Difference between revisions of "Readings/Godard Since 1968 and Claire Denis"

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*[http://edocs.lib.sfu.ca/projects/mai68/ May Events Archive of Documents]
 
*[http://edocs.lib.sfu.ca/projects/mai68/ May Events Archive of Documents]
 
*[https://www.marxists.org/history/france/may-1968/index.htm Paris May-June 1968 Archive] at [[marxists.org]]
 
*[https://www.marxists.org/history/france/may-1968/index.htm Paris May-June 1968 Archive] at [[marxists.org]]
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==References==

Latest revision as of 16:57, 2 December 2019

Constance Penley, "Les Enfants de la Patrie"

Excerpts from Constance Penley, "Les Enfants de la Patrie," Camera Obscura, 8-9-10, pp. 32-59.

"Allons enfants de la Patrie" = "Arise, children of the Fatherland"

From the national anthem of France, "La Marseillaise".

"Writing" television, page 40

In Television: Technology and Cultural Form Raymond Williams reminds us that it is not always in the state's interest to teach us both reading and writing. At the beginning of the industrial revolution in Britain

when education had to be reorganized, the ruling class decided to teach working people to read but not to write. If they could read they could understand new kinds of instructions and, moreover, they could read the Bible for their moral improvement. They did not need writing, however, since they would have no orders or instructions or lessons to communicate.

"Writing" rather than merely "reading" television comes through as a constant theme in the Sonimage project. Producing local television- making something on video to show your neighbor "without having to go through Paris," "without a SECAM passport" -is part of the solution. But writing television also involves writing, literally. Godard has always written on and with the image and his "print-out" one-at-a-time letters were one of the most important rhetorical elements of Numero Deux. In Six fois deux a video device that allows instant script writing on the image is used lavishly. This anthropomorphization of title lettering gives the feeling of a personal and spontaneous response to the image, and takes many modes: doodling, punning, musing, drawing. Both the writing on the image and the different voices over it question the image rather than anchoring its meaning as is usual in television.

Writing television also means devising new fictions, new ways of presenting information, and new means of addressing the viewer. The tentativeness and obscurity of some of the "stories" told by the narrators in France/tour/détour/deux/enfants, the interviewer's fear and hesitancy about beginning to question the children, the failure to get the children to speak differently, all seem to say that this is not an easy project, that writing television cannot be accomplished by simply, for example, instituting "community access." Unless television is thought about in terms of its possible fictions, fantasies and forms of address, then what we will see, with the proliferation of channels through cable and satellite, will only be more of the same, the local productions being disappointing amateur versions of "real" network television.

Time and silence, page 43

Another important difference of France/tour/détour/deux/enfants from "normal" television lies in its notion of time. To mark that it has another time than television time, each part of the series is called a "movement," rather than a "program," taking its temporal term from music instead of television, and placing the emphasis on composition. Television time is the immediate, urgent present-Alexander Haig now, Poland now, television expansively celebrating its own instantaneous global responsiveness to every "event." From the perspective of television time, these twelve "movements" depict dead time: kids on the way to school, in school, on the way home, the family dinner, getting ready for bed-these activities are neither newsworthy nor "now." ("And now... " is the most repeated phrase of television's regulated flow.) On Sonimage time, long silences occur-the radical opposite of the fullness of television. They are not silences which represent, for example, poignance or solemn importance; rather, they occur when the interviewer has no questions, or the child is bored, or because there is, at that moment, simply nothing to say.

Interviewing, pages 44-48

Interviewing is an extreme form of demand. The television interview is conducted under the pressure of television time. It must look as much like a conversation as possible even though spontaneity and silences are not permitted inside that structure. Unlike what occurs in a conversation, the person interviewed is typically required to verify or refute a point introduced by the interviewer. From the way Godard sets up the positions of interviewer and interviewed, and from the manner in which he poses his questions, it is clear that he is not trying to get across the optimistic fiction of the television interview, that an exchange of information, a communication, a dialogue, has taken place between two persons. In the First Movement, the male narrator says of the interviewer and Camille:

I don't believe he wants to get an image of her-whatever one might think-or a sound. He's simply sending out a signal and waiting to see what happens when the signal reaches her. Often it reaches her and conveys nothing.

And, at another point:

Despite evidence to the contrary, the reporter is not asking real questions. Nor does the child give real answers.

If one doesn't start with pre-given questions and answers, and if a situation is not set up in which "communication" is sure to take place between, two carefully designated positions, then something different is going to happen. Silences, yes, but also perhaps another kind of knowledge than that available to us through the usual forms of television rhetoric.

Interviews never stand by themselves on television. They are introduced, provided with a context, summarized afterwards, and often given an editorializing finish. The person interviewed furnishes the " raw information" which is guided and shaped by the questions of the interviewer. The narrator, if there is one, supplies the final, rationalizing commentary. ln France/tour/détour/deux/enfants, however, this smooth narrative embedding does not occur; difficulties arise among all of the designated positions of " person interviewed," "interviewer," and " narrator." The children being interviewed do not always understand the questions and do not have much co say. The interviewer's questions are often obscure and seemingly inappropriate. The narrators are frequently at a loss to "make sense" of the interviews (or at least the spectator has difficulty understanding. the pertinence of their comments to the interview preceding it), and are concerned chat the interviews are no·c being conducted properly. In the Eighth Movement the female narrator says to "Robert" (the interviewer) who has just played a trick on Arnaud:

No, No, Robert, you mustn't say that to him. It's obvious he no longer believes you when you say the money is from you. It isn't true anyway. It's the company's money.

Immediately following this interjection, there is a complete breakdown:

He doesn't hear me. What's wrong with the mike? Robert! Robert! He doesn't hear me!

The usual narrative embedding of the interview, which functions to give credence to the speech of each party (and the final truth to television itself), simply disintegrates here. "Communication" is not taking place in any of the ways we usually imagine it occurring on television.

