Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Tales of Our Time: Terra Nullius or: How to Be a Nationalist
to his preparation for this film, James T. Hong is now a licensed fisherman in
Taiwan. That would give him a trade to fall back on, if he were not so prone to
seasickness. Nevertheless, his is determined to reach the disputed Senkaku no
man’s land islands, with whichever nationalist group can reach its shores.
Fitting in chameleon-like with each faction, Hong follows their demonstrations
and high seas hijinks in Terra Nullius
or: How to Be a Nationalist (trailer here), which
screens today at the Guggenheim, in conjunction with the Tales of Our Time exhibition.
WWII, the Senkaku Islands were covered under the American administration of
Okinawa. Basically, the U.S. military just used it for bombing practice until
returning it to Japanese control in 1971. Subsequently, both Taiwan and
Mainland China claimed the remote islands. However, the ROC no longer formally
disputes Japanese possession, whereas the PRC is cagey on the subject. It
hardly matters. Nationalist groups from all three nations are more than willing
to press the claims that inspire such circumspect caution in their governments.
ironically, the People’s Republic activists now sail out of Hong Kong, because
the Mainland authorities will just automatically chuck Diaoyu (as they call the
Senkaku Islands) activists in prison. Of all the fake fisherman Hong spends
time with, the Mainlanders probably get the most screen time, possibly due to
their ability to cuss a blue streak when confronting various maritime
by the way, a 1968 survey suggested there could be oil under them there
islands. Yet, the activists seem oblivious to any strategic value the Senkaku
Islands, or Diaoyutai as they call them in Taiwan, might hold. It all seems to
be about land and blood for them, sort of like a Frenchman discussing Algeria.
it is pretty amazing how easily Hong fell in with such disparate groups. Seriously,
they do not seem to be the compromising types. Granted, the energy level of Terra Nullius rises and falls, but he
captures some pretty nutty behavior. He also contributes to the lunacy with
climatic gesture of grand futility worthy of Mads “The Ambassador” Brügger.
Nullius is intended as a cautionary critique of nationalism, but it is hard
not to think a lot of trouble could have been saved if the U.S. military had
just kept occupying the islands. We would still just be shelling the shellac
out of them, so maybe we could have avoided the Vieques controversy too. It is somewhat
inconsistent, even at a mere seventy-nine minutes, but its strongest sequences
successfully marry the sensibilities of gonzo journalism and video installation
art. Recommended for curious vérité fans, Terra
Nullius or: How to Be a Nationalist screens again this afternoon (2/18) at
the Guggenheim, free with Museum admission.
Labels: Documentary, Senkaku Islands