Note, De-note: A Money Series

A local story, a bank note, and a belief: these components make the foundation for Kidlat Tahimik's Turumba, Ousmane Sembene's Mandabi, and Jia Zhangke's The World. The films present personal stories in which alien attitudes are imposed on an other by large, foreign economic structures. With overbearing attitudes and beliefs, these people-structures begin to denote new relationships of forced dependence. To call this relationship simply "alienation" would be to underwhelm the struggle and further distance oneself from those subjected—to look at them from afar, as if they were statues to be observed and remarked upon. The dehumanization of individuals and communities as a result of money serves as a critical motif in films and even though the motif may seem pervasive, these three narratives look for a way to challenge the entities subjecting communities to radical change by putting forth an equally radical critique on their own terms and in their own time.




"Set in a tiny Philippine village, the inimitable Kidlat Tahimik's film focuses on a family that makes papier-mache animals to sell during the traditional Turumba festivities. One year, a German department store buyer purchases all their stock. When she returns with an order for 500 more (this time with the word "Oktoberfest" painted on them), the family's seasonal occupation becomes year-round alienated labor. Increased production, however creates inflated needs. Soon, virtually the whole village has gone to work on a jungle assembly line, turning out papier-mache mascots for the Munich Olympics. Long before the town band learns to play "Deutschland Uber Alles", the fabric of village life has been torn asunder. The ironies of capitalism on the margin—Coca-Cola ads amid the shanties and ancient rituals—make easy targets for Tahimik's wit."
— J. Hoberman

by Kidlat Tahimik
1981, digital projection, 95 min




Ousmane Sembene, widely considered the father of Senegal’s cinema (and one of its major authors), explores his essential ideas—colonialism, race, corruption, religion, and political power—in this beautiful, underappreciated film. As a farce of bureaucracy, money is a gift and a curse in the form of Mandabi: "A money order from a relative in Paris throws the life of a Senegalese family man out of order. He deals with corruption, greed, problematic family members, the locals and the changing from his traditional way of living to a more "modern" one."

MANDABI (The Money Order)
by Ousmane Sembene
1968, digital projection, 90 min


The World


“The title of Jia Zhang-ke’s 2004 masterpiece, The World—a film that’s hilarious and upsetting, epic and dystopian—is an ironic pun and a metaphor. It’s also the name of the real theme park outside Beijing where most of the action is set and practically all its characters work. “See the world without ever leaving Beijing” is one slogan for the 115-acre park, where a monorail circles scaled-down replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, London Bridge, Saint Mark’s Square, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids, and even a Lower Manhattan complete with the Twin Towers. Extravagant kitsch like this may offer momentary escape from the everyday, but Jia is interested in showing the everyday activities needed to hold this kitsch in place as well as the alienation in this displaced world—and therefore in the world in general, including the one we know.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum

Rather than deal explicitly with money in the narrative, The World is inextricably bound to it. Set in a real theme park—which, importantly, was also one of the funders of the film's production—Jia's characters migrate toward Beijing, their nearest epicenter of cosmopolitanism, to work and live in a similacrum of globalization.

by Jia Zhangke
2004, digital projection, 135 min