Edit, one week later:
I unexpectedly got to see this again, in the theater in Nashville when Phantom Love was postponed. The festival guy described it as an “experimental documentary”, and that got most of the packed theater to walk out right there. A few more left immediately after the subtitled berry-mashing chant that opens the picture, and more shuffled out gradually until around the 1920’s there was only me and the two other people who stayed till the end. Movie makes me extremely happy, glad I saw it again. Was on video, though, so not real different from my home viewing, only larger.
I was nervous about this one, and wouldn’t have rushed to watch it if not for the Hidden in Plain Sight connection. On one hand, it made top-ten lists last year and was featured on the front cover of Cinema Scope, a magazine that hardly ever steers me wrong. On the other hand, it’s an hour-long narration-less tour of gravesites, which sounds less than exciting.
Cinema Scope was right. A moving, beautiful film which I now want to show to everybody I know. Peaceful and contemplative, with shots of trees and fields to break up the reading of gravestones and historial markers. The graves include people I know of (Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Emma Goldman, Paul Robeson), people I SHOULD know but don’t know very well (Mother Jones, Sacco & Vanzetti), people whose social relevance is explained by the text on the markers (the founder of the first all-female labor union) and people and events I was inspired to look up on wikipedia (Philip Berrigan: a pioneering Vietnam War protester, Lucretia Mott: women’s rights advocate in the 1800’s, The Ludlow Massacre, when the Colorado National Guard murdered the children of striking mine workers in 1914).
Felt good to watch, moving and energizing, not morbid despite the cemetery locales and mentions of massacres and executions. Shows these past people & events, triumphs and defeats, from today’s perspective, mostly a natural perspective with no living humans in the shot, but sometimes an Exxon will be seen across the street from a cemetery, cars will be whizzing by a historical sign, a marker will be located in the parking lot of a PetCo (!). Closes with some recent protest footage with lively editing. The struggle continues.
CScope: “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.”
JG: After September 11, 2001, “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 pay homage to this significant 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 to be a small poem to this progessive past.”