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11 x 14, James Benning
1976, 83:00

James Hoberman chose 11 x 14 as one of the top ten films of the seventies (Film Comment, January 1980) and later wrote in The Village Voice: "One of the most praised American avant-garde films of recent years, James Benning's 1976 feature is a laconic mosaic of single-shot sequences, each offering some sort of sound/image pun or paradox. At once a crypto-narrative with an abstract, peekaboo storyline and fractured, painterly study of the midwestern landscape, 11 x 14 points toward the creation of a new, nonliterary but populist cinema."

330 Miles Toward Justice, Keith McManus
2003, 58:00

In April of 2003, farmworkers marched from New York City and Seneca Falls to the state capitol, Albany, to demand a change in the archaic state laws that have excluded them from basic rights and protections since the 1930's. They were joined by their supporters, including union members, students, and people of faith. This march is used as a narrative base to tell the story of several individuals living this struggle.

(The) Amazing Mothman, Bill Brown

Bill Brown creates idiosyncratic documentaries that explore the relationship between people and the places in which they live. His four films, including Roswell, Hub City, Confederation Park and Buffalo Common have won awards at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Kansas City Jubilee, and the Magnolia Independent Film Festival. In 1997-98 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the Trans-Canada Highway.

Atomic Journeys: Welcome to Ground Zero, Pete Kuran
2001, 60:00

This hour-long documentary about off-site nuclear tests includes recently declassified film from the government that depicts the underground explosions in Mississippi, Colorado, New Mexico and Alaska, some as recently as the 1970s. Like most of the other Pete Kuran productions on atomic history, the film is narrated by William Shatner, with an original score performed by the Moscow Symphony. This film also includes interviews and images from the CLUI.

Belfast, Maine, Frederick Wiseman
1999, 248:00

BELFAST, MAINE is a film about ordinary experience in a beautiful old New England port city. It is a portrait of daily life with particular emphasis on the work and the cultural life of the community. Among the activities shown in the film are the work of lobstermen, tug-boat operators, factory workers, shop owners, city counselors, doctors, judges, policemen, teachers, social workers, nurses and ministers. Cultural activities include choir rehearsal, dance class, music lessons and theatre production.

"Belfast, Maine conveys a deeply emotional sense of place, season and time of day. In contrasting the breathtaking landscape with the troubled lives of many of those living there, it reminds us that the fleeting beauties of the natural world the simple pleasures available to all are among life’s deepest consolation." - Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Beyond Measure: Appalachian Culture and Economy, Herb E. Smith
1994, 58:00

"It's going to be pretty hectic back in here, once this coal gets gone." - Harding Ison

There is a constant tension between the forces of an ever changing economy and need to have stable communities. All communities must have an economic base, yet changes in economic conditions can devastate a community. As technologies change, workers can lose their jobs and whole communities can be left without a stable source of income. Beyond Measure looks at specific examples of people wrestling with these challenges, the people of the Appalachian Mountains, the
people of the Appalachian coalfields.

People in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains know how to survive hard times. Currrently thousands of coal miners are losing their jobs as a wave of newer and bigger machine moves through the coalfields. As jobs are lost, communities face an uncertain future. Beyond Measure places the present challenges in a larger historical context and document efforts of citizens to rebuild their communities. The beauty and challenges of living in the mountains are shown as the people describe their daily lives. Rather than a disembodied voice narrating the film, we hear the words and clarity and depth which comes straight from their own experiences. They describe how the mutual aid and suppot of extended families and attachments to the land are more important than the things economists usually measure.

BIT Plane, Bureau of Inverse Technology
1999, 13:00$tapedetail?BITPLANE

BIT plane is a highly compact spy plane, wingspan 20 inches, radio-controlled, video-instrumented and deployed over areas of scenic interest. Due to its refined dimensions, BIT plane is able to enter territory inaccessible to other aircraft. Pioneering flight: in an aerial reconnaissance over the Silicon Valley, California 1997, BIT plane flew solo and undetected into the glittering heartland of the Information Age. Video generated in this exercise includes footage retrieved over no-camera zones Apple, Lockheed, Nasa Ames, Netscape, Xerox Parc, Interval Research, Atari, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Yahoo, SGI, Sun Microsystems.

