Featured exclusively on The Brooklyn Rail Web site is an interview with artist and filmmaker George Gittoes conducted by Rail publisher and SVA faculty member Phong Bui and several students of the MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department. Gittoes, who participated in the interview from Pakistan via Skype, discusses the challenges of traversing dangerous territories for the purpose of documenting wars, conflicts, and the stories most Americans would never get to see. The Australian native has produced several films about the Afghan and Iraq wars within the past five years, including Rampage, The Miscreants of Taliwood, and the upcoming Love City Trilogy.
Gittoes said the decision to work amidst war zones was not as farfetched as some might think, due to the fact that he grew up in a rough neighborhood. “From my youth I knew how to draw and had an artist’s sensitivities, but the neighborhood made me very tough. That’s how I’ve been able to go to the places that I film and paint,” he said.
On November 3, Gittoes will present The Miscreants of Taliwood at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23 Street. The screening will be followed by a conversation with MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department Chair David Levi Strauss. Miscreants depicts the hostilities Pakistani filmmakers face from the disapproving Taliban (video stores are often blown up in Pakistan), and attempts by filmmakers to turn the country’s grim reality into movie drama. The most jarring scene in Miscreants may be a Taliban-distributed propaganda clip of a boy performing an execution.
“I reluctantly felt that we had to use the decapitation scene in Miscreants because you needed to see what the Taliban are distributing to replace legitimate film,” Gittoes said. “Believe me, there are much worse Taliban films than that.”
Gittoes, who worked in Afghanistan both before and after 9/11, also offered a piece of advice to fellow artists. “One of the problems artists have these days is that they think too much before doing anything, worrying what others will say,” he said. “You’ve got to see anyone who tries to damage your self-esteem as a mortal enemy because often, that’s all that artists have, their self-esteem.”