Where are we as viewers in these interviews? Traditionally in television interviews we are looking on at an oblique angle, sometimes seeing the interviewer partly in frame, or even cutting back and forth between the interviewer and the person interviewed. This is especially so when both are known "personalities"; everyone, however, in an interview situation is a "personality" even if only for the time of the interview. (When Dick Cavett interviews, for example, Jean-Luc Godard, it is supposed to be as interesting to us that the interviewer is Cavett as that the person interviewed is Godard. The spectacle of the interview is just as much our interest in watching Cavett's interviewing skills being challenged by a "difficult" personality as it is in listening to Godard.) In a typical interview we overhear and overlook an exchange. But in France/tour/détour/deux/enfants we aren't given the usual choreography of shot/reverse shot and the "reaction shot," as we never see the interviewer. This arrangement effectively implicates the viewer in the scene far more than having us look on and overhear the interviewer from a position outside it. We share the imaginary off-screen space of the interviewer and this is a distinctly uncomfortable place in which to be.

Sometimes the interviewer's questions simply appear to be mean; the children, although amused at first with some of the tricky questions, grow bored or annoyed as the series goes on. In the Twelfth and last Movement, Arnaud is sitting up and answering the questions as best he can, but is obviously getting sleepy. He lies down in bed, his eyelids droop, but the interviewer persists, even when it is plain that Arnaud can no longer fight off sleep. In an earlier Movement, the interviewer embarrasses Arnaud by getting him to admit on television that he received a bicycle as payment for being in the series. Sometimes the interviewer is merely distracted: once he says something Arnaud cannot understand; Arnaud asks, "What?" and the interviewer replies, "I was talking to myself."

Although the "inappropriateness" of the interviewer's questions to the children serves to bring into relief our received ideas about childhood childhood, it is also disconcerting in another, deeper sense. We have clear linguistic and social conventions governing the way adults speak to children; we simply do not speak to them in the same manner that we speak to other adults. Disrupting these linguistic conventions brings ambiguity to the conventions regulating other forms of behavior, such as sexual, between adult and child. Refusing to speak to the children as children suggests that there is at work here an unconscious fantasy of sexual equality and the possibility of a reciprocated desire. It is for this reason that we feel particularly discomfited in the First Movement when the interviewer, in his very untypical adult-to-child tone, addresses Camille in her nightgown, on her bed. Prior to the interview we saw Camille undressing for bed. The male narrator's voice-over, during the interview, comments on the vision and desire of the interviewer:

He's still there, facing her, and the night is breaking. As she neglected to tell him earlier, at the beginning of the program, she didn't want to show her bottom, he didn't make a point of it, so that now he can only see part of her shoulders and a mass of thick blond hair.

Our uneasiness about the interviewer's behavior is particularly strong because we are not outside looking on, or merely overhearing. Normally exterior to the scene of the interview (watching the play of shot/reverse-shot, looking at a two-shot or over the interviewer's shoulder), we are, here, implicated in the off-screen space of the interviewer. This sometimes forces us to share his idiosyncratic point of view, making that space palpable in a way that it usually is not. The viewer has to ask, "What is the demand being voiced here? What is he trying to say or trying to get the child-who is not being treated as a child-to say? What does Godard want?"

Although we are sometimes uneasy (linguistically, sexually) about the manner in which the interviewer addresses the children, it is too simple to say that the interviewer's speech requires the children to respond as adults. Godard said that in speaking to the children he did not address them by saying, "Oh you sweet little things," but neither did he speak to them as adults: "I saw them as beings from another world to whom no one had ever spoken, until the moment I talked to them .... " Here, we are very close to seeing what Godard wants, at least consciously, from these children. He says that he posed to the children a melange of eminently practical and deeply metaphysical questions in order to get them to speak differently, so that, "Perhaps afterwards, when we are making fiction films again, we can get men and women to speak a little differently, something which today no one yet knows how to do very well."

The woman's body, pages 50-51

In addition to the casual, though incongruous, adoption of the feminist strategy of a politics of representation based on personal experience as the site of truth, Sonimage also accepts too readily the facile mirroring of Marxism and feminism found in the pun on social/economic "reproduction" and human biological "reproduction." The programs are structured around a lengthy series of puns on "copying," "duplicating," and "programming." Finally (in the Fifth Movement), we see a pregnant, naked secretary being given orders by her boss. The female narrator's voice tells us, "One realizes that men, by nature incapable of imagination, that most men condemn the majority of women to dictation, to copy-typing, to reproduction." Leaving aside the essentialist assertion that inequality between the sexes results from something in the nature of men (incapable of imagination), there still remains the fundamental problem of conflating two critically different though interconnected realms: the economic and the economy of sexuality.

The seduction of metaphor strikes again, in the Fourth Movement, when the narrator, over an image of waitresses at a lunch counter in slow/fast motion, says:

And someone you don't know is a "what's-his-name." In French we say: machin, And for a woman: machine. With her body machine. Slowing down the machine. The machinery of state.

In Godard's work the woman's body has had to carry a heavy representational load: in Two or Three Things I Know about Her, as a prostitute, she is Paris and consumer culture, in Numero Deux, she is a factory, in France/tour/détour/deux/enfants, she is the embodiment of "reproduction," the machinery of the state. It is not very effective to oppose this metaphorical use of the woman's body with a demand for Sonimage to give us "real" women, women engaged in productive labor, in activities not metaphorically linked to their gender or sexuality (for example, women as factory workers rather than prostitutes). This is because a non-metaphorical representation of the body would be impossible for both women and men if one accepts that sexual difference is a result not of biology but of the subject's positioning in language and culture. Thus, conceptions of bodies and sexes are necessarily metaphorical, that is, always seen in terms of something else. Historically, of course, women's bodies and men's bodies have accrued different representational values. Surprisingly, Sonimage's acute reflexiveness about language and representation (in relation to television, the family, the state) does not extend to questioning certain received metaphorizations of the woman's body: woman as state, as machine of reproduction, as sexuality itself. The repeated use of these metaphors of the woman's body has always posed problems for feminists discussing Godard's work. Now, however, with Sonimage's increasingly direct engagement with feminist concerns, these questionable metaphors are thrown into even sharper relief.