Bontoc Eulogy, Marlon E. Fuentes
1995, 56:00

The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair brought many wonders to thousands of visitors, including a live exhibit of "primitive" tribesmen from what is now known as the Philippines. What happened to these people, or "specimens" as they were called, and what became of their "contribution" to anthropological science? Their compelling story is revealed by a present-day Filipino American, whose grandfather Markod was exhibited as an Igorot warrior at the Fair. Part truth, part fantasy, Bontoc Eulogy combines archival photos and footage with contemporary live-action scenes, exploring the complex psychology behind a unique and celebrated event -- the turn-of-the-century World's Fair -- where race, science, and politics intertwined in a manner and on a scale never to be seen again. A 1996 International Documentary Association (IDA) Award nominee.

Borealis, Steina Vasulka

BOREALIS is a projected video environment with two video and four audio channels of presentation. The projectors, laid on their sides, provide an upright ratio for large projection screens, hung vertically in the exhibit space. Half-transparent mirrors, are placed in the projection pathway splitting and directing the image onto two additional screens, now four in total. The screens are made of translucent material that shows images with equal intensity on both surfaces, front and rear. The result is eight vertically viewed large images, placed in an irregular pattern, which harmonizes with the exhibition space. The program comes in the form of a ten-minute repeating loop. Each of the two video laser disc players provides one video and two audio sources to the two projectors and four speakers. At the end of each cycle, a laser disk synchronizer aligns the two video players for a repeat performance.

Steina's means are simple. She takes stunningly beautiful yet turbulent clips of nature in her native Iceland, enlarges them, then turns them on end, literally and figuratively, so that they may be experienced as living abstractions on a scale equal to that of the human body. The effect is to tear them from their entrenchment in the clichÇ so they may be perceived free from the drag of representational history. Nature, having somehow survived the twentieth century onslaught of archaic industrial insults, speaks in the only way it can, through stormy electronic images by an artist with roots both in urban culture and in a remote land still precariously preserved in ice. - LANE BARDEN

Bouquets 1-10, Rose Lowder
1994-1995, 11:00, 16mm, color/si

BOUQUETS 1 to 10 consists of ten one-minute films covering a variety of subjects. After working for nearly two decades on frame-by-frame in-the-camera structuring devices (my films PARCELLE, RUE DES TEINTURIERS, CHAMP PROVENÇAL, Retour d'un rep?re, Retour d'un repere composé, LES TOURNESOLS, IMPROMPTU and QUIPROQUO develop such processes), I managed in this series to abandon the stationary camera while still retaining what I consider a necessary graphic coherence. The procedure is too intricate to describe briefly but basically it entails using the film strip as a canvas with the freedom to film frames on any part of the strip in any order, running the film through the camera as many times as needed.

Each bouquet of flowers is also a bouquet of frames mingling the plants to be found in a given place with the activities that happen to be there at the time.

Note: Each BOUQUET is one minute, but film starts and ends with three seconds of black; six seconds of black in between each BOUQUET.

Buffalo Common, Bill Brown
2001, 23:00, color

In a continuation of his series of short poetic essay films exploring disappearing places and cultures, filmmaker Bill Brown visits the barren plains of North Dakota, where in the summer of 1999 the American government started to dismantle 2500 former ICBM missile silos. Winner of the Festival Award at the 2001 New York Underground Film Festival.

Caesar's Park, Sarah Price
2000, 65:00, color

In 1995, filmmaker Sarah Price (producer of AMERICAN MOVIE) moved to Caesar's Park, a closely settled, working-class section of Milwaukee. While getting to know her neighbors, Price filmed the folks next door as they followed their routines: gardening, sitting in back yards, or watching while a 100-year-old house is demolished. Tender, yet created with an eye for the ironic and eccentric, this meditation on what creates a neighborhood captures a haunting portrait of contemporary American life with all its moments of quiet banality.

(The) California Trilogy, James Benning
2000-2002, 90:00

El Valley Centro (2000), Los (2001), Sogobi (2002)

Champ Provençal, Rose Lowder
1979, 9:00, 16mm, color/si

The film presents in succession from a single viewpoint a frame-by-frame construction of a peach orchard with pink blossoms (April 1), green leaves (April 16) and red-yellow peaches (June 24). Although the filming procedure is similar to RUE DES TEINTURIERS, choices pertaining to the organization of the material in relation to the characteristics of the location define the specificity of CHAMP PROVENÇAL.

Claiming Open Spaces, Austin Allen

The city parks of Columbus, New Orleans, Detroit, Oakland and Montgomery, and the African-Americans who frequent them, are the subjects of this urban documentary. Public spaces, and the ways in which we use them, sometimes conflict with official city planning.

