William Klein, Eldridge Cleaver

Far from Vietnam (Loin du Viêtnam)
Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, France 1967, 35mm, 115 min (25 min excerpt), English and French with English subtitles
Source: Walker Art Center

‘On the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in New York, a guy is reciting a poem consisting of the syllables napalm. And no one knows what napalm is. It showed me how blind people become to something they hear referred to all day long. So, we decided to do something a little like Picasso confronted by the bombing of Guernica.’ – William Klein

This legendary agitprop feature was initiated and edited by Chris Marker at the height of the Vietnam War under the aegis of the French activist group SLON (Société pour le Lancement des Oeuvres Nouvelles). Highly influential on subsequent political documentaries, it is constructed in eleven chapters (plus an introduction and epilogue), and rallies both fact and fiction to counter coverage of the Vietnam War by the mainstream media as well as propaganda by the US government. This screening presents Klein’s contribution, a moving meditation on the self-immolation of American Quaker Norman Morrison in protest against the war. This searing cine-manifesto is a passionate and concerted protest against the US war in Vietnam. Marking a crucial moment for political cinema and collective filmmaking, Far from Vietnam is also a multifaceted exploration of the global impact of war, cultural indifference and selective memory. 

Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther
William Klein, Algeria / France 1970, 35mm transferred to digiBeta, 75 min, English and French with English subtitles
Source: ARTE

When in Algiers to film the Pan-African Cultural Festival in 1969, Klein met Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Information, in exile after being charged with murder in the US and now invited by the Algerian authorities to take part officially in the Festival with his African-American Information Center. Klein is fascinated by this charismatic and controversial figure, openly advocating the use of violence by the Black Panthers as a legitimate revolutionary practice, and at the same time involved in humanitarian activities and an international solidarity network bringing together activists from Cuba to Africa to Vietnam. The documentary portrays Cleaver’s manifold personality against his daily life in Algiers, as he talks to Klein and to other Festival delegates about American society, the war in Vietnam and the ongoing struggles for independence and civil rights across the continents.

This event is related to the exhibition William Klein + Daido Moriyama