Also problematic is another aspect of the way Sonimage attempts to incorporate feminist questions. Godard-the-interviewer's voyeurism and manipulation is severely reprimanded in the "Nanas" ("Chicks") section of Six fois deux. He is interviewing an elderly woman and, just as he is asking her if she would mind talking about sex, a woman's voice explodes on the sound-track bitterly criticizing him for the way he sets up the women in the interviews, more or less tells them how to reply, and then is always surprised when they aren't as interesting as he'd hoped they'd be. The woman's-voice-as-super-ego is similar in function to the woman's voice that comes on over the image of the Palestinian woman in Ici et ailleurs, accusing Godard of having chosen a young, beautiful woman for the scene and having said nothing about it: "It's a small step from this kind of omission to fascism." To assign a censoring and denunciatory role to a woman's voice that is narratively one step removed from the diegesis is to make of feminism a superior, authoritative truth that stands as a corrective to the sexism of men. It is to make feminism into a moral truth rather than a political theory and.set of strategies. Endowing feminism with such inordinate power presumes a masochistic relation for men to that excessive potency. That a masochistic fantasy is at work here can be seen most conspicuously at the end of Every Man for Himself when the mise-en-scene requires the "Paul Godard" character to die under (as a result of?) the disaffected gazes of the women in his life.

Recommended, not required

Claire Denis

Claire Denis (Template:IPA-fr; born 21 April 1946[1]) is a French film director and writer. Her feature Beau Travail (1999) has been called one of the greatest films of the decade.[2] Other acclaimed works include Trouble Every Day (2001), 35 Shots of Rum (2008), White Material (2009) and High Life (2018).[3][4][5][6] Her work has dealt with themes of colonial and post-colonial West Africa, as well as issues in modern France, and continues to influence European cinematic identity.[7]

Early life

Denis was born in Paris, but raised in colonial French Africa, where her father was a civil servant, living in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, French Somaliland, and Senegal.[8] Her childhood spent living in West Africa with her parents and her younger sister would color her perspectives on certain political issues. It has been a strong influence on her films, which have dealt with themes of colonialism and post-colonialism in Africa.[9] Her father moved with the family every two years because he wanted the children to learn about geography. Growing up in West Africa, Denis used to watch the old and damaged copies of war films sent from the United States. As an adolescent she loved to read. Completing the required material while in school, at night she would sneak her mother's detective stories to read.[10] When Denis was 14 years old, she moved with her mother and sister to a Parisian suburb in France, a country that she hardly knew at all.[11] Her parents wanted their children to finish their education in France.

Career

Denis initially studied economics, but, she has said, "It was completely suicidal. Everything pissed me off."[10] She studied at the IDHEC, the French film school, with the encouragement of her husband. He told her she needed to figure out what she wanted to do.[10] She graduated from the IDHEC and, since 2002, has been a Professor of Film at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[12]

Her debut feature film Chocolat (1988), a semi-autobiographical meditation on African colonialism, won her critical acclaim. It was selected for the Cannes Film Festival and was praised by critics and audiences alike as a remarkable first film. With films such as US Go Home (1994), Nénette et Boni (1996), Beau Travail (1999),[13] set in Africa; Trouble Every Day (2001), and Vendredi soir (2002), she established a reputation as a filmmaker who "has been able to reconcile the lyricism of French cinema with the impulse to capture the often harsh face of contemporary France."[13] She returned to Africa again with White Material (2009), set in an unidentified country during a time of civil war.

According to the Australian James Phillips, when making her films, Denis rejects the marketable conventions of Hollywood cinema and frees the viewers of her films from the expectations of clichés.[14] Denis is well known for the way that she combines history with personal history, giving her films an autobiographical element.[15] This superimposition of the personal with the historical allows her films to be described as auteur cinema.[16] She is known to work within a large range of genres, spanning from the themes of horror seen in Trouble Every Day (2001) to the romance and drama found in Friday Night (2002).[17] While critics have noted recurring themes within her films, Denis says that she has no coherent vision of her career "trajectory".[18]

Denis carefully chooses the titles of her films. Noëlle Rouxel-Cubberly argues that film titles are intended to force the viewer to rethink the imagery within a film and Denis cleverly uses titles to describe the raw reality found within her films. For example, the title of her film Chocolat (1988) simultaneously refers to the word as a racist term used during the period of the film, the cocoa exportation from Africa to Europe through a slave system, and the 1950s French expression "être chocolat", meaning "to be cheated."[19]Template:Page needed

Additionally, Denis is recognized for her process of "shooting fast, editing slowly," which she has developed. In general, she does a few takes on the set and spends most of her time in the editing room, creating the film there. This post-production process often involves rearranging scenes out of the order in the script. For example, she placed the dance in Beau Travail (1999) at the end of the film, although it was not at the end of the script. In reference to this process, Denis has said, "I'm always insecure when I'm making a film. I have doubts about myself but rarely about the actors."[20]

Denis is a highly collaborative filmmaker, saying in an interview that "the film becomes a relationship...and that is what's important, the relationship."[21] The importance of collaboration is seen throughout her body of work. She works with many of the same actors, such as Isaach de Bankole, Vincent Gallo, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas, and Grégoire Colin, and also collaborates often with the screenwriter Jean-Pol Fargeau, composer Stuart Staples, and cinematographer Agnès Godard, whom she met in the 1970s at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques.[21] When asked in an interview about her screen writing process, Denis said, "I often realize I have Isaach or Grégoire or someone else in mind" when writing scenes. She has also said that usually she "hold[s] no auditions" for casting in her films.[21]

Her collaboration goes beyond her own films, as she has appeared in other directors' films, such as Laetitia Masson's En avoir (1995) and Tonie Marshall's Vénus beauté (1999). She shares screenwriting credit with Yousry Nasrallah for his film El Medina (2000).[22] She also worked as an assistant director with Wim Wenders on Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987), and with Jim Jarmusch on Down by Law (1986).

