LA: The Trials of American Liberalism - Two award-winning docs at Filmforum

From: Adam Hyman (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Sep 17 2009 - 09:49:22 PDT

Sunday September 20, 2009, 7:30 pm

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
The Trials of American Liberalism:
Profit motive and the whispering wind by John Gianvito and
American/Sandinista by Jason Blalock
Los Angeles premieres! Jason Blalock in person!
At the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. at Las Palmas, Los Angeles

Tonight we feature two tributes to the efforts of American progressives
past, using two very different approaches to non-fiction film, both
compelling and insightful.

American/Sandinista by Jason Blalock (2008, 30 min, video)
In the 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, a bloody civil war between the
socialist-influenced Sandinistas and U.S.- backed Contras ravaged Nicaragua.
Despite the danger, thousands of Americans disobeyed White House warnings
and descended upon the Central American nation, determined to lend their
skills and labor to the revolutionary Sandinista cause.

Using an eclectic mixture of rare archival footage, arresting still
photography, and contemporary interviews, American/Sandinista tells the
story of a small group of controversial U.S. engineers who went further than
anyone expected, and paid the ultimate price.

Nominee, Pare Lorentz Award, IDA 2007 Portland International Film Festival
2008 Nevada City Film Fest 2008 (Audience Award Best Short Film) and

Jason Blalock (director/editor) works as a cinematographer, producer, and
director on a variety of documentary and multimedia projects. Previously he
served as Associate Producer on the feature documentary My Flesh and Blood,
which won the Audience Award at Sundance and aired on HBO in 2003. He is the
director of previous short docs Oakland Raider Parking Lot (2005), Spangled
(2002), and High Rocks (1999), distributed by Peripheral Produce. Most
recently he can be seen as a reporter on the PBS series Wired Science. In
2007, he completed the documentary filmmaking program at the U.C. Berkeley
Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Oakland, CA.

Profit motive and the whispering wind by John Gianvito (2008, 58 min, 16mm
to video)
A visual meditation on the progressive history of the United States as seen
through cemeteries, historic plaques and markers. Inspired by Howard Zinn's
"A People's History of the United States".
Winner of Best Experimental Film of the Year from the National Society of
Film Critics (2008)

"In just under one hour, Profit Motive takes us on a tour of the United
States via its cemeteries, minor monuments, and out-of-the-way historical
markers. There is no voiceover narration, virtually no explanatory on-screen
text, and very little camera movement. Instead, Gianvito has created an
unconventional landscape film, one that recalls the strategies of certain
avant-gardists (James Benning in particular, and perhaps Peter Hutton to a
somewhat lesser degree) while at the same time delivering a bracingly unique
experience, one that leaves viewers awestruck by its rigorous simplicity.
Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that we and the film are
tracing a chronological path through the American Left, paying near-silent
homage to our comrades, those who fell in battle (slain by police or
Pinkertons during strikes; felled by assassins) or those whose lives had
simply run their natural course. Inspired by Howard Zinn's magisterial
People's History of the United States, Gianvito's leftist vision is
righteously ecumenical, encompassing Eugene V. Debs and Frank Little,
Sojourner Truth and Malcolm X, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Cesar Chavez, and
many, many others whom mainstream historical accounts have buried far more
comprehensively than their undertakers. In addition to forging a radical
remapping of the American terrain, Gianvito's film provides its audience
with the rare opportunity to pay our respects by proxy."
-- Michael Sicinski in Cinema Scope,
Full review and interview with Gianvito at

"I found myself re-reading stretches of Howard Zinn's A People's History of
the United States, re-encountering some measure of what is admirable in this
country's past, the words and deeds of so many, known and unknown, who
contributed to the historical struggle for a more just and egalitarian
society. In time the idea took root to want to pay homage to this history,
as well as to this book which continues to mean so much to so many of us,
and by so doing, the hope was to draw sustenance from the sacrifices and
efforts of those who came before us. Profit motive and the whispering wind
was intended as a small poem to this progressive past." John Gianvito, in
the same Cinema Scope interview

John Gianvito is a filmmaker, curator, and critic. His films include the
feature films The Flower of Pain, Address Unknown, and The Mad Songs of
Fernanda Hussein, winner of multiple awards including being cited as one of
the top ten films of the year by critics in The Chicago Reader, The Boston
Phoenix, and Film Comment magazine. He has taught film production and film
history at the University of Massachusetts/Boston, Rhode Island School of
Design, and Boston University, and was film curator for 5 years at the
Harvard Film Archive. In 2001 he was made a Chevalier in the Order of Arts
and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. Gianvito is the editor of the
book, Andrei Tarkovsky: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and a
Professor in Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College, Boston.

A.O. Scott's review in the NY Times:
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Coming soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:

Sept 27 - Los Angeles Filmforum, Cinefamily, Part Time Punks, and the San
Francisco Cinematheque present ere erera baleibu icik subua aruaren (1970,
75 min., 35mm) dir. Jose Antonio Sistiaga with a new score composed and
performed by Savage Republic. At Cinefamily, 7:00 pm
Oct. 4 - Bodies, Objects, Films: An Yvonne Rainer Retrospective (part 1 of
Yvonne Rainer in person! At the Egyptian Theater
Oct 11 Ann Arbor Film Festival Touring program 1, at the Echo Park Film
Oct 17 Azazel Jacobs & Ken Jacobs in person with The GoodTimes Kid and The
Whirled at the Egyptian Theater
Oct 18 Ken Jacobs in person with Anaglyph Tom at the Egyptian Theater

**For full and up-to-date information, please visit our website at or email us at email suppressed
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***For a complete listing of alternative films in Los Angeles, check

This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board
of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the
Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles.

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