Re: censorship of Farocki's film

Milos Stehlik (milos@interaccess.com)
Thu, 24 Sep 1998 16:37:26 -0500

I think that if you are going to follow this line of reasoning, you will soon end up in absurd
territory. No one is denying a company's right to refuse a job, but I don't think duplicating
videos is exactly like producing widgets. The film lab business, like casting sculptures or
framing photographs or printing books, happens to be a business which assists the artist
in realizing his/her work. And, in my view, the first responsibility of the company then rests
with the artist, with helping the artist realize his/her vision -- that IS their business. This means
a respect for the artist's vision. Taking the work, in this case of a well-established artist whose
LIFE IN THE GERMAN FEDERAL REPUBLIC was produced by German national television -
and on the basis of one scene lasting about 45 seconds not seen or taken in context and then labeling it as
being below some fictional and artificial standard is, I think, a crime against the artist's integrity and
being.

If Allied Digital Laboratories were The Fundamentalist Video Duplicating Labs, with a stated
purpose implied in their name, one could understand this action in context. But this is a company
which duplicates 100 million cassettes each year, has nine U.S. plants, and has built their
business by doing the work for film and video makers and for their distributors.

I think it's a short step from refusing to duplicate Farocki to refusing to duplicate Kiarostami,
because his films are made in Iran and we know they ain't Christians over there, or Godard,
because some of the films don't really have a story, or films with lots of flag poles, because
they look like phallic symbols to someone.

And yes, there is always fortunately someone to print, duplicate or frame -- but it also took
dozens of samizdat typists and lots of carbon paper to "print" those forbidden books which
some state/commercial entity like a Soviet publishing house didn't deem up to the "moral standards"
of the state publishing system. I could name you a list of talented filmmakers (Evald Schorm, Pavel Juracek
come to mind) who, denied the possibility of working, because their work was not up to someone's "standard"
who then exercised their right not to produce their work, simply withered and died. It is our loss -- they
had a lot to say.

It's easy for an artist and a work of art to be marginalized and pushed to the extremes - which is why I
think to preserve the freedom of expression and availability and access to diverse views and opinions takes
exterme vigilance.

Censors have faces and they don't need a government title to do their work.

Milos Stehlik
Facets Video

Dennis Welker wrote:

> I think this is an interesting discussion. Can it really be considered
> censorship to refuse to duplicate a film that violates the company"s
> standards? This is to say that the company is simply there to do
> everything that you bid them to do. Considering it from the point of view
> of the lab, isn't it like saying they have no right to set their own
> standards? I think to simply argue that the material doesn't violate your
> standards does not obligate them.
>
> It seems to me that if this argument is valid, then no company who provides
> similar services has a right to refuse work they deem inappropriate just
> because the client wants it done. There seems to be no obligatory
> relationship here. It may be to their financial benefit (from your point of
> view) to accept the job, but insistence to go against their standards may
> lose other business and certainly doesn't say very much about the client.
> They don't seem to be preventing the duplication, only saying they won't
> take the job. As far as I can see, they have no legal or moral obligation
> to take your job. They do however, have a moral obligation to abide by
> their standards.
>
> To label this as censorship attaches a legal stance to their refusal. To go
> against their company's standards/policies would destroy their integrity
> and may have negative repercussions on their business. I certainly hope
> they do not succumb to threats. In a country where there is little moral
> conscience from the White house down, I applaud them for maintaining their
> integrity.
>
> It is their choice to refuse your job, not censorship. You have other
> legal choices to get the film duplicated, which may not be as convenient,
> but certainly are available.
> Dennis L. Welker
> Faculty Services Coordinator
> Brigham Young University
> Media Services
> 251 Fletcher Building
> Provo, Utah 84606
> Ph: (801) 378-6781
> Fax: (801) 378-5265
> E-mail: dennis_welker@byu.edu