In 2005 she was a member of the jury at the 27th Moscow International Film Festival.[23]

Her 2013 film Bastards was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[24]

In 2013 she was awarded Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award at the Stockholm Film Festival.

Denis announced in 2015 that she was partnering with Zadie Smith for her English-language debut film, High Life. The film, released in 2018, was her first English-language spoken film, with Robert Pattinson cast as the lead.[25]

Style

The majority of Denis' oeuvre uses location work over studio work. She sometimes places her actors as if they were positioned for still photography. She uses longer takes with a stationary camera and frames things in long shot, resulting in fewer close ups. However, Denis' cinematic and topical focus always remains relentlessly on the faces and bodies of her protagonists. The subject's body in space, and how the particular terrain, weather, and color of the landscape influences and interacts with the human subjects of her films maintains cinematic dominance.

Tim Palmer explores Denis' work as a self-declared formalist and brilliant film stylist per se; an approach the filmmaker herself has declared many times in interview to be as much about sounds, textures, colors and compositions as broader thematic concerns or social commitments.[26]

References

History of Cameroon

Colonization

German Settlers celebrating Christmas in Kamerun

Beginning on July 5, 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of several of its neighbours became a German colony, Kamerun, with a capital first at Buea and later at Yaoundé.

The imperial German government made substantial investments in the infrastructure of Cameroon, including the extensive railways, such as the 160-metre single-span railway bridge on the South Sanaga River branch. Hospitals were opened all over the colony, including two major hospitals at Douala, one of which specialised in tropical diseases. However, the indigenous peoples proved reluctant to work on these projects, so the Germans instigated a harsh and unpopular system of forced labour.[27] In fact, Jesko von Puttkamer was relieved of duty as governor of the colony due to his untoward actions toward the native Cameroonians.[28] In 1911 at the Treaty of Fez after the Agadir Crisis, France ceded a nearly 300,000 km² portion of the territory of French Equatorial Africa to Kamerun which became Neukamerun, while Germany ceded a smaller area in the north in present-day Chad to France.

In World War I, the British invaded Cameroon from Nigeria in 1914 in the Kamerun campaign, with the last German fort in the country surrendering in February 1916. After the war, this colony was partitioned between the United Kingdom and France under June 28, 1919 League of Nations mandates (Class B). France gained the larger geographical share, transferred Neukamerun back to neighboring French colonies, and ruled the rest from Yaoundé as Cameroun (French Cameroons). Britain's territory, a strip bordering Nigeria from the sea to Lake Chad, with an equal population was ruled from Lagos as Cameroons (British Cameroons). German administrators were allowed to once again run the plantations of the southwestern coastal area. A British parliamentary publication, Report on the British Sphere of the Cameroons (May 1922, p. 62-8), reports that the German plantations there were "as a whole . . . wonderful examples of industry, based on solid scientific knowledge. The natives have been taught discipline and have come to realize what can be achieved by industry. Large numbers who return to their villages take up cocoa or other cultivation on their own account, thus increasing the general prosperity of the country."

Towards Independence (1955-1960)

On 18 December 1956, the outlawed Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), based largely among the Bamileke and Bassa ethnic groups, began an armed struggle for independence in French Cameroon. This rebellion continued, with diminishing intensity, even after independence until 1961.[29] Some tens of thousands died during this conflict.[30][31]

Legislative elections were held on 23 December 1956 and the resulting Assembly passed a decree on 16 April 1957 which made French Cameroon a State. It took back its former status of associated territory as a member of the French Union. Its inhabitants became Cameroonian citizens, Cameroonian institutions were created under the sign of parliamentary democracy. On 12 June 1958 the Legislative Assembly of French Cameroon asked the French government to: 'Accord independence to the State of Cameroon at the ends of their trusteeship. Transfer every competence related to the running of internal affairs of Cameroon to Cameroonians`. On 19 October 1958 France recognized the right of her United Nations trust territory of the Cameroons to choose independence.[32] On 24 October 1958 the Legislative Assembly of French Cameroon solemnly proclaimed the desire of Cameroonians to see their country accede full independence on 1 January 1960. It enjoined the government of French Cameroon to ask France to inform the General Assembly of the United Nations, to abrogate the trusteeship accord concomitant with the independence of French Cameroon. On 12 November 1958 having accorded French Cameroon total internal autonomy and thinking that this transfer no longer permitted it to assume its responsibilities over the trust territory for an unspecified period, the government of France asked the United Nations to grant the wish of French Cameroonians. On 5 December 1958 the United Nations’ General Assembly took note of the French government’s declaration according to which French Cameroon, which was under French administration, would gain independence on 1 January 1960, thus marking an end to the trusteeship period.[33][34] On 13 March 1959 the United Nations’ General Assembly resolved that the UN Trusteeship Agreement with France for French Cameroon would end when French Cameroon became independent on 1 January 1961.[35]

Cameroon after independence

1961–1975

French Cameroon achieved independence on January 1, 1960 as La Republique du Cameroun. After Guinea, it was the second of France's colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa to become independent. On 21 February 1960, the new nation held a constitutional referendum. On 5 May 1960, Ahmadou Ahidjo became president. On 11 February 1961, a plebiscite organised by the United Nations was held in the British controlled part of Cameroon (British Northern and British Southern Cameroons). The pleibiscite was to choose between free association with an independent Nigerian state or re-unification with the independent Republic of Cameroun. On 12 February 1961,the results of the plebiscite were released and British Northern Cameroons attached itself to Nigeria, while the southern part voted for reunification with the Republic Of Cameroon. To negotiate the terms of this union, the Foumban Conference was held on 16–21 July 1961. John Ngu Foncha, the leader of the Kamerun National Democratic Party . The British Southern Cameroons was to be referred to as West Cameroon and the French part as East Cameroon. Buea became the capital of the now West Cameroon while Yaounde doubled as the federal capital and East Cameroon. Ahidjo accepted the federation, thinking it was a step towards a unitary state. On 14 August 1961, the federal constitution was adopted, with Ahidjo as president. Foncha became the prime minister of west Cameroon and vice president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon. On 1 September 1966 the Cameroon National Union (CNU) was created by the union of political parties of East and West Cameroon. Most decisions about West Cameroon were taken without consultation, which led to widespread feelings amongst the West Cameroonian public that although they voted for reunification, what they were getting is absorption or domination".[36]

