Commentary Samir

Samir was born in Baghdad and grew up in Switzerland. It is exciting to follow his biography: How did he experience Switzerland in the 1960s, and how did he become politicized and find his way into filmmaking? (see Samir, Video from the beginning  to 08.12: Filming from scratch)

Samir describes how he joined the video movement: ‘I heard there was this thing called video and read about a place called “Videoladen”, a video collective. I got to know these people. They used to show up at demonstrations with their giant cameras. Then the Opernhauskrawall (Opera House Riot) started in Zurich on May 30, 1980. I was in the middle of all of this. I remember sitting in Tram 5 after a film club presentation, and suddenly there was an announcement: Because of a demonstration the route of this tram has to be diverted. We jumped out at the Bellevue right away and joined the demonstration. So I saw that people were working with video. When the youth movement started, I was part of its artistic wing. I was interested in humorous actions. We made street barricades with television sets and set them on fire, or we organized paint attacks. I helped to develop all this, and that was more interesting than filming it. Filmmaking was a profession for me. I continued to go to the studio every day and work for twelve hours. Then at night I went to the squats and to the open assemblies of the movement. In the end, Condor Films sacked me. They realized: This boy is part of the street battles at the weekends!’ (see Samir, Video 08.38: The activists from the Videoladen)

Samir became an important innovator in the Videoladen. He helped to widen the scope of work from community video to more experimental projects like Morlove. He then founded Dschoint Ventschr Filmproductions and since then together with his team he has been producing more than100 documentaries and feature films.

Samir sums up the heyday of the video movement: ‘The decade beginning from about 1977 was a time of radical change, and not only in music, when punk was born in New York. The militant left’s big dream of the revolution was over. In 1977, when Rudi Dutschke stood at the grave of Holger Meins, it became obvious: No avant-garde could organize masses of people, because atomization had begun to dominate. Then came the final triumph of video as a medium. It is not coincidental that MTV (Music Television) was at its peak in that period, and that the music industry experimented with video. It became increasingly clear to me: We can no longer make video “for the people.” People will not rise up, and we, the Videoladen, won’t be able to help anybody but ourselves!’ (see Samir Video 16.19: The decade of radical change)

Wishing you an inspiring viewing session,

Heinz Nigg

In the 1970s and 1980s, young activists discovered video as a new medium and used moving images in their struggle for access to cultural expression for the many, not the few. They were researching and developing new forms of independent and participatory media work. This was an important step towards realizing the utopian promises of the digital age.