"...a celebration of black culture, the sort of positive portrait that blacks deserve and seldom receive...a compelling, thoroughly researched production."
- Frank Gabrenya, Columbus Dispatch

"Austin Allen's documentary takes a controversial stance: that African Americans' conception of open space is different from that of the mostly white civic authorities who have closed public parks in recent years, denying blacks a vital gathering place... In building his case, Allen...creates a fascinating history of black America."
- The East Bay Express

"In making CLAIMING OPEN SPACES, Allen isn't looking for popularity. He's looking for answers."
- Dennis Toth, Columbus Guardian

Coal Bucket Outlaw, Tom Hansell
2002, 26:40

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that coal produces over half of our nation's electricity. Coal Bucket Outlaw is built around a day in the life of a Kentucky coal truck driver. This digital documentary gives Americans a direct look at where our energy comes from, and reveals the human and environmental price we pay for our national addiction to fossil fuels.

The narrative line follows two Kentucky coal truck drivers as they chase their version of the American dream. Viewers learn how the economics of the coal business demand that both drivers break the law every day. A veteran independent trucker plays the "cops and robbers" game with the weight crew from the Department of Transportation. A young driver debates whether to keep hauling coal or to move his family to the city. And, a father describes a collision with a coal truck that killed his teenage son. Facts and figures about coal as an energy source will place these individual struggles in a national context.

Coal Bucket Outlaw examines the connection between coal haulers and the larger system that produces America's electricity. If outlaws deliver half of our nations energy, are consumers and policymakers completely innocent?

Confederation Park, Bill Brown
1997, 31:00, b&w

In this mix of travelogue, essay and ironic diary, filmmaker Bill Brown explores the political and geographical boundaries that separate English- and French-speaking Canadians. As memories dim of the separatist terrorist bombings that shattered Canada's peace during the 1960s and 1970s, Brown wonders about what exactly holds a country together.

Part travelogue, part meditation, part monologue, Brown's films are fascinating collages of striking images and wildly varying observations about the places he visits. In films like the recent Confederation Park (winner of numerous film-festival awards), Brown is audacious enough to tackle a subject as broad as Canadian nationhood, yet he's also smart enough to find answers in a place's tiny details, eccentricities and ambiguities. As Brown's voice-over narration contemplates separatist violence in Quebec, or bland urban renewal in Montreal, or earthquake preparations in Vancouver (sounding all the while like a grad student on pot), his camera captures the desolation and beauty of each locale: A neon sign flashes at sunset on an empty street. Children intrepidly play miniature golf on a course chiseled out of ice. A kitten scurries across the street before an oblivious oncoming sedan. "The most amazing thing about Bill's work is his really patient photography," says McCormick. "He reminds me of Ansel Adams camping out for a week to find the best light."

"In the voice-over to his most recent film, CONFEDERATION PARK, Texas filmmaker Bill Brown makes reference to 'the secret languages of exile,' and while this reflective, even somber film presents a pastiche of places across Canada where Brown has lived, its real subject is the limits of knowledge. Its long takes are accompanied by verbal meditation on the nation's recent history, including the separatist bombings in Quebec during the 60s, and the battle between English and French becomes a metaphor for the filmmaker's divided mind. Brown applies stickers with city names to a huge outdoor map of Canada, his voice-over suggesting that 'we've found our place in the universe' as a result of the 'Copernican revolution' - but then the stickers are blown away by the wind. Brown implies that images are insufficient: we need to know their history, their locations, their meaning. But landscapes can't be fully decoded, nor past events captured on film: in the final shot a woman sings, 'I don't know where he's headin' for,' while a car travels in a circle." --Fred Camper, Chicago Reader

Confirmation of My Sins, Zachery Longboy
1995, 12:00

(The) Cow Jumped Over the Moon, Christopher Walker
1999, 52:00

For the Fulani nomads of Mali, cattle are the lifeblood. After many years of drought, however, lack of pasture and water threatens the herd's existence. Now, advanced satellite technology is being used to help them survive. The Cow Jumped Over the Moon documents the interaction between the pastoral knowledge of the West African herders and the technological knowledge of U.S. scientists working in agencies such as NASA and NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency).

This fascinating film explores the consequences of drought on the Fulani herders who, for many years, have followed traditional migration routes from the edge of the Sahara to the Niger River delta in search of pasture. Now, competition from rice farmers means that pasture is no longer available, or only at a steep price. The film focuses on a community that must abandon their village in search of water - but can no longer depend on their ancestors' migration routes to guide them.

