On Impossibility: Finding Vietnam in a Jordanian-Soviet Film Archive
In 2014, an abandoned collection of over 900 16mm and 35mm film canisters was uncovered in a storage locker in Amman, Jordan. Initial findings show that the films were likely exported from Russia to Jordan between the late 1960s and early 1990s as part of a Soviet cultural exchange program, and among them are are a number of propaganda films made to highlight relations between Vietnam, Russia, and concurrent political struggles in the Arab Middle East. Work on the archive continues despite recent restrictions on researcher access levied by state custodians. This essay positions the entire archive as an aggregate object of transnational film history, rather than as a collection of individual works, in order to illuminate its function in the late 1960s as a cohesive geopolitical idea; a method that is both structurally mandated by present conditions of limited accessibility, and theoretically supported by historical context and affiliated projects initiated by artists and scholars working in Amman since 2014. I argue that the archive was conceptually formed in the political shadow of the Vietnam-American War and its local relationship to Palestinian liberation. As an ‘idea,’ the archive was shaped principally by Vietnam, its imaginative hold on concurrent Third World solidarity movements, and its centrality in the conceptual geography of the transnational 1960s-70s.
ARTMargins, Volume 9, Issue 2, Page 7-32, June 2020.
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