Film director Christine Cynn has worked for 20 years to document the human imagination, particularly in the context of extreme political violence, such as the 1965 Indonesian genocide. Cynn co-directed ‘The Act of Killing’, which used fiction filmmaking as a tool for understanding how mass murderers imagined themselves and documented how ‘playing yourself’ can be transformative. Building on the blend of observation and dramatization developed in ‘The Act of Killing’, Cynn now draws a wider frame around the fractured realities and real-life performances that constitute a global war machine.
Featuring a rare ensemble of people whose lives are intimately connected to weapons, SHOOTING OURSELVES is set against a backdrop of increasing global violence where 500 million people live in countries at risk of instability and conflict, and the economic impact of warfare is estimated at $9.8 trillion USD per year (2014 Global Peace Index Report). They came from India, Pakistan, Israel, Russia, Syria, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the US to dramatize their personal experiences—from underground missile factories to the most highly contested borders of the world. These are the protagonists of a new type of immersive theatre where audience members play roles guided by films on handheld devices. ‘Situation Rooms’ is a production by Rimini Protokoll, a Berlin-based group led by directors Helgard Haug, Stefan Keigi, and Daniel Wetzel. Rimini Protokoll’s awards include the Silver Lion of the 41st Venice Biennale (2011), the European Prize for “New Realities in Theatre” (2008), and the German Faust Theatre Award (2007).
SHOOTING OURSELVES was filmed entirely on the set of ‘Situation Rooms’, a two-story mashup of simulated places by Swiss designer Dominic Huber. Visualized through 3D animation and stylised tracking shots, the set provides a map for the thirteen stories featured in SHOOTING OURSELVES. Each protagonist acts out their own story, filming from their own perspective with a handheld device. This creates an uncanny environment where everyone is filming each other, and themselves, all the time. The theatrical dramatizations are captured by the small cameras, and this footage is juxtaposed with unscripted moments of private reflection and backstage conversation between protagonists—from heated exchanges on collateral damage to banter about diplomatic picnics at Osama Bin Laden’s compound.
SHOOTING OURSELVES poses questions about perspective. How do we relate to people far away from ourselves, people with whom we are economically and politically entangled, but whose emotional lives remain anonymous, or whom we ‘see’ through the highly distorting filter of fear? In SHOOTING OURSELVES, weapons manufacturers, soldiers, victims, and anti-arms trade activists come out of their normal habitats to create a new theatrical world order where all perspectives are equal. For a rare and brief window of time, we witness the creation of an oddly warm and dysfunctional family bound by weapons and warfare.