TITLE: Blue Orchids
DIRECTOR: Johan Grimonprez
YEAR OF PRODUCTION: 2017
COUNTRY OF PRODUCTION: Belgium
DURATION: 48 min.
In Blue Orchids, Grimonprez creates a double portrait of two experts situated on opposite ends of the same issue––the global arms trade. The stories of Chris Hedges, the former war correspondent of
The New York Times, and Riccardo Privitera, a former arms & equipment dealer of Talisman Europe
Ltd (now dissolved), provide an unusual and disturbing context for shocking revelations about the
industry of war. While interviewing Privitera and Hedges for Grimonprez’s recently released feature
Shadow World (2016), it became clear that the two men were describing the same anguish and the
same trauma, but from paradoxical perspectives. One has dedicated his life to unmasking lies and the
other has built his life on lies. Both their personal and political histories gradually reveal the depths of
suffering and duplicity, situating the arms trade as a symptom of a profound illness: greed.
Johan Grimonprez’s critically acclaimed work dances on the borders of practice and theory, art and cinema, documentary and fiction, demanding a double take on the part of the viewer. Informed by an archeology of present-day media, his work seeks out the tension between the intimate and the bigger picture of globalization. It questions our contemporary sublime, one framed by a fear industry that has infected political and social dialogue. By suggesting new narratives through which to tell a story, his work emphasizes a multiplicity of realities.
Grimonprez’s curatorial projects have been exhibited at museums worldwide, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; and MoMA. His works are in the collections of Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; and Tate Modern, London. His feature films include dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1997) and Double Take (2009) and Shadow World (2016). Traveling the main festival circuit from the Berlinale, Tribeca to Sundance, they garnered several Best Director awards, the 2005 ZKM International Media Award, a Spirit Award and the 2009 Black Pearl Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and were also acquired by NBC Universal, ARTE, and BBC/FILM 4.
He published several books, including Inflight (2000), Looking for Alfred (2007) and a reader titled It’s a Poor Sort of Memory that Only Works Backwards (2011) with contributions by Jodi Dean, Thomas Elsaesser, Tom McCarthy, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Slavoj Žižek.
He lectured widely, among others at the University de Saint-Denis (Paris 8), Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics; Tate Modern; MoMA (New York); Columbia University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); the Parliament of Bodies of Documenta 14, and he participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (New York).
His recent film project (with investigative journalist Andrew Feinstein), Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, awarded a production grant from the Sundance Institute, premiered at the 2016 Tribeca IFF (New York). It went on to win the Best Documentary Feature Award at the 2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival, and will premiere its US broadcast on Independent Lens on PBS in autumn 2017. His artwork is represented by the Sean Kelly Gallery (New York), and the gallerie kamel mennour (Paris).