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Daily Briefing. US Department of Harassment

Also: Adam Shatz on Claude Lanzmann’s memoir and Catherine Grant’s roundup on Latin American and other radical and revolutionary cinema.
The Daily

Today's must-read is Glenn Greenwald's report in Salon on the US Department of Homeland Security's persistent and ongoing harassment of travelers returning to their own country. "A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6600 people — roughly half of whom were American citizens — were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant." And "the case of Laura Poitras, an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and intrepid journalist, is perhaps the most extreme." As Dennis Lim wrote in a 2010 profile for the New York Times, with My Country, My Country and The Oath, Poitras has made "two of the most searching documentaries of the post-9/11 era, on-the-ground chronicles that are sensitive to both the political and the human consequences of American foreign policy."

Over the past six years, Poitras has been detained at the airport as she reenters the US nearly 40 times. Greenwald:

She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter's notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent — after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip — that he "finds it very suspicious that you're not willing to help your country by answering our questions." They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).

Poitras is currently at work on the third film in her War on Terror trilogy and she "is now forced to take extreme steps — ones that hamper her ability to do her work — to ensure that she can engage in her journalism and produce her films without the US Government intruding into everything she is doing."

The Patagonian Hare

A second highly recommended read is Adam Shatz's essay on Claude Lanzmann's memoir, The Patagonian Hare, in the London Review of Books. The first half or so concentrates on those remarkable years with Sartre and Beauvoir, Deleuze and Fanon. The second half chronicles the making and lasting impact of Shoah (1985): "As Esther Benbassa, a French scholar of Judaism, writes in Suffering as Identity, Shoah helped raise the destruction of the Jews 'to the level of an event possessing intense transcendental meaning, while conferring qualities of the same order, redemptive in this case, on the creation of the state of Israel.' Lanzmann's next film [Tsahal (1987)] was an adulatory portrait of the Israel Defense Forces." Shatz reviews not only the book but also the films and writes in conclusion:

A few years ago, troubled by the increasingly bellicose tenor of Jewish politics in France, Jean Daniel published a striking little book called The Jewish Prison. This prison, unlike anti-semitism, was self-imposed, and made up of three invisible walls: the idea of the Chosen People, Holocaust remembrance and support for the state of Israel. Having trapped themselves inside these walls, the prosperous, assimilated Jews of the West were less and less able to see themselves clearly, or to appreciate the suffering of others — particularly the Palestinians living behind the ‘separation fence'. Over the last four decades, Claude Lanzmann has played a formidable role not only in building this prison but in keeping watch over it. That a chronicler of the Holocaust could become a mystical champion of military force, an unswerving defender of Israel's war against the Palestinian people and a skilled denier of its crimes, is a remarkable story, but you won't find it in Lanzmann's memoir.

Catherine Grant's posted Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina's Raymundo (2003), "a moving and hugely informative film about the inspirational life and filmmaking of Raymundo Gleyser, founder of the Cine de la Base movement," and accompanied it with a roundup of "links to studies of Latin American and other radical and revolutionary cinema, together with some relevant full-length films viewable online." Catherine also points us to the freely accessible archives of Communications, the influential French journal founded in 1961 by Georges Friedmann, Roland Barthes and Edgar Morin.

There's a fresh round of new work up at the Chiseler today and, inspired by today's Google doodle, Luke McKernan rounds up the best linkage on Eadweard Muybridge.

And finally for now, an offline reading tip. David Bordwell recommends Cinema Scope 50.

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