Roee Rosen in conversation with
For Kafka for Kids and The Dust Channel, 1646 transformed into a cinema. A premiere for the public of the new grand two hour film Kafka for Kids by renowned artist, writer and filmmaker Roee Rosen was complemented by his 2017 film The Dust Channel. The artist’s practice “… deals primarily with the representation of desire and structural violence, questioning and subverting the normative implications of identities and identifications through fictionalisation, irony and revision.”* In his exhibition at 1646, Rosen offered a critical look into Israeli society’s private perversions, socio-political phobias and the complex and troubling ways of growing up under military law in occupied territories. But he did so through humor and poetic surprises. Our protagonists in these stories included Franz Kafka’s vermin called Samsa, a toy orchestra, The Bearer of Bad News and a Dyson DC07 vacuum cleaner.
Kafka for Kids (111 min.) takes the shape of a musical storytelling, set to be the pilot episode for a television series that aims to make Kafka’s tales palpable for toddlers. The film premiered for the jury of the IFFR 2022 Tiger Competition, after which it was on view for the public in 1646’s cinema. Through this feature-length film, which retells Kafka’s classic story The Metamorphosis, Rosen raises complex topics under the guise of a kids TV-show. An unnamed grandparent figure reads the story to a child in the magical story-house, surrounded by characters like Ms. Lamp, Mr. Table and The Bearer of Bad News. These friends narrate the tale and perform the film’s songs, while accompanied by a toy orchestra. Telling this story to a child is juxtaposed with reflections on how central law was in Kafka’s literature and life. Thus certain questions arise on both an emotional and imaginary level, as well as on a legal and political one. What is a child? Until when does a child remain a child? The film itself goes through its own metamorphosis which leads to an examination of the legal intricacies through which the military law in the occupied territories defines childhood. But even these harsh documentary materials are mixed with the personal and the erotic.
The Dust Channel (23 min.) was made for the occasion of the latest Documenta (no. 14) in 2017. The film takes the form of an operetta with a libretto in Russian, telling the story of a Dyson DC07 vacuum cleaner in the context of an Israeli home. A deep fear of dirt and dust pervades the bourgeois household, resulting in an extreme obsession with cleaning apparatuses: we see a hand intimately caressing the yellow vacuum’s plastic skin. Meanwhile, dust is conflated with sand, and the film glides to a detention center for African refugee seekers located in the Negev desert. The film exposes the multilayered narrative of individual and communal socio-political phobias within Israeli society, along with their connection to leisure and pleasure, abundance and perversions.
Roee (b. 1963) is an Israeli-American artist, filmmaker and writer, whose work deals primarily with the representation of desire and structural violence. He is known for his multilayered and provocative work which often challenges the divides between history and the present, documentary and fiction, politics and erotics. Using a vast array of fictional characters and iconographic motifs and codes, the artist refers to, and transforms, not only the canon of the historical avant-garde, but also popular media, political propaganda, and classic children’s fairy tales.
Rosen’s works were exhibited at the Venice Film Festival (2011), Documenta 14 (2016), the Oberhausen Film Festival (2012), La Roche sur Yon festival (2013), and FICUNAM festival, Mexico City (2018), the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018), the Arts Project Centre, Dublin (2019), and Charlottenborg Kunsthal, Copenhagen (2019). His movie Kafka for Kids was selected for the tiger competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2022), and he’s exhibiting at the Kunstmuseum Luzern the coming year. Rosen was the recipient of the Orizzonti award for best medium-length film (2011); special mention at the Rome International Film Festival (2013); Best film award at Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival (2014) and was nominated for the European Academy award (2011), amongst being recipient and nominee for multiple other awards. Rosen’s two latest books were published by Sternberg Press, and he’s currently working on a book which is partly published by Steirischer Herbst. He’s a professor at Ha’Midrasha Faculty of Arts at the Beit Berl College and Bezalel Art Academy of Arts and Design in Israel.