Last Thursday the prize-winning film “Vita activa – The Spirit of Hannah Arendt” by Ada Ushpiz had its first Norwegian performance and a panel discussion consisting of scholars in the Humanities, such as philosophy, political science, peace research and education.
It took Ada Ushpiz 5 years to complete the film on Hannah Arendt. The actual production started on December 2012, ending in June 2015.
“The ultimate test of Arendt’s political-moral thinking, in my eyes, lies in its consistent relevance not only to the postmodern world she foresaw, but also to our current crumbled, disintegrated political world, where logic, in its worse sense, overpowers thought, and advances totalitarian patterns in democratic societies – Donald Trump’s America, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel and others,” says Ushpiz.
Hannah Arendt, who died in 1975, was a prolific and unclassifiable thinker, a political theorist, moral philosopher and polemicist of unmatched range and rigor, who caused an uproar in the 1960s. She coined the subversive concept of the “Banality of Evil” when she was referring to the Adolph Eichmann trial.
The documentary by Ada Ushpiz draws on a wealth of source material in a detailed examination of her convictions. Correspondence read aloud in voice-over accompanies the photographs, home movies and other archive material, and these scenes are intercut with interviews with her contemporaries.
The film’s focus, however, is much wider than the still-potent debate over “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” which was widely and fiercely attacked for what critics took to be its trivialization of Eichmann’s deeds and its lack of sympathy for his victims.
The panel last Thursday consisted of Rina Rosh, Tel Aviv, researcher for the film Vita activa, Wolfgang Heuer, FU Berlin, Political Science, Henrik Syse, Peace Research Institute Oslo, Geir Aaserud, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Zoran Kurelic University of Zagreb Political Science and Helgard Mahrdt, Research Fellow in the Humanities, Department of Education, Univerrsity of Oslo. They discussed the many layers of Arendt’s life in the proper light, sticking to her rigorous thought processes. Moderator was Truls Lie, Editor-in-Chief of Ny Tid (Modern Times).
Interest in Arendt throughout the world, especially among young people, who find her insights into the nature of evil, totalitarianism, ideologies, and the perils faced by refugees, more relevant than ever. This was also a topic across the panel.
“In filmmaking, one cannot jeopardize the lucidity of storytelling, and from time to time, one needs to find points of conclusions. In a length of two hours’ film, paragraphs need to be shortened, sometimes to one sentence. It should be acknowledged that in such condensed limited timeframe one could not bring forward all the avenues and development of even one idea,” says Ushpiz.
World War I forced masses of people to leave their homes, they became refugees and what Arendt coins “superfluous”. Arendt understood this and saw it as the rehearsal of what should happen later: the crime (Holocaust) against humanity executed on the Jewish people. “The film makes the case that exile allows some thinkers to see the bigger picture, even as they’re forced to sacrifice their own notion of home,” says Ada Ushpiz.
The film, produced by go2films, has gained several awards, among them “Winner – best documentary – Santa Barbara Film Festival” and “Best Research Award 2016” from the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum.
Portrait (on top) photo courtesy of the Hannah Arendt Bluecher Literary Trust and Jerome Kohn
Prize Winning Documentary and Debate on Hannah Arendt in Oslo, written and photographed (if not otherwise noted) by Tor Kjolberg
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