unlivable; Water, the tsunami in Indonesia, floods displacing millions in Pakistan.” And most recently, Australia. “The fact that ash from a modest volcanic outburst in Iceland grounded most of the planes in Europe is a much-needed reminder of how we, humans, with our tremendous power over nature, are nothing but one of the living species on Earth, depending on the delicate balance of its elements.”

Jennifer Allen