The man in the background

In the film The Man in the Background Berg investigates the fate and role of Michael Josselson, director of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, in the Cold War era. The video material consists of Josselson's private super-8 footage from a vacation in 1958 and interviews with his widow Diana, nearly 50 years later. In 1966, the New York Times revealed that the Congress for Cultural Freedom had received funding from the CIA, and thus it was exposed that the Josselsons had lied to everyone in their surroundings for nearly two decades. The revelation changed the life of the Josselsons radically and painfully.

- Working on The Man in the Background, I realized that I didn’t know a dramatic form that could tell the story of Michael Josselson and the CCF. I was looking for a narrative that could both convey and preserve the ambiguity, the political and personal dilemmas of their story (and of the Cold War). Inspired by Raymond Queneau’s novel Exercices de style (1947), I decided to present the exact same footage seven times with different voice-overs, and then “confront” each chapter with a part of the interviews I had made with Michael Josselson’s widow, Diana. I chose headlines for the chapters, which are not included in the film, but inspired me when I wrote them. If I remember correctly, the headlines were: Documentary, Love Story, Biography, Thriller, Theater/Plot, Farce, Absurd/Poetic.

Lene Berg, from the catalogue Parapolitics, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin 2017

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