23 October 2008
Stalags: Holocaust and Pornography in Israel (dir. Ari Libsker, 2007), c.60min
+ extra short: Sick Film (dir. Martin Creed, 2006), 20 min
"Stalags" is the name given to a furtive genre of pornographic pocket books that flourished in Israel at the start of the 1960s. These cheaply-produced pulps, written in Hebrew, were set in WW2 concentration camps and described at great and salacious length the torture of Jewish prisoners by gorgeous female Nazi officers wielding whips and wearing little but thigh-high leather boots.The stalags, appearing at a time when public conversations about the Holocaust were scarce, were sold at train-station kiosks and city-center newsstands. They were lapped up both by schoolchildren and adults who exulted in this transgressive reactivation of repressed recent history and collective consciousness. Little did they know that the books, which claimed to be translations of American originals, were actually penned by authors closer to home…
STALAGS is a fascinating documentary, made by young director Ari Libsker, that excavates a perverse stratum of Israeli popular culture that has long been seen as both mystifying and shameful. It tracks down bibliophiles who collect these now covetable titles, sheds light on their obscure origins, and puts them into fascinating dialogue with the Eichmann trial that began in 1961. It is a must-see, not least for anyone interested in the politics of popular culture, the historical relationship between sex and fascism, and the role of pornography in catalyzing social change.
SICK FILM, exclusively screened here, is a short by Turner-Prize-winning artist Martin Creed about - vomit transcendence.