On October 1, 1961, the largely Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroons voted to join Nigeria; the largely Christian southern third, Southern Cameroons, voted, in a referendum, to join with the Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The formerly French and British regions each maintained substantial autonomy. Ahidjo was chosen president of the federation in 1961. In 1962, the Francs CFA became the official currency in Cameroon.

Ahidjo, relying on a pervasive internal security apparatus, outlawed all political parties but his own in 1966. He successfully suppressed the continuing UPC rebellion, capturing the last important rebel leader in 1970. On 28 March 1970 Ahidjo renewed his mandate as the supreme magistracy; Solomon Tandeng Muna became Vice President. In 1972, a new constitution replaced the federation with a unitary state called the United Republic of Cameroon.

On 30 June 1975 Paul Biya was appointed vice president. Ahidjo resigned as president in 1982 and was constitutionally succeeded by his Prime Minister, Paul Biya, a career official. Ahidjo later regretted his choice of successors, but his supporters failed to overthrow Biya in a 1984 coup. Biya won single-candidate elections in 1983 and 1984 when the country was again named the Republic of Cameroon. Biya has remained in power, winning flawed multiparty elections in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011. His Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) party holds a sizeable majority in the legislature.

By April 6, 1984, the country witnessed its first coup d'état headed by col. Issa Adoum. At about 3 am rebel forces mostly of the Republican guard under the orders of colonel Ibrahim Saleh, attempted to unseat Biya's government. The rebels took charge of the Yaounde airport, national radio station and announced the takeover of government. They attacked the presidency. The civilian northerner who was manager of FONADER Issa Adoum was expected to become the new interim president. Unfortunately, many reasons led to its failure. The principal coup plotters had been arrested by April 10, 1984 and President Biya addressed the nation that calm had been restored.

On August 15, 1984, Lake Monoun exploded in a limnic eruption that released carbon dioxide, suffocating 37 people to death. On August 21, 1986, another limnic eruption at Lake Nyos killed as many as 1,800 people and 3,500 livestock. The two disasters are the only recorded instances of limnic eruptions.

In May 2014, in the wake of the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping, Presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon and Idriss Déby of Chad announced they were waging war on Boko Haram, and deployed troops to the Nigerian border.[37]

May 1968 Events in France

The volatile period of civil unrest in France during May 1968 was punctuated by demonstrations and massive general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories across France. At the height of its fervor, it brought the entire economy of France to a virtual halt.[38] The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution; the national government itself momentarily ceased to function after President Charles de Gaulle secretly fled France for a few hours. The protests spurred an artistic movement, with songs, imaginative graffiti, posters, and slogans.[39][40]

"May 68" affected French society for decades afterward. It is considered to this day as a cultural, social and moral turning point in the history of the country. As Alain Geismar—one of the leaders of the time—later pointed out, the movement succeeded "as a social revolution, not as a political one".[41]

The unrest began with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions, values and order. It then spread to factories with strikes involving 11 million workers, more than 22% of the total population of France at the time, for two continuous weeks.[38] The movement was characterized by its spontaneous and de-centralized wildcat disposition; this created contrast and sometimes even conflict between itself and the establishment, trade unions and workers' parties.[38] It was the largest general strike ever attempted in France, and the first nationwide wildcat general strike.[38]

The student occupations and wildcat general strikes initiated across France were met with forceful confrontation by university administrators and police. The de Gaulle administration's attempts to quell those strikes by police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in Paris's Latin Quarter, followed by the spread of general strikes and occupations throughout France. De Gaulle fled to a French military base in Germany, and after returning dissolved the National Assembly, and called for new parliamentary elections for 23 June 1968. Violence evaporated almost as quickly as it arose. Workers went back to their jobs, and when the elections were finally held in June, the Gaullist party emerged even stronger than before.

Events before May

In February 1968, the French Communists and French Socialists formed an electoral alliance. Communists had long supported Socialist candidates in elections, but in the "February Declaration" the two parties agreed to attempt to form a joint government to replace President Charles de Gaulle and his Gaullist Party.Template:R

On 22 March far-left groups, a small number of prominent poets and musicians, and 150 students occupied an administration building at Paris University at Nanterre and held a meeting in the university council room dealing with class discrimination in French society and the political bureaucracy that controlled the university's funding. The university's administration called the police, who surrounded the university. After the publication of their wishes, the students left the building without any trouble. After this first record some leaders of what was named the "Movement of 22 March" were called together by the disciplinary committee of the university.

Events of May

Student strikes

Following months of conflicts between students and authorities at the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris (now Paris Nanterre University), the administration shut down the university on 2 May 1968.[42] Students at the Sorbonne campus of the University of Paris (today Sorbonne University) in Paris met on 3 May to protest against the closure and the threatened expulsion of several students at Nanterre.[43] On Monday, 6 May, the national student union, the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF)—still the largest student union in France today—and the union of university teachers called a march to protest against the police invasion of Sorbonne. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched towards the Sorbonne, still sealed off by the police, who charged, wielding their batons, as soon as the marchers approached. While the crowd dispersed, some began to create barricades out of whatever was at hand, while others threw paving stones, forcing the police to retreat for a time. The police then responded with tear gas and charged the crowd again. Hundreds more students were arrested.

