Manu Riche & Patrick Marnham [BE/IE]
16.04 – 17.04.2012
Snake Dance, the new film by the Belgian documentary-maker Manu Riche and the English-Irish writer and scenarist Patrick Marnham, is about the genesis of the atomic bomb. The journey leading up to this story was a long one.
We plunge into the jungle of the Congo in the footsteps of Leopold II in search of the place where uranium is mined. We cross the ocean to Los Alamos, the base in New Mexico where Robert J. Oppenheimer developed the atom bomb assisted by the best physicists in the world. We follow the bomb to Japan, where it destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Riche and Marnham introduce a second thread into their film, that of the German art historian and anthropologist Aby Warburg (1866-1929). Warburg was the first to demonstrate the importance of iconography – a history in images – in the study of civilisations and cultures. For instance, he studied the religious symbolism of the Pueblo Indians and more specifically the Hopi tribe, who lived very near the place where the Los Alamos camp was built. In 1923, the visionary Warburg wrote: ‘What interested me as a cultural historian was that in the midst of a country that had made technological culture into an admirable precision weapon in the hands of intellectual man, an enclave or primitive pagan humanity was able to maintain itself.’ Snake Dance is about the choices modern man has to make if he wants to survive. Like Prometheus, he makes fatal decisions that leave him alone in a world of chaos.
The film is preceded by a lecture. Under the director Manu Riche, Jerry Killick, one of the original Forced Entertainment actors, steps into Aby Warburg’s shoes and gives his lecture on the religious symbolism of the Hopi Indians. Warburg gave this lecture at the sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, where he was being treated for psychological problems, in 1923. The aim of this lecture was to convince the medical staff that he was cured and could be discharged.
• In addition to Forced Entertainment, Jerry Killick has also worked on several occasions with Davis Freeman. Manu Riche and Patrick Marnham had previously made a film on Georges Simenon. Marnham has written biographies, short stories and travel stories and also a book on Diego Rivera. Manu Riche gained his experience as a documentary-maker in the RTBF Strip-Tease series and also made a film about King Baudouin and the Hoge Bomen series for Canvas.
scenario, direction Manu Riche, Patrick Marnham | video editing Michèle Hubinon | director of photography Renaat Lambeets | sound direction Luc Cuveele | producer Manu Riche (Riche, Riche & Riche) | co-producers Eric Van Zuylen, RYVA (Wallonia), Suzane Van Voorst, ID TV Docs (Netherlands), James Mitchell, Soho Moon Pictures (Ireland) | production manager Geneviève De Bauw (Thank You & Good Night productions, Brussels) | support Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds VAF (Brussels), Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Communauté française de Belgique, Nederlands Filmfonds, Irish Film Board, Tax Shelter van de Belgische federale regering | co-production VRT-Canvas
text Aby Warburg | adapted by Patrick Marnham | performed by Jerry Killick | direction Manu Riche | production Kaaitheater