Meanwhile, in Dakar, Senegal, scientists download satellite images that indicate sources of water and pasture in the region. At Lockheed-Martin and NASA's Goddard Space Center, scientists explain the technology and the theory behind this ambitious program. However, Wolfgang Sachs, a prominent German environmentalist, is critical of this data-generated approach, seeing it as an extension of U.S. efforts to control the earth in the name of saving the environment.

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon poses important questions about knowledge and technology, autonomy and conformity, and the role of locality in an age of globalization. It asks whether it is possible to create a fusion between learning from experience and employing outside expertise as a means of managing the environment.

Crossroads, Bruce Conner
1976, 36:00, 16mm, b&w/so

Original music by Patrick Gleeson and Terry Riley.

"Conner bases his film on government footage of the first underwater A-bomb test, July 25, 1946, at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. Recorded at speeds ranging from normal to super slow motion, the same explosion is seen 27 different times - from the air, from boats and land-based cameras; distant and close-up. The opening segment emphasizes the awesome grandeur of the explosion - the destructiveness, as well as the dramatic spectacle and beauty. As the repetition builds, however, the explosion is gradually removed from the realm of historic phenomena, assuming the dimensions of a universal, cosmic force. And in the film's second section this force is brought into a kind of cosmic harmony, part of the lyrically indifferent ebb and flow of life that one sees in a lingering, elegaic view of the ocean." - Thomas Albright, San Francisco Chronicle

Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash
1992, 112:00

In the winter of 1992, nearly one hundred years after motion pictures were invented, the first nationally distributed feature by an African American woman was released in the United States. The film tells the story of an African American sea-island family preparing to come to the mainland at the turn of the century. In her richly textured, highly visual, lyrical portrayal of the day of the departure, Julie Dash evokes the details of a persisting African culture and the tensions between tradition and assimilation. Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Woman's Film, which includes Dash's complete screenplay, describes the story of her extraordinary sixteen-year struggle to complete the project.

Départ (Departure), Thomas Comerford
2000, 6:00, 16mm sound, color

In French w/English subtitles. The landscape of a railroad switchyard in a small Midwestern town and the relationship a French filmmaker has with the railroad. As an homage to Louis Lumiére's Arrivée and early cinema, the film feels nostalgia for the mechanical, intertwined institutions of railroad and cinema. Part of the "Cinema Obscura" series.

Deseret, James Benning
1995, 82:00, 16mm, b&w/color/so

"James Benning marks the centennial of Utah's statehood with his excellent experimental documentary, DESERET. As befits its structuralist maker, the film examines the imposition of human design, both physical and conceptual, on nature. A chain of beautiful, static shots frame details of Utah's landscapes, from windswept waters, to snowy pines, to immobile oil derricks and silent government buildings. Meanwhile, texts from the New York Times describing the state's social history, 1852 to the present, are read in voice over. Just as the terrain is contained within human constructs - Indian paints mark rocks, graffiti mark the Indian paintings, the graffiti are enclosed in the filmmaker's frame - the state's human inhabitants are circumscribed by the stringent codes of Brigham Young and his burgeoning Mormon sect - fascinatingly described in the Times pieces - and that group's resistance to outside control and interference. (DESERET was the people's original choice, rejected by Washington, for the state's name.) Benning imposes his own strictly defined filmic formula, and it's that intriguing complicity that gives DESERET the authority to transcend mere prettiness. ..." - Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, LA Weekly

(The) Devil Never Sleeps (EI Diablo Nunca Duerme), Lourdes Portillo
1994, 82:00

With The Devil Never Sleeps/EI Diablo Nunca Duerme, Lourdes Portillo continues her ground-breaking work, this time mining the complicated intersections of analysis and autobiography, evidence and hypothesis, even melodrama and police procedural. Her unorthodox means of exploring the subject here include the use of clips from television soap operas, 8mm home movies, archival footage, family photographs, and stylized visual reminiscences.

Early one Sunday morning in July, the filmmaker receives a phone call informing her that her beloved Tio (uncle) Oscar Ruiz Almeida has been found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in Chihuahua, Mexico. His widow has declared his death a suicide. Most of his family, however, cry murder and point to a number of possible suspects: his business partner, his ranch-hand, the widow herself.

In The Devil Never Sleeps, Portillo returns to the land of her birth to find out exactly who her uncle was and to investigate the circumstances of his death. She explores "irrational" as well as "logical" explanations, searching for clues on both sides of the border and in the history of her family. Old tales of betrayal, passion, lust and supernatural visitation emerge as we follow thefilmmaker deep into the life of a community in the homeland of PanchoVilla.