High school student unions spoke in support of the riots on 6 May. The next day, they joined the students, teachers and increasing numbers of young workers who gathered at the Arc de Triomphe to demand that:

  1. All criminal charges against arrested students be dropped,
  2. the police leave the university, and
  3. the authorities reopen Nanterre and Sorbonne.

Negotiations broke down, and students returned to their campuses after a false report that the government had agreed to reopen them, only to discover the police still occupying the schools. This led to a near revolutionary fervor among the students.

On Friday, 10 May, another huge crowd congregated on the Rive Gauche. When the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité again blocked them from crossing the river, the crowd again threw up barricades, which the police then attacked at 2:15 in the morning after negotiations once again floundered. The confrontation, which produced hundreds of arrests and injuries, lasted until dawn of the following day. The events were broadcast on radio as they occurred and the aftermath was shown on television the following day. Allegations were made that the police had participated in the riots, through agents provocateurs, by burning cars and throwing Molotov cocktails.[44]

The government's heavy-handed reaction brought on a wave of sympathy for the strikers. Many of the nation's more mainstream singers and poets joined after the police brutality came to light. American artists also began voicing support of the strikers. The major left union federations, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and the Force Ouvrière (CGT-FO), called a one-day general strike and demonstration for Monday, 13 May.

Well over a million people marched through Paris on that day; the police stayed largely out of sight. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou personally announced the release of the prisoners and the reopening of the Sorbonne. However, the surge of strikes did not recede. Instead, the protesters became even more active.

When the Sorbonne reopened, students occupied it and declared it an autonomous "people's university". Public opinion at first supported the students, but quickly turned against them after their leaders, invited to appear on national television, "behaved like irresponsible utopianists who wanted to destroy the 'consumer society.'"Template:R Nonetheless, in the weeks that followed, approximately 401 popular action committees were set up in Paris and elsewhere to take up grievances against the government and French society, including the Sorbonne Occupation Committee.

Workers join the students

In the following days, workers began occupying factories, starting with a sit-down strike at the Sud Aviation plant near the city of Nantes on 14 May, then another strike at a Renault parts plant near Rouen, which spread to the Renault manufacturing complexes at Flins in the Seine Valley and the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. Workers had occupied roughly fifty factories by 16 May, and 200,000 were on strike by 17 May. That figure snowballed to two million workers on strike the following day and then ten million, or roughly two-thirds of the French workforce, on strike the following week.

Strikers in Southern France with a sign reading "Factory Occupied by the Workers." Behind them is a list of demands, June 1968.

These strikes were not led by the union movement; on the contrary, the CGT tried to contain this spontaneous outbreak of militancy by channeling it into a struggle for higher wages and other economic demands. Workers put forward a broader, more political and more radical agenda, demanding the ousting of the government and President de Gaulle and attempting, in some cases, to run their factories. When the trade union leadership negotiated a 35% increase in the minimum wage, a 7% wage increase for other workers, and half normal pay for the time on strike with the major employers' associations, the workers occupying their factories refused to return to work and jeered their union leaders.[45][46] In fact, in the May '68 movement there was a lot of "anti-unionist euphoria,"[47] against the mainstream unions, the CGT, FO and CFDT, that were more willing to compromise with the powers that be than enact the will of the base.[38]

On 24 May two people died at the hands of the out of control rioters, in Lyon Police Inspector Rene Lacroix died when he crushed by a driverless truck sent careering into police lines by rioters and in Paris Phillipe Metherion, 26, was stabbed to death during an argument among demonstrators.[48]

On 25 May and 26 May, the Grenelle agreements were conducted at the Ministry of Social Affairs. They provided for an increase of the minimum wage by 25% and of average salaries by 10%. These offers were rejected, and the strike went on. The working class and top intellectuals were joining in solidarity for a major change in workers' rights.

On 27 May, the meeting of the UNEF, the most outstanding of the events of May 1968, proceeded and gathered 30,000 to 50,000 people in the Stade Sebastien Charlety. The meeting was extremely militant with speakers demanding the government be overthrown and elections held.

The Socialists saw an opportunity to act as a compromise between de Gaulle and the Communists. On 28 May, François Mitterrand of the Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left declared that "there is no more state" and stated that he was ready to form a new government. He had received a surprisingly high 45% of the vote in the 1965 presidential election. On 29 May, Pierre Mendès France also stated that he was ready to form a new government; unlike Mitterrand he was willing to include the Communists. Although the Socialists did not have the Communists' ability to form large street demonstrations, they had more than 20% of the country's support.Template:RTemplate:R

De Gaulle flees

On the morning of 29 May, de Gaulle postponed the meeting of the Council of Ministers scheduled for that day and secretly removed his personal papers from Élysée Palace. He told his son-in-law Alain de Boissieu, "I do not want to give them a chance to attack the Élysée. It would be regrettable if blood were shed in my personal defense. I have decided to leave: nobody attacks an empty palace." De Gaulle refused Pompidou's request that he dissolve the National Assembly as he believed that their party, the Gaullists, would lose the resulting election. At 11:00 a.m., he told Pompidou, "I am the past; you are the future; I embrace you."[49]

The government announced that de Gaulle was going to his country home in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises before returning the next day, and rumors spread that he would prepare his resignation speech there. The presidential helicopter did not arrive in Colombey, however, and de Gaulle had told no one in the government where he was going. For more than six hours the world did not know where the French president was.[50] The canceling of the ministerial meeting, and the president's mysterious disappearance, stunned the French,Template:R including Pompidou, who shouted, "He has fled the country!"[51]

The national government had effectively ceased to function. Édouard Balladur later wrote that as prime minister, Pompidou "by himself was the whole government" as most officials were "an incoherent group of confabulators" who believed that revolution would soon occur. A friend of the prime minister offered him a weapon, saying, "You will need it"; Pompidou advised him to go home. One official reportedly began burning documents, while another asked an aide how far they could flee by automobile should revolutionaries seize fuel supplies. Withdrawing money from banks became difficult, gasoline for private automobiles was unavailable, and some people tried to obtain private planes or fake national identity cards.Template:R

