The love that Susan Sontag (New York, 1933-2004) felt for the cinema (and showed with her participation on selection committees for festivals and programmes for film series around the world, as well as the creation of her own films) is especially manifest in her untiring defence of filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard (Paris, 1930), Chris Marker, Ingmar Bergman and Jack Smith, to name just a few, when their work needed to reach a broader, more appreciative audience (and in the case of Smith, be given legal protection). This series pays tribute to Sontag’s legacy to film culture, establishing a dialogue between films and documentaries by and about Susan Sontag with the works of some of these filmmakers.
The discovery of some photographs of atrocities committed during the Second World War in a bookshop in Santa Monica marked a before and after in Sontag’s life. After this event, she became aware of the high dose of pain and tragedy that must be accepted to live in the world, operate in it and wish to consume what it offers. For Sontag, this was something that had to be accepted and controlled by taking a critical position. From this point of view, embracing the work of filmmakers whose aesthetic approaches championed political commitment and who always viewed film and the world in terms of their poetics became the only way to live for Sontag.
The first programmes in the series bring together two views of Israel, one by Marker (Description of a Struggle, 1961) and the other by Sontag (Promised Lands, 1974). Interviews with My Lai Veterans (1971) by Joseph Strick (Pittsburgh, 1923 - Paris, 2010) can be seen as a film that engages in a dialogue with Sontag’s book Trip to Hanoi, the result of her trip to Vietnam in May 1968, while the video-essay by Godard Je vous salue, Sarajevo (1994), a shortened version of his film Letter to Jane (1972), which presents a succinct view of a single image of the war in the Balkans, ties in directly with Sontag’s visit to Sarajevo during the period, a process that was documented in her essay Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo (1994). The meditation finally settles its gaze on a desk in 6 Sontag Screen Tests (1964) by Andy Warhol (Pittsburgh 1928 - New York, 1987) and a televised interview from 1969 alongside Agnès Varda (Brussels, 1928) known as Lions and Cannibals (a conversation about Sontag’s film, Duet for Cannibals and Varda’s Lion’s Love).