The Devil Never Sleeps exposes the loves and hatreds of a Mexican family convulsed by the death of one of its members. The emotions which Portillo captures in her particular blend of traditional and experimental techniques bring out the nuances of Mexican social and family order. Poetic, tragic, humorous and mythic, this film crosses the borders of personal values, cultural mores and the discipline of filmmaking itself.

Tio Oscar's death revives in Portillo the resonances of her early upbringing and ancestry; the film works both as an exciting "documystery" and as a lyrical account of a personal journey. It uncovers Portillo's feelings for Mexico as she invites the viewer to accompany her to a place beyond fact or fiction, where truth is stranger than any telenovela (Mexican soap opera) and where, as they say in Northern Mexico when evil is lurking, the devil never sleeps!

Drift, Chris Welsby
1995, 17:00, 16mm, color/so
Location: Vancouver, Canada

The overall feel of DRIFT is sombre and mysterious; a study of winter light falling on the surface of water, metal and cloud. The dominant colour is grey; grey infused with a multitude of ocean blues and greens. There is little land in this film and very few landmarks from which to navigate from one space to the next. The picture plane is in continuous motion like the ocean which, on the surface at lest, is the subject of DRIFT.

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, Errol Morris
1997, 82:00

"Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" may be Errol Morris' most unusual work yet. Morris himself calls it "the ultimate low-concept movie--a film that utterly resists the possibility of a one-line summary,"

The film interweaves the stories of four obsessive men, each driven to create eccentric worlds of their dreams, all involving animals: Dave Hoover, a lion tamer who idolizes the late Clyde Beatty, and who shares his theories on the mind of wild animals; George Mendonça, a topiary gardener who has devoted a lifetime to painstakingly shaping bears and giraffes out of hedges and trees; Ray Mendez, who is fascinated with hairless mole-rats, tiny buck-toothed mammals who behave like insects; and Rodney Brooks, an M.I.T. scientist who has designed complex, autonomous robots that can crawl like bugs without specific instructions from a human controller. As the film proceeds, thematic connections between the four protagonists begin to emerge. The lion tamer and the topiary gardener look back at ways of life which are slowly disappearing; the mole-rat specialist and the robot scientist eye the future, envisioning creatures that may someday replace the human race.

The film's style is as adventurous as its subject matter. Working with Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson ("Natural Born Killers," "Casino"), Morris utilizes numerous film formats and resolutions--including black & white, color, 35mm, l6mm, Super 8 and video, as well as stock footage, old movies and cartoons--to create a singularly impressionistic collage of images. Morris' trademark unblinking interviews were shot with his invention, the Interrotron, which allows his subjects to look directly into the camera lens and, at the same time, have eye contact (through an image projected on a teleprompter) with Morris. The film's unique vision is echoed by Caleb Sampson's haunting and powerful score.

Hilarious, sad, absurd, eerie and beautiful, "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" is a film like no other. Starting as a darkly funny contemplation of the Sisyphus-like nature of human striving, it ultimately becomes a profoundly moving meditation on the very nature of existence.

Fey Eyes Pin Holes Drums Hum, Thomas Comerford
1999, 14:00, 16mm sound, color

Supported, in part, by a University of Iowa Fine Arts Council Grant. This new cinema is created with a pinhole camera and found/homemade noise machines. The film examines landscapes and obsolescence. Part of the "Cinema Obscura" series.

"[the film's] diverse, soft-focus landscapes have a haunting and weirdly-distanced virtuality." --Fred Camper, Chicago Reader

Figures in the Landscape, Thomas Comerford
2002, 11:00, 16mm

This pinhole film examines the relationship of the human figure to the "new" suburban, monumental sprawl landscapes of Schaumburg, IL. Found texts provide local (yet generally North American) stories of both human interaction with the landscape and ideas of land development. Part of a series of films made with pinhole cameras and found/homemade noise machines. Supported, in part, by a Community Arts Assistance Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

(A) Final Season, Adam Matalon
2003, 53:00

A Final Season is a powerful examination of the tidal force of economic globalization. It is an intimate and touching portrait of Russell Holze, a veteran Hudson Valley Apple grower, and a disparate band of Jamaican laborers, who, for twenty years, have made the long trek north each year to tend apple orchards in the Hudson Valley.

The mutually beneficial bonds that these men share are under siege. This year, as the economics become untenable and the weather batters apple farmers across the Hudson Valley, Russell will retire and a wave of change will embrace Russell, the Jamaicans, and the entire Hudson Valley's apple industry. A Final Season captures the personal stories of these men, and investigates the continuing viability of the governments H-2A Temporary Immigrant Labor Program; providing us all with a powerful microcosm in the shifting sands of this new world economy.

