Rear Left

The Cat and the Coup

Posted in Dog Food, Gaming the System by rearleft on October 26, 2010

The very idea of a “documentary game” may be hard for many to come to terms with. By their respective definitions, documentaries claim to portray the truth or reality of a situation, and a game is a cultural form that is defined by the variability of its outcome.

The winner of this year’s Indiecade Award in the Documentary category, The Cat and the Coup, leads the player backwards through time in an exposition of the life of Mohammed Mossadegh. Mossadegh, a largely unknown historical figure in the West, was the Iranian Prime Minister who was deposed by a CIA coup following his nationalisation of that nations oil industry, which had previously been run by the monopoly Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which later became British Petroleum, most recently rebranded as BP.

Still looking for a platform for release, promotional videos for the game give a sense of its aesthetics and mechanics. Persian miniatures provide an ingenious reference point for a two dimensional representation of a meaning-rich, hypermediated mise-en-scene that incorporates both images and text, augmented in the game by interactivity. The Cat and the Coup‘s narrative moves backwards through time, with user experience personalised through the character of Mossadegh, but placed at a distance by focalising user interaction through the character of a house-cat. The curious player, embodied as cat-avatar, leads the deposed Prime Minister from his death-bed back through memories of events to the point of his election. In this procedural metaphor for the process of engaging with the subjective experience of engaging with concrete historical events, designers Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad create a give an audience that is often presented with dehistoricised version of the US and UK’s relationship with Iran a way into a narrative in a manner that is simultaneously playful and rooted in political history.

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A Ghetto is a Ghetto

Posted in Media & Movements, War & Culture by rearleft on November 17, 2009

بدم Bidam (With Blood), a documentary on the impact of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza on Palestinian public health, co-directed by Juliana Fredman and yours truly, is screening on December 10 at the Marchmont Community Centre, Camden, London UK. The event is organised by the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association, and proceeds benefit the Shehadeh Mosen Diabetes Clinic in Abu Dis.

I can’t be there, so help me out by passing the info on to your London folks who can.

Here’s a clip:

Stinger Sessions

Making moves on Sydney town. Wednesday is the first iteration of a monthly screening/performance/discussion/workshop series exploring the role of arts and media in social movements. Being very new to town it may take us a few months to build an audience, but we have no shortage of plans for future events and have resolved not to be daunted by what may be small numbers in the first few sessions.

Stinger Session 01 features Welcome to Metal Kingdom (previously mentioned in these pages) and looks at the often maligned heavy metal music community as a site for meaningful discourse around issues of culture and power.

Stinger Session 01

Welcome to Metal Kingdom

(+ shorts)

Wednesday, August 12, 7-9PM

Serial Space

33 Wellington St, Chippendale, Sydney

$5 – no one denied entry for lack of funds

Follow this project’s progress at Facebook, twitter, etc will be live soon.

Shards, part II

Posted in Media & Movements by rearleft on June 26, 2009

An Iranian friend has made it out of Iran with her body, spirits, and media intact. She left after a day of attempting to shoot in the face of escalating violence from police and militias, the same day that Neda Agha-Soltan was killed.

(excerpt from Dispatch #15)

…That night, we decided that it was time for me to leave.
I began preparing myself mentally and emotionally, and continued working on the encryption of my computer and hard drives.  I decided that in any case, I would leave with these items.  There is too much work for me to do now, what would be the point of being here, “safe” without all of that?

On Sunday, we got word that two more filmmakers that we know had been arrested, and that the secret service had told our documentary association that they would arrest each and every person who signed our petition, and would make them retract their signature- by any means they feel necessary- while filming them.  This is what they did to leftists at the beginning of the revolution.

On Sunday night, I left to the airport, prepared for anything.  Apparently, if you are on the list to be arrested, they take your passport away, and ask you to report the next day to intelligence servjices.  Having an American passport, I would maybe have the option of leaving regardless of a passport confiscation, left with the fact that there would be no return to Iran… I decided that this would be okay and that if I was stopped, I would leave the country anyhow.  My friend took me to the airport at 4 am, and I made it through with no problems.  I was lucky.  There is no telling what would happen if I stayed longer.

Upon arrival to the U.S., I was welcomed in the most aggressive way that I ever have been upon return from traveling- another version of authority.  Strangely, I was neither afraid nor worried about the repercussions of my answers.  (Maybe I secretly hope to be deported from this awful country too).  The immigration officer questioned me at the booth, and I would like to recount our dialogue here, to the best of my memory…

Officer: Do you go to Iran often?
B: As much as I can, but I had not been able to go for a year before now.
O: How long were you there?
B: One month.
O: What is your occupation?
B: I’m a filmmaker.
O: What company do you work for?
B: I’m independent.
O: Why do you go to Iran?
B: Because it is my birth country.  I have my family and friends there.  Should I not go?
O: Well, you know that it is a “country of interest”.
B: It interests me as well.  It’s my country.

He took the stamp and placed it on my passport a few times, hesitating, and finally not giving me the stamps.  He put it back to the side and then asked:

O: Have you ever been to places like Afghanistan or Pakistan?
B: No, I’m not Afghani, and I’m not from Pakistan.

After looking at me in a condescending and suspicious way.

O: What do you think of the U.S.?
B: Is that a valid question?
O: Yes, it is a valid question.  You know, normally we take you to a little room for this.
B: Yes, I know, I’ve already been there a few times.
O: Answer my question.
B: Should I put my bag down?
O: If you like.

I put my bags down on the floor.

B: I am a citizen of this country and have lived here since I was two years old, but I don’t agree with the foreign policy; I don’t know if Obama will make a difference, but I think the wars should stop.  I also don’t agree with policy in Iran either, but I will continue going there. Have you seen what is happening there right now?
O: Yes, I know what is going on.
B: Well it breaks my heart to see people treated the way they are and killed for no reason.

And that’s when my eyes filled with tears, out of sorrow for having left my friends there, but also out of rage for this asshole sitting in the booth with his stamp.  When he saw my tears he dropped his head and immediately stamped my passport, which made me even more furious.  He handed it back to me and I couldn’t keep quiet.

B: So all you wanted was for me to cry, so that you could feel that you can trust me?  You know, they question people in the same way in Iran.  This is why I have a problem with government.  You are all the same.

“Welcome to the U.S.A.”

Terror Culture (Farewell NYC)

Posted in Personal/Meta, War & Culture by rearleft on April 21, 2009


Nina Berman presents casual, sometimes hyper realistic moments that reveal what it’s really like to live in Babylon. She is well known for Purple Hearts, a series of images of young injured veterans.

Her latest work, Homeland, pictures this nation’s imaginings of its own greatness. Big, real pictures of a big, loud, fuck you country. Hooah!


On April 29, at Alwan for the Arts, downtown Manhattan, Nina will be speaking and showing slides. A documentary about her work will accompany, with comments and Q&A by Nina Berman, and the documentary’s director, Denise Gaberman.

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street (between Broad and Broadway), 4th floor,
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

(full disclosure: Denise is my darling wife and the mother of my child. we’re moving to Australia two days after this screening, so this would be a great chance to see us if you haven’t yet, or if you want to see baby Ramona…)

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