Pompidou unsuccessfully requested that military radar be used to follow de Gaulle's two helicopters, but soon learned that he had gone to the headquarters of the French military in Germany, in Baden-Baden, to meet General Jacques Massu. Massu persuaded the discouraged de Gaulle to return to France; now knowing that he had the military's support, de Gaulle rescheduled the meeting of the Council of Ministers for the next day, 30 May,Template:R and returned to Colombey by 6:00 p.m.Template:R His wife Yvonne gave the family jewels to their son and daughter-in-law—who stayed in Baden for a few more days—for safekeeping, however, indicating that the de Gaulles still considered Germany a possible refuge. Massu kept as a state secret de Gaulle's loss of confidence until others disclosed it in 1982; until then most observers believed that his disappearance was intended to remind the French people of what they might lose. Although the disappearance was real and not intended as motivation, it indeed had such an effect on France.Template:R

On 30 May, 400,000 to 500,000 protesters (many more than the 50,000 the police were expecting) led by the CGT marched through Paris, chanting: "Adieu, de Gaulle!" ("Farewell, de Gaulle!"). Maurice Grimaud, head of the Paris police, played a key role in avoiding revolution by both speaking to and spying on the revolutionaries, and by carefully avoiding the use of force. While Communist leaders later denied that they had planned an armed uprising, and extreme militants only comprised 2% of the populace, they had overestimated de Gaulle's strength as shown by his escape to Germany.Template:R (One scholar, otherwise skeptical of the French Communists' willingness to maintain democracy after forming a government, has claimed that the "moderate, nonviolent and essentially antirevolutionary" Communists opposed revolution because they sincerely believed that the party must come to power through legal elections, not armed conflict that might provoke harsh repression from political opponents.)[52]

The movement was largely centered around the Paris metropolitan area, and not elsewhere. Had the rebellion occupied key public buildings in Paris, the government would have had to use force to retake them. The resulting casualties could have incited a revolution, with the military moving from the provinces to retake Paris as in 1871. Minister of Defence Pierre Messmer and Chief of the Defence Staff Michel Fourquet prepared for such an action, and Pompidou had ordered tanks to Issy-les-Moulineaux.Template:R While the military was free of revolutionary sentiment, using an army mostly of conscripts the same age as the revolutionaries would have been very dangerous for the government.Template:RTemplate:R A survey taken immediately after the crisis found that 20% of Frenchmen would have supported a revolution, 23% would have opposed it, and 57% would have avoided physical participation in the conflict. 33% would have fought a military intervention, while only 5% would have supported it and a majority of the country would have avoided any action.Template:R

At 2:30 p.m. on 30 May, Pompidou persuaded de Gaulle to dissolve the National Assembly and call a new election by threatening to resign. At 4:30 p.m., de Gaulle broadcast his own refusal to resign. He announced an election, scheduled for 23 June, and ordered workers to return to work, threatening to institute a state of emergency if they did not. The government had leaked to the media that the army was outside Paris. Immediately after the speech, about 800,000 supporters marched through the Champs-Élysées waving the national flag; the Gaullists had planned the rally for several days, which attracted a crowd of diverse ages, occupations, and politics. The Communists agreed to the election, and the threat of revolution was over.Template:RTemplate:R[53]

Events of June and July

From that point, the revolutionary feeling of the students and workers faded away. Workers gradually returned to work or were ousted from their plants by the police. The national student union called off street demonstrations. The government banned a number of leftist organizations. The police retook the Sorbonne on 16 June. Contrary to de Gaulle's fears, his party won the greatest victory in French parliamentary history in the legislative election held in June, taking 353 of 486 seats versus the Communists' 34 and the Socialists' 57.Template:R The February Declaration and its promise to include Communists in government likely hurt the Socialists in the election. Their opponents cited the example of the Czechoslovak National Front government of 1945, which led to a Communist takeover of the country in 1948. Socialist voters were divided; in a February 1968 survey a majority had favored allying with the Communists, but 44% believed that Communists would attempt to seize power once in government. (30% of Communist voters agreed.)Template:R

On Bastille Day, there were resurgent street demonstrations in the Latin Quarter, led by socialist students, leftists and communists wearing red arm-bands and anarchists wearing black arm-bands. The Paris police and the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité harshly responded starting around 10 pm and continuing through the night, on the streets, in police vans, at police stations, and in hospitals where many wounded were taken. There was, as a result, much bloodshed among students and tourists there for the evening's festivities. No charges were filed against police or demonstrators, but the governments of Britain and West Germany filed formal protests, including for the indecent assault of two English schoolgirls by police in a police station.

Despite the size of de Gaulle's triumph, it was not a personal one. The post-crisis survey showed that a majority of the country saw de Gaulle as too old, too self-centered, too authoritarian, too conservative, and too anti-American. As the April 1969 referendum would show, the country was ready for "Gaullism without de Gaulle".Template:R

Slogans and graffiti

May 1968 slogan. Paris. "It is forbidden to forbid."

