The Forgotten Space

Reviews, Interviews and Articles
outside links

Review – Slant Magazine

Kalvin Henely, 2012

“If you think of Wall Street as capitalism's symbolic headquarters, filmmakers Allan Sekula and Noël Burch more or less show us in The Forgotten Space how the sea is capitalism's global trading floor writ large. For as much attention as Wall Street gets, the global shipping trade is responsible for the exchange of 90% of the world's goods, but since it operates at sea it exists "out of sight, out of mind." By focusing mostly on this invisible maritime sector of world trade, Sekula and Burch expose the invisible lives of cheap labor needed to ship these goods and how capitalism runs on people like oil. The film's centerpiece, and most recurrent visual, is the 1950s American invention that has made so much of this possible and that Sekula, in his overtly Marxist narration, compares to resembling dollars in a gangster's briefcase: cargo containers.”

Full Review - English

Review – New York Times

A.O. Scott, February 2012

Awash in Capitalism, a Changing Earth
“In “The Enchafèd Flood,” his resonant study of “the romantic iconography of the sea,” W. H. Auden noted that, in the opening verses of the Book of Genesis, the vast watery expanses of the world served as a “symbol for the primordial undifferentiated flux, the substance that became created nature only by having form imposed upon or wedded to it.”

Full Review - English

Review – Village Voice

Mark Holcomb, February 2012

“Epic in scope, intellectual agility, and the potential to induce panic and despair, this documentary exploration of global trade as an emblem of economic apocalypse avoids (just barely) doom-mongering by virtue of its compassion and visual grandeur. In a similar mode to William Vollmann's sprawling exposés of capitalistic folly, filmmakers Allan Sekula and Noël Burch focus on the workers—shipping employees, truckers, and manufacturing laborers from places as far-flung yet interconnected as Holland, California, and Spain—whose days are dictated by the seemingly mindless transportation of goods.”

Full Review - English

Review – The Guardian

Sukhdev Sandhu, April 2012

Allan Sekula: filming the forgotten resistance at sea
“The photographer's new film, about global maritime trade, has been hailed by Occupy activists. Its maker has spent a life challenging new forms of capitalism. Water has always played a large part in the photographer Allan Sekula's life. As a student in San Diego at the end of the 1960s, he used to wander downtown and gaze up at the flophouse hotels through whose windows he could see money being exchanged between prostitutes and sailors. "It was Edward Hopper on military steroids," he recalls. "That was the time of Vietnam, and there were even mutinies on some ships – especially among African-American sailors who were protesting against racism in the navy. Young guys my age from the west coast were being dehumanised and turned into a few good men.”

Full Review - English

Review – The Brooklyn Rail

Joshua K. Leon, 2012

Spaces of Capital
“Urban planning emphasizes a stage production of modern aesthetics at the expense of all else. Glittering boulevards in the world’s most successful market capitals belie the fact that any dirty, degrading, or dangerous work ever happens there at all. Commercial districts—from New York’s Times Square to Tokyo’s Shibuya—are the self-styled symbols of a new economy where work derives only from human-centered creativity, having progressed beyond the outmoded toils of manual labor. Allan Sekula and Noël Burch’s The Forgotten Space, which premiered February 15 at Anthology Film Archives,is a documentary tour behind the façade, revealing the unsightly inner workings of the global economy.”

Full Review - English

Review - Artforum

Benjamin Young, 2012

Seafarers All
“EXPLORING THE MARITIME WORLD as the unseen matrix of globalization, Allan Sekula and Noël Burch’s The Forgotten Space (2010) begins as an investigative documentary and concludes as a mythopoeic essay on modernity and the sea. Along with the quickening staccato of the accordion sound track, the film’s rhetorical intensity slowly builds as metaphor and allusion are interwoven with the facts and conditions of global trade.”

Full Review - English

Review - Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, 2010

“An epic view and urgent analysis of the follies of global capitalism, The Forgotten Space is a prime example of essayistic and political cinema. It creates a complex tapestry of powerful images and language.”

Full Review - English

Film Comment - Tales from the Darkside

Olaf Moller, November 2010

“To say that the subject of The Forgotten Space is the global transformation of labor caused by container cargo shipping is like saying that Wagon Master is a Western. Noel Burch and Allan Sekula’s essay film is a journey around the world, to the ports of Rotterdam, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Bilbao-each a trove of stories, encounters, and observations at times angry and at times wry. The whole thing is held together by Sekula’s adventure-happy, politically astute, partisan commentary, which itself is a masterpiece of nonfiction.”

