The Words of the Chairman can be usefully situated within the moment of European fascination with the implications of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, then entering its most intensive phase within China. In his fourth short film Harun Farocki, still a student at the German Film and Television Academy is seen neatly tearing pages from The Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, then widely known as The Little Red Book.
The Words of the Chairman is a cine-pamphlet that stages a Maoist formula typical of the era: words can become weapons; but these weapons, in turn are made of words. Looking back on this era, Farocki wrote,
"I was on a ship - this sounds like a novel: I had just embarked for Venezuela on June 2, 1967 as the Shah of Iran was arriving in West Berlin. There were protests, a student was shot, and a new form of opposition movement came into existence. The idea for this film came to me while I was still aboard the ship. The film is structured like a commercial. The film takes a metaphor literally: words can become weapons. However, it also shows that these weapons are made of paper. The weapon spoiled everything for the Shah and his wife, they are wearing paper bags on their heads with faces drawn on them - the kind of bags worn by Iranian students during demonstrations to hide their identity from the Savak, the Iranian Secret Service. When I showed this film to the audiences in the late Sixties, it was highly praised. I think people understood then that over obviousness is also a form of irony. This capacity was lost a few years later. I think it's coming back today."
Harun Farocki was born in Nov?? Jicin (Neutitschein), in German-annexed Czechoslovakia. Between 1966-68 he attended the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB). 1966 he married Ursula Lefkes and 1968 saw the birth of his daughters Annabel Lee and Larissa Lu. After teaching posts in Berlin, D?ºsseldorf, Hamburg, Manila, Munich and Stuttgart Farocki took up a visiting, professorship at the University of California, Berkeley from 1993-1999. 2001 he married Antje Ehmann.
Farock's has made close to 90 films, including three feature films, essay films and documentaries. 1976 In Basel, he staged Heiner M?ºller's plays The Battle and Tractor together with Hanns Zischler. Since 1966: numerous publications. 1974-1984: editor and author of the magazine Filmkritik (M?ºnchen). Since 1966 he has collaborated with other filmmakers (as script writer, actor and producer). Since 1990 he has had numerous exhibitions and installations in galleries and museums. Since 2004 he's been the visiting professor at the Akademie f?ºr Bildende K?ºnste, Vienna, Austria.
Harun Farocki Die Worte Des Vorsitzenden 1967
¬© courtesy Harun Farocki