A few examples:[54]

  • Il est interdit d'interdire ("It is forbidden to forbid").[55]
  • Jouissez sans entraves ("Enjoy without hindrance").[55]
  • Élections, piège à con ("Elections, a trap for idiots").[56]
  • CRS = SS.[57]
  • Je suis Marxiste—tendance Groucho. ("I'm a Marxist—of the Groucho tendency.")[58]
  • Marx, Mao, Marcuse![59][60][61] Also known as "3M".[62]
  • Cela nous concerne tous. ("This concerns all of us.")
  • Soyez réalistes, demandez l'impossible. ("Be realistic, ask the impossible.")[63]
  • "When the National Assembly becomes a bourgeois theater, all the bourgeois theaters should be turned into national assemblies." (Written above the entrance of the occupied Odéon Theater)[64]
  • Sous les pavés, la plage! ("Under the paving stones, the beach.")
  • "I love you!!! Oh, say it with paving stones!!!"[65]
  • "Read Reich and act accordingly!" (University of Frankfurt; similar Reichian slogans were scrawled on the walls of the Sorbonne, and in Berlin students threw copies of Reich's The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933) at the police).[66]
  • Travailleurs la lutte continue[;] constituez-vous en comité de base. ("Workers the fight continues; form a basic committee.")[67][68]

Legacy

May 1968 is an important reference point in French politics, representing for some the possibility of liberation and for others the dangers of anarchy.[41] For some, May 1968 meant the end of traditional collective action and the beginning of a new era to be dominated mainly by the so-called new social movements.[69]

Someone who took part in or supported this period of unrest is referred to as soixante-huitard - a term, derived from the French for "68", which has also entered the English language.

In popular culture

Cinema

  • The François Truffaut film Baisers volés (1968) (in English: "Stolen Kisses"), takes place in Paris during the time of the riots and while not an overtly political film, there are passing references to and images of the demonstrations. The film captures the revolutionary feel of the time and makes perfectly understandable why Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard would call for the cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival of 1968. Nothing could go on as it had in the past after May '68, and "Stolen Kisses" itself was a statement of that refusal.Template:Citation needed
  • The André Cayatte film Mourir d'aimer (1971) (in English: "To die of love") is strongly based on the true story of Gabrielle Russier (1937-1969), a classics teacher (played by Annie Girardot) who committed suicide after being sentenced for having had an affair with one of her students during the events of May 68.
  • The Jean-Luc Godard film Tout Va Bien (1972) examines the continuing class struggle within French society in the aftermath of May '68.
  • Jean Eustache's 1973 film The Mother and the Whore, winner of the Cannes Grand Prix, references the events of May 1968 and explores the aftermath of the social movement.[70]
  • The Claude Chabrol film Nada 1974 is based symbolically on the events of May 1968.
  • The Diane Kurys film Cocktail Molotov (1980) tells the story of a group of French friends heading towards Israel when they hear of the May events and decide to return to Paris.
  • The Louis Malle film May Fools (1990) is a satiric depiction of the effect of French revolutionary fervor of May 1968 on small-town bourgeoisie.
  • The Bernardo Bertolucci film The Dreamers (2003), based on the novel The Holy Innocents by Gilbert Adair, tells the story of an American university student in Paris during the protests.
  • The Philippe Garrel film Regular Lovers (2005) is about a group of young people participating in the Latin Quarter of Paris barricades and how they continue their life one year after.
  • In the spy-spoof, OSS 117: Lost in Rio, the lead character Hubert ironically chides the hippie students, saying, 'It's 1968. There will be no revolution. Get a haircut.'
  • The Oliver Assayas film Something in the Air (2012) tells the story of a young painter and his friends who bring the revolution to their local school and have to deal with the legal and existential consequences.
  • Le Redoutable, 2017 - bio-pic of Jean-Luc Godard, covering the 1968 riots/Cannes festival etc.

Music

  • Many writings of French anarchist singer-songwriter Léo Ferré were inspired by those events. Songs directly related to May 1968 are: "L'Été 68", "Comme une fille" (1969), "Paris je ne t'aime plus" (1970), "La Violence et l'Ennui" (1971), "Il n'y a plus rien" (1973), "La Nostalgie" (1979). Many others Ferré's songs share the libertarian feel of that time.
  • Claude Nougaro's song "Paris Mai" (1969).[71]
  • The imaginary Italian clerk described by Fabrizio de André in his album Storia di un impiegato, is inspired to build a bomb set to explode in front of the Italian parliament by listening to reports of the May events in France, drawn by the perceived dullness and repetitivity of his life compared to the revolutionary developments unfolding in France.[72]
  • The Refused song entitled "Protest Song '68" is about the May 1968 protests.[73]
  • The Stone Roses's song "Bye Bye Badman", from their eponymous album, is about the riots. The album's cover has the tricolore and lemons on the front (which were used to nullify the effects of tear gas).[74]
  • The music video for the David Holmes song "I Heard Wonders" is based entirely on the May 1968 protests and alludes to the influence of the Situationist International on the movement.[75]
  • The Rolling Stones wrote the lyrics to the song "Street Fighting Man" (set to music of an unreleased song they had already written which had different lyrics) in reference to the May 1968 protests from their perspective, living in a "sleepy London town". The melody of the song was inspired by French police car sirens.[76]
  • Vangelis released an album in France and Greece entitled Fais que ton rêve soit plus long que la nuit ("May you make your dreams longer than the night"), which was about the Paris student riots in 1968. The album contains sounds from the demonstrations, songs, and a news report. Vangelis would later become famous for film scores for such films as Chariots of Fire and Bladerunner.[77]
  • Ismael Serrano's song "Papá cuéntame otra vez" ("Papa, tell me again") references the May 1968 events: "Papa, tell me once again that beautiful story, of gendarmes and fascists and long-haired students; and sweet urban war in flared trousers, and songs of the Rolling stones, and girls in miniskirts."[78]
  • Caetano Veloso's song "É Proibido Proibir" takes its title from the May 1968 graffiti of the same name and was a protest song against the military regime that assumed power in Brazil in April 1964.[79]
  • Many of the slogans from the May 1968 riots were included in Luciano Berio's seminal work Sinfonia.
  • The band Orchid references the events of May 68 as well as Debord in their song "Victory Is Ours".
  • The 1975's song "Love It If We Made It" makes reference to the Atelier Populaire's book made to support the events, 'Beauty Is In The Street'.

Literature

Art

  • The painting May 1968, by Spanish painter Joan Miró, was inspired by the events in May 1968 in France.

Video games

  • The 2010 game Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker had a briefing file that described the May 1968 protests and their influence on the character Cécile Cosima Caminades, a Frenchwoman.

Further reading

Archival collections

References

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