Fixin' To Tell About Jack, Elizabeth Barret
1975, 25:00, Color

"And the man came up the next morning, expecting to bury Jack. And Jack was a-singing in there, and told him then it was six little black devils come out on him. He said, 'Over there they is in the sack.' And the man peeked in at them and said, 'Well, them scandals! With all the trouble they give me, I won't be satisfied until I see them beat up on a anvil.'...They told the blacksmith man that they wanted him to beat them up. And they said when he begin to beat them on the anvil, they's so many sparks flew out of it, it set the blacksmith shop afire and burned it down." -Ray Hicks telling "Whickety-Whack Into My Sack"

Ray Hicks is a mountain farmer from Beech Mountain, North Carolina, with a genius for telling traditional folktales that have been passed down in his family for generations. This film shows Ray working on his farm, gathering herbs in the woods, and describing his family's tradition of storytelling and his theories of human and natural continuity. Running throughout the film is Ray telling a tale called "Whickity-Whack, Into My Sack" (also known as "Soldier Jack"). The film provides a wonderful opportunity to experience the art of this National Heritage Award winner while also reminding us of the importance of passing things on, of tradition, of memory.

Fog Line, Larry Gottheim
1970, 11:00, 16mm, color/si

"It is a small but perfect film." - Jonas Mekas

"The metaphor in FOG LINE is so delicately positioned that I find myself receding in many directions to discover its source: The Raw and the Cooked? Analytic vs. Synthetic? Town & Country? Ridiculous and Sublime? One line is scarcely adequate to the bounty which hangs from fog & line conjoined." - Tony Conrad

"FOG LINE is a wonderful piece of conceptual art, a stroke along that careful line between wit and wisdom - a melody in which literally every frame is different from every preceding frame (since the fog is always lifting) and the various elements of the composition - trees, animals, vegetation, sky, and, quite importantly, the emulsion, the grain of the film itself - continue to play off one another as do notes in a musical composition. The quality of the light - the tonality of the image itself - adds immeasurably to the mystery and excitement as the work unfolds, the fog lifting, the film running through the gate, the composition static yet the frame itself fluid, dynamic, magnificently kinetic." - Raymond Foery

Four Corners, James Benning
1997, 80:00, 16mm, color/so

"Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking." These words, attributed to the Oglala Sioux medicine man Black Elk, are the final bit of text to appear in veteran filmmaker James Benning's FOUR CORNERS which uses a specific geographic location to pose larger questions about the United States. Here, the geographic and wholly imaginary place Four Corners, that favorite tourist destination where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, becomes a kind of theoretical ground zero, the site from which Benning can give voice to other, pointedly unofficial sort of spurious conspiracy (the history of the United States), but one in which each sound and each image hints at a story not yet fully told (the histories of the United States.)." - Manohla Dargis, LA Weekly

From the First People, Sarah Elder, Leonard Kamerling
1977, 45:00

This is a film about change and contemporary life in Shungnak, a village on the Kobuk River in northwestern Alaska, 75 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Life in this inland community is dominated by the seasons and the river. In October, when the film begins, the Kobuk becomes filled with ice, which slowly thickens until freeze-up is complete. Traditional subsistence activities still continue: women net fish under the ice, and a man and his wife construct a cottonwood mudshark trap that is carefully placed in the river ice. The combination of old and new technology is pervasive. Some people hitch their teams of huskies to a sled, others travel by snowmobile.

Old people reflect upon these changes. "In the old days," George Cleveland laughs, "you knew your good dogs would get you home. Today, if your snowmachine breaks down, you have to walk! On the other hand," he says, "most things these days are easier than in the past, when people had to be tough in order to survive. Today, you just plug in the bubbling coffee pot, pull the string for light, and turn the stove's knob when you are cold." Indeed, popcorn is cooking on the stove as children don masks for Halloween trick-or-treating.

The film reveals that life along the Kobuk River is still inextricably linked to the harsh and starkly beautiful land, where the December sun rises at 11 a.m. and sets three hours later. An old man shares his feelings about the changes he has seen: "Long ago, forest fires put themselves out. Today, even when men fight them, they burn. I think our earth is getting old, and when things get old and dry they burn. Our earth is the same way," he adds. "It's ready to burn. I think it's coming close to the time when we will have a new one."

American Film Festival Blue Ribbon, Finalist

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