Full Article - English

Review - Il Manifesto

Christina Piccino, 2010

"In The Forgotten Space, Noël Burch, film-maker and theoretician of the cinema, and Allan Sekula, experimenter in images, set out to discover in the sea and its symbolism, the logic of today’s world economy. The movement of the waves, remembered only when disaster strikes, the movement of barges, of containers carried by huge ships between Asia and Europe by low-cost Chinese shippers. And those “forgotten spaces” where we hear the voices of California truck-drivers or Dutch farmers robbed of their land. The two directors have interspersed the present with archival memories, explosive intrusions of old movies, producing a magnificent example of political – and essayistic – cinema, built on imagery, with a form appropriate to the substance which it tackles. And with no rhetorical gestures, which is not an easy matter when dealing with human labour."

Review - L'Unita

L'Unita, 2010

"This festival did not offer many glimpses of reality. It was almost over – today the awards will be announced – when one of the most interesting documentaries in the Orrizzonti selection was shown. This was The Forgotten Space by Noël Burch and Allan Sekula’s, two itinerant American film-makers who, since the seventies, have devoted themselves to documentary experimentation. In this latest work, of high visual potential, we accompany them on a long “sea journey” through the globalized world, following the cargo-container, which symbolizes the globalized economy. We follow the containers on ships, barges, trains and trucks as they cover the planet, dictating the new laws of distribution. And, above all we listen to the voices of those who have been cast aside by the system: farmers in Belgium and Holland obliged to give up their land, truckers in Los Angeles on starvation wages, seafarers “sentenced” to perpetual crossings between Asia ad Europe. “Our assumption”, the directors say, “is that the sea is still the crucial space of globalization. It is here that the confusion, the violence and the alienation of contemporary capitalism are most evident.” Which The Forgotten Space amply demonstrates."

Review - Sentieri Selvaggi

Pietro Masciulo, 2010

“The Forgotten Space is the reality of our daily lives: the abolition of distances engendered by our era, governed by notions of instantaneous communication, by cyberspace and the new media. A network of permanent global contacts which once again forcefully raises the problems posed by the transportation of the goods, the objects that are submerging us. The sea has become a (generally forgotten) territory colonized by the needs of Western humanity, travelled goods crammed into containers that have become the symbol of modern civilization.”

Full Review - Italian

Review - Variety

Jay Weissberg, September 2010

“A few classic movie clips speak to Burch's position as grand old man of film theory, and several striking images, especially the mosaic pattern of multicolored containers on a ship's prow, are appealing.”

Full Review - English

Interview - Noel Burch

ORF, Alexander Musik, 2010

"The Forgotten Space" ist ein Filmessay mit eindrucksvollen Bildern, erhellenden Interviews und einem oft professoralen Off-Kommentar über das Innenleben großer Containerschiffe und automatisierter Hafenanlagen, vor allem aber über das Leben der Menschen im Hinterland der ohne Rücksicht immer weiter ausgebauten Großhäfen."

Full Interview - German

Review - Neerlands Filmdoek

Guido Franken, November 2010

“… Burch and Sekula have provided the documentary with some marvelous images that are not only visually convincing, but also have a striking metaphorical function.”

Full Review - Dutch

De zee is de pispot van het kapitalisme

NRC, Tracy Metz, Februari 2011

“The Forgotten Space is een twee uur lang epos waarvoor de makers de hele wereld afreisden. Van Los Angeles tot Hongkong en van Rot- terdam tot Bilbao, ze komen over- al en praten met iedereen: Chinese fabrieksmeisjes, de Indonesische zeeman, de machinist op de Betu- welijn, de Amerikaanse daklozen die zelf niet begrijpen hoe het zo ver heeft kunnen komen."

Full Review - Dutch

Trojaans Paard aan Boord

Filmkrant, Mariska Graveland, 2010

“In het filmessay the forgotten space reizen filmmaker Allan Sekula en filmtheoreticus Noel Burch in het kielzog van containerschepen, om de effecten van globalisering te onderzoeken.”

Full Review - Dutch

Eerder Poetisch dan Polemisch

Volkskrant, Pauline Kleijer, November 2010

“While politically driven, the message of the filmmakers is never pushy. The Forgotten Space is primarily investigative in nature. From the port of Rotterdam to a modern seamen hostel in Hong Kong, Sekula and Burch capture exceptional scenes, often more poetic than polemical.”

Full Review - Dutch

Review - Movie 2 Movie

Bram Semeijn, November 2010

“De prachtige beelden en het oog voor het menselijke verhaal achter zoiets abstracts als de globalisering maken deze film een must om te zien."

Full Review - Dutch

Wie redt de zee van de mens?

NRC, Dana Linssen, November 2010

“We protect ourselves against the sea with dikes, but who protects the sea against the people and their economy? That is the premise of the excellent documentary essay by the American writer / photographer / filmmaker Allan Sekula and the French film critic Noel Burch. ” (4 stars out of 5)

Full Review - Dutch