Sunday, Jun 07th, 2020 - 06:36:46


'Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan': Luis Buñuel (1933)

'So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab–Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have, instead, is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world, presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.'

+ "Islam Through Western Eyes" (The Nation, 1980)

'In the 1920s, following other Spanish artists such as Salvador Dali and Juan Miró, Luis Buñuel moved to Paris, then the center of artistic activity in Europe. He joined in the activities of the Surrealists and shared their obsession with Freud and the unconscious. Like the Dadaists before them, the Surrealists cherished the random phrase, the image recorded as if by accident. They took as their notion of beauty the juxtaposition of incongruous elements (Balakian 1959: 154). The surrealist movement in poetry, literature, and film overlapped with the emerging discipline of modern anthropology in France. Writing about French culture between the wars, James Clifford has coined the term "ethnographic surrealism" to describe the intersection of anthropology and art in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. Unlike traditional anthropological discourses, which strive to make the unfamiliar comprehensible, ethnographic surrealism, Clifford writes, "attacks the familiar, provoking the irruption of otherness -- the unexpected" (1988: 145). Luis Buñuel lived and worked in Paris during this period of interdisciplinary ferment. There are explicit connections between the Spanish filmmaker and French anthropology. Buñuel was invited to participate in the 1932 Mission Dakar-Djibouti, the first large-scale French anthropological field expedition. Led by Marcel Griaule, the expedition provided artifacts, some 3,500 objects, for the new Musée de l'Homme, founded in 1937 (Clifford 1988: 136-8). As Buñuel recalls in his autobiography, My Last Sigh, he turned down the invitation to "make a film about the trip" and writer Michel Leiris went in his place (1984: 138). The documentary Buñuel produced instead, Las Hurdes: Tierra sin pan -- shot while Griaule, Leiris, and their cohorts were working their way across sub-Sahara Africa -- may be seen as his response to, and even critique of, the much-publicized anthropological expedition. At a time when Griaule was collecting artifacts in Africa, Buñuel recognized that anthropology could find subjects in Europe as well.'

+ Ethnographic Surrealism:
+ Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (1933) - ["Land Without Bread" or "Unpromised Land"]:
+ Luis Buñuel:

'The movie is a documentary, parodying the exaggerated documentaries of travelers across the Sahara being filmed at the same time. One of Buñuel's points is that there are plenty of terrible subjects for a documentary right in Spain. The film was originally silent, though Buñuel himself narrated when it was first shown. A French narration by actor Abel Jacquin was added in Paris in 1935. Buñuel used extracts of Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 4 for the music. Buñuel slaughtered at least two animals to make Las Hurdes. One Hurdano claimed that he arranged for an ailing donkey to be covered with honey so he could film it being stung to death by bees. Similarly, his crew shot a mountain goat that subsequently fell from a cliff for another sequence. The film provoked such an uproar in Spain - Ruoff calls it a "revolutionary film" - that it was banned from 1933 to 1936. One of the chief concerns of the ca. 8,000 present day inhabitants of Las Hurdes is to fight against the stigma issues affecting Las Hurdes. The resulting stereotype has affected their region at least since playwright Lope de Vega's 1663 comedy, Las Batuecas del Duque de Alba. Casting the region as an area of darkness, disease and ignorance was continued by other writers for centuries before Buñuel's film.'

+ Land Without Bread:

'"Orientalism” is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous. Edward W. Said, in his groundbreaking book, Orientalism, defined it as the acceptance in the West of “the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, ‘mind,’ destiny and so on.” According to Said, Orientalism dates from the period of European Enlightenment and colonization of the Arab World. Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which “the West” constructed “the East” as extremely different and inferior, and therefore in need of Western intervention or “rescue”. Examples of early Orientalism can be seen in European paintings and photographs and also in images from the World’s Fair in the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The paintings, created by European artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, depict the Arab World as an exotic and mysterious place of sand, harems and belly dancers, reflecting a long history of Orientalist fantasies which have continued to permeate our contemporary popular culture.'

"Unlike the Americans, the French and British--less so the Germans, Russians, Spanish, Portugese, Italians, and Swiss--have had a long tradition of what I shall be calling Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient's special place in European Western Experience. The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe's greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other. In addition, the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience. Yet none of this Orient is merely imaginative. The Orient is an integral part of European material civilization and culture. Orientalism expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles. . . .

It will be clear to the reader...that by Orientalism I mean several things, all of them, in my opinion, interdependent. The most readily accepted designation for Orientalism is an academic one, and indeed the label still serves in a number of academic institutions. Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient--and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist--either in its specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she says or does is Orientalism. . . .

Related to this academic tradition, whose fortunes, transmigrations, specializations, and transmissions are in part the subject of this study, is a more general meaning for Orientalism. Orientalism is a style of thought based upon ontological and epistemological distinction made between "the Orient" and (most of the time) "the Occident." Thus a very large mass of writers, among who are poet, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and imperial administrators, have accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, "mind," destiny, and so on. . . . the phenomenon of Orientalism as I study it here deals principally, not with a correspondence between Orientalism and Orient, but with the internal consistency of Orientalism and its ideas about the Orient . . despite or beyond any corrsespondence, or lack thereof, with a "real" Orient. (1-3,5)'

+ 'Orientalism', Edward Said (1979):

'Orientalism is the source of the inaccurate, cultural representations that are the foundations of Western thought and perception of the Eastern world, specifically about the region of the Middle East. The principal characteristic of Orientalism is a "subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arab–Islamic peoples and their culture", which prejudice derives from Western images (representations) that reduce the Orient to the fictional essences of "Oriental peoples" and "the places of the Orient"; such cultural representations dominate the communications (discourse) of Western peoples with non–Western peoples. In practice, the imperial and colonial enterprises of the West are facilitated by collaborating régimes of Europeanized Arab élites who have internalized the fictional, romanticized representations of Arabic culture — the Orientalism invented by Anglo–American Orientalists. As such, Orientalist stereotypes of the cultures of the Eastern world have served, and continue to serve, as implicit justifications for the colonial ambitions and the imperial endeavours of the U.S. and the European powers.'
+ Orientalism (1978) - Edward W. Said:
+ Rambo Killcount:

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