Julia Nelsen is program manager at the UC Berkeley Institute of European Studies.
France, 1968: Amid nationwide strikes and the student uprising in the Latin Quarter, a collective of filmmakers—including Jean-Luc Godard, Jackie Raynal, Alain Resnais, Philippe Garrel, and painter Gérard Fromanger—teamed up to make a series of silent tracts, each length determined by the availability of affordable lengths of film. On average, each tract used 100 feet of film, evening out to two minutes and forty-seven seconds. The majority of these were edited in-camera and printed in Brussels—where film processing plants were not on strike—then brought back to France, intended to be screened mid-occupation in both the academy and the factory. While the tracts have been shown few times outside their moment of inception, they represent a groundswell of formal creativity, a fervid moment of impossible juxtapositions: between still and moving images, words and actions, between the Communist Party and the New Left, or indeed between Godard’s own cult of personality and his newfound militancy. Tract no. 21 includes an anti-slogan speaking to the moment’s propulsive uncertainty: “I have nothing to say, but I must say it.”