In Defense of the Poor Movie Lover

In her evergreen essay “In Defense of the Poor Image” Hito Steyerl sings the praises of low quality images. She discusses their political and aesthetic potential and lauds their reach. Although that text is now over a decade old, it is more topical than ever: visual phenomena such as memes, tiktok videos and cellphone footage have increased the reach and visibility of such “poor” imagery.


Film student Jonas Vanoyenbrugge used Steyerl’s text as the basis for this hybrid piece (a blend of epigraphic video essay and desktop video). He chose to focus on movie piracy and investigates to what extent such pirated content these days still fits Steyerl’s classification as “poor” imagery. Vanoyenbrugge only uses a handful of quotes from Steyerl’s essay, but they are well chosen and illustrated in great detail. He also calls into question the current validity of her assertions (for instance, regarding the image quality of online bootlegs) – a move that shows both confidence and a critical intuition.


Formally, the wonderfully executed animations stand out: the graphics are playful and enlightening, and they reinforce the rhetoric structure of the piece. The investigative trajectory Vanoyenbrugge follows is always clear, thanks to a deft use of the desktop format. Like Steyerl’s text, this video essay critiques the way in which the film industry’s business model throws up financial hurdles that make it hard to be a cinephile.