South East Passage: A Journey to New Blank Spots on the Map of Europe

German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger digitally records her southeasterly journey from Berlin to Istanbul (via Poland, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine) in this desultory essay on trade, travel, and the confluence of occidental and orientalist motifs. Stills, vintage postcards, and texts by Elias Canetti, Walter Benjamin, and other writers provide a historical context for her handheld shots of markets, arcades, bars, and plazas. Ottinger has created such elegant ethnographies as a four-and-a-half-hour film on Chinese art and an eight-hour film on Mongolian nomads, but this looks more like an intellectual's home video. Each of the three segments—“Wroclaw-Varna” (130 min.), “Odessa” (140 min.), and “Istanbul” (90 min.)—will screen continuously during museum hours at the Renaissance Society.

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