TUCoPS :: TV, Cable, Satellite :: blackbox.txt

The camera is the more powerful weapon

Title->     Black Box: "The camera is the more powerful weapon." (Eastern
            European radical TV crew) (interview)

Authors->   Russell, Morgan


THERE IS A GREAT and long tradition of illegal political literature, called
"samizdat," in Hungary. But visual samizdat is a more recent phenomenon,
appearing all over Eastern Europe, as well as in Moscow, Leningrad, and
Armenia in the U.S.S.R. at the end of the eighties. In Eastern Europe we
call this Second Publicity. This unofficial news circulates side by side
with the official news sources, called First Publicity. it includes gossip,
what people discuss informally in the street, illegal printed materials and,
finally, video documentation.

The video medium is more like the printing press than filmmaking is.
Publications can be produced in any number, and circulated in the streets
under the poorest conditions. Black Box appeared thus, as a video periodical
in regular editions. In most cases, we issued two to three hundred copies.
Did these cassettes have any effect in a country of ten million? Obviously
it could not have had a large-scale influence. Still, it did reach the
"alternative intelligentsia," who had a primary role in transforming HungarY
during these last two years. This active layer of society was able to obtain
information and form its views accordingly.

When the "sweep of history" in Hungary became somewhat calmer last summer,
we started to work abroad. We were in Prague well before the changes there,
in the GDR, the Soviet Union, in Karabah and in Kosovo. There is no
esthetic, sociological, or professional knowledge implied in this activity:
rather it requires an ability to run fast when you have to, to realize
exactly when you have to keep your mouth shut, and when to change your car's
number plate to a new one. It resembles conspiracy or espionage.

We have been arrested, imprisoned, beaten up and involved in car chases. We
made our films with tear-gas sprays in our hands to defend ourselves.

We have worked with our camera in Romania many times. That revolution was
one of the most elevating experiences for us. At that time, we thought a
whole nation was able to change during a single day, to transform its views.
Since then we've realized that this was only an illusion. Imagine us being
in an enclosed city, all roads blocked by tanks, no EuroPean journalists
allowed. We are there and we witness a massacre starting at 6 PM sharp. My
camera sees and records Romanians arriving at the demonstration with axes
and pitchforks - a demonstration where there are Hungarian people standing
defenseless, without weapons. When the Romanians start with their
pitchforks, when our cameras record the first dead people, there is no one
else there to record it but the Romanian television. The next day, it shows
some of the events and announces that Hungarian people attacked Romanian
people. Twenty million Romanian people watch this web of lies on the screen.

But there is something on which the official communications system does not
count: the outsider's camera. Our cameras actually become weapons in our
hands: we can "shoot" ministers and Prime Ministers. These people will not
be able to continue lying. The camera and the gun physically resemble each
other, but the camera is the more powerful weapon. if I had had a real
machine gun with me there I could not have caused more harm to my political

We are on our way back to Romania. Recently, one of our colleagues was
killed there after a police "interrogation." The fascist organizations do
not allow journalists to visit their events, they break cameras and attack
cameramen. They recognize that the camera is a weapon, and that the video
marksmen of Eastern Europe, from the Urals to Berlin, from Vilnius to
Bucharest, are taking aim.

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