Filmscreening + Masterclass: Ascan Breuer / Dokumentarisches Labor

I. Film screening

Friday 8 May, 17.00-20.00, KUA1 auditorium 24.4.01

"Jakarta Disorder" + "Paradise Later" (Trilogi Jawa I + II)

II. Masterclass

Saturday 9 May, 10.00-16.00, KUA2, auditorium 12.0.47

"Documentary as Lab: Dubious Documentary vs. Documentary of Truthiness".


Ascan Breuer is a documentary filmmaker and lectures documentary film and visual anthropology at the University of Vienna. He is the founder of the Vienna-based think tank and production house Dokumentarisches Labor (Documentary Lab). His award-winning, mostly experimental documentaries are shown internationally (Berlinale, Festival de Cannes, MoMA New York, etc.).

I. Film screening: Trilogi Jawa I + II 

The Javanese Trilogy is a string of documentaries dealing with contemporary society in Indonesia and its historic and political background. The film trilogy is the most recent publication by Dokumentarisches Labor. For ten years the lab has been an experimental workshop for audiovisual anthropological representations. "Riding My Tiger" (Trilogi Jawa III) will be shown and discussed in the masterclass "Documentary as Lab". 

"Jakarta Disorder" (Trilogi Jawa II)
2013, 88 min, Indonesian w/ English subtitles
Over several years Breuer observed the development of the Indonesian civil society which led to the election of Joko Widodo as the country's new president last year. "Jakarta Disorder" tells the story of two courageous women in Jakarta who fight for the participation of the urban poor in the young democracy. The rapidly growing housing development leads to the displacement of many traditional living quarters. the two women form a social movement of slum-dwellers. Together with their friends they decide to fight against this injustice and to engage in the presidential elections… "Jakarta Disorder" shows the origines of the rise of "Jokowi", aka Joko Widodo, the new president of Indonesia. The film was the opening film of last year’s European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Conference in Tallinn, awarded as "Best Documentary" at International Documentary Film Festival Bishkek 2014.

THE JAKARTA POST: "… 'Jakarta Disorder' explores the marginalization of the city’s poor and how they resist exclusion from economic development by developing their political knowledge. The documentary shows how the city’s poor, regardless of their education, can realize their rights as citizens and to how to use politics to their advantage. The wit and political knowledge displayed by the urban poor as depicted in 'Jakarta Disorder' shows that political rights not only belong to the educated and established segments of society but also to those at its margins …"

"Paradise Later" (Trilogi Jawa I)
2010, 13 min, English

Blinking. As if eyes had to adjust to the light, the images appear in the glaring white and then disappear – withdrawing from our curious, greedy gaze. While a traveling salesman reports to his company´s managing board off camera and the man´s doubts and complaints become more obvious, the camera follows the course of a lazy river on the edge of a large tropical city. "The conquest of the earth is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much." The text used for the narration is a distillation of Josef Conrad´s 1899 Heart of Darkness, which Breuer transposes from late 19th century Belgian Congo to 21st century Indonesia. The riverbanks are covered with piles of garbage where goats graze, trash hangs from the trees like tinsel, and fast-food wrappers float on the water´s surface. Fishermen cast out their nets like clockwork in the hope of catching something they can eat or use, and children play in the muddy water in front of rundown shacks. The film was nominated for "Best International Short" at Berlinale 2010.

II. Masterclass:"Documentary as Lab"

Theory and practice of Breuer’s Dokumentarisches Labor is a fundamental critique of documentary strategies that project authenticity. In order to explore and broaden structures of documentary languages, the lab experiments with alternative strategies allowing the audience to play a more active role. In these so-called performative documentaries the viewers are not mere sensational and intellectual consumers demanding satisfaction of their desire to understand social and cultural realities. Instead, Breuer suggests different ways for the audiences to emancipate themselves from their own predispositions so that a performative documentary itself triggers unexpected discoursive dynamics on the subject matter and its relationship to the viewers.

In his master class, Breuer presents a selection of performative documentary experiments that were accompished in the framework of Dokumentarisches Labor: "Riding My Tiger" (Trilogi Jawa III, 2014) is a so-called magical documentary about Breuer’s search for a legendary tiger spirit. In the film "Wayang kulit" shadow-puppetry is implemented, a traditional Javanese technique of story-telling. "Forst" (2005) portraits life and activism of political refugees in Germany using aesthetics of German Expressionist cinema. Further productions include "Das Ganze Stadion" (2011), a fly-on-the-wall observation of football-fans in Hamburg during the match of their favorite team F.C. Sankt Pauli. In “Tehran – Lost & Found” (2011) Breuer follows his wife on her first journey to the city of her father’s childhood.

The masterclass is very much a “hands-on” workshop, where Ascan will transmit and share the arts of producing a documentary film. 

For further information please contact Alexander Horstmann.