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The Machine That Kills Bad People:
Blue Steel + In Order Not To Be Here
Institute of Contemporary Arts
A close up of an angry dog bearing its teeth
In Order Not To Be Here, dir. Deborah Stratman, USA 2022, 33 min., 16mm

This screening pairs Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel (1990) and Deborah Stratman’s In Order Not To Be Here (2002), two films that examine surveillance, paranoia and fear.

Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel is an over-the-top exploration of gender, obsession and power, starring Jamie Lee Curtis as an NYPD officer suspended for the use of excessive force and yet intimately caught in the search for a serial killer. In the words of Steven Shaviro, this ‘exercise in visual excess’ is ‘a tense thriller, a crowd-pleasing orgy of blood and destruction, an affirmative revalorization of female subjectivity and desire, a twisted and creepy but ultimately compelling love story, and a satirical send-up of psychoanalytic theories of the phallus and castration anxiety.’

Deborah Stratman’s In Order Not To Be Here explores suburban surveillance and the resultant societal isolation. Set in a nocturnal landscape, the film dissects the fear-driven design of white-collar communities. It portrays a 21st century emptiness, born from an obsessive reliance on forms of safety promised by technology. Stratman redefines suburban spaces as states of mind, creating an atmosphere of quiet horror.


Blue Steel, dir. Kathryn Bigelow, USA 1990, 108 min., 35mm

In Order Not To Be Here, dir. Deborah Stratman, USA 2022, 33 min., 16mm
The Machine That Kills Bad People is, of course, the cinema – a medium that is so often and so visibly in service of a crushing status quo but which, in the right hands, is a fatal instrument of beauty, contestation, wonder, politics, poetry, new visions, testimonies, histories, dreams. It is also a film club devoted to showing work – ‘mainstream’ and experimental, known and unknown, historical and contemporary – that takes up this task. The group borrowed their name from the Roberto Rossellini film of the same title, and find inspiration in the eclectic juxtapositions of Amos Vogel’s groundbreaking New York film society Cinema 16.

The Machine That Kills Bad People is held bi-monthly in the ICA Cinema and is programmed by Erika Balsom, Beatrice Gibson, Maria Palacios Cruz, and Ben Rivers.

All films are ad-free and 18+ unless otherwise stated, and start with a 10 min. curated selection of trailers.

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