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Marina GrzinicClick here to Print this Page
Sandra Lahire
In Johnny Panic (2000, 45 min) we are dragged to the beginning of all the nuclear stories, at the trial where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted as being spies on behalf of the Soviet Union.

They were executed on June 19, 1953, at Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York. Lahire's film is an exceptionally sharp criticism of the political reality of the western world, especially of American capitalist politics, that murderously produce justice in 'synch' with a state's death penalties prosecutions (Rosenberg's trial).

In Sandra Lahire's work we can identify two trilogies, and three fields of research: the one concerning the ecological catastrophe and the uranium, leading us directly to the atomic bomb. The second field is the body, the anorexic body, and the third is the performative aspect of gender, with the radical positioning of being lesbian, and at the same time a radical political persona. All these three lines come to a culmination in Johnny Panic, the synthesis of all her obsessions and torments.

Johnny Panic is a premonitory sign of the world that came to be in 2003, three years after the film was finished and two years after we lost Sandra Lahire, a world nurtured and processed by panic. Instead of Robert Longo's Johnny Mnemonic film from the 1980's, based on the old dream to placing our lives and democratic politics into proper hands through memory and space organization, Sandra Lahire envisioned a world that will soon live in a permanent state of constant panic.

Johnny Panic is a brilliant film, a product of a feminist, lesbian search and anorexic positioning. She taught us what it means to connect lesbian guerrilla fighting with an international experimental film tradition (and this is not just British or American). It was Sandra Lahire's capacity to link deep experimental practice in film with the most precise rethinking of the processes of the capitalist film industry. Her work is a reflection of frontiers of political pollution and economical exploitation. In Johnny Panic the most impressive point is Lahire's opening of the hidden protocols of capitalism. The result is no indifference toward any social inequality and no political abstraction of any, even not even of the smallest injustice. Sandra Lahire shows the obscene catastrophic dimensions of the world we are living in (deep racial inequalities and dissipating of worlds and nations).

Lahire was a sharp eyewitness, having experimental film practice as her only prosthesis. She made visible the perverse character of the capitalism system, of its contemporary forms of exploitation, and our social and psychic submissions to it.

She has emerged today to be one of the most radical filmmakers in the international arena.

Marina Grzinic
Dr. Marina Grzinic is Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria, and Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy (ZRC-SAZU), Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Still from Johnny Panic by Sandra Lahire, 1995
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