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.
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:
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. http://www.american-sandinista.com/
Nominee, Pare Lorentz Award, IDA 2007 • Portland International Film Festival 2008 • Nevada City Film Fest 2008 (Audience Award – Best Short Film) and more
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.