O’er the Land
US, 2009, 16mm transferred to digital video, color, 52 min.
An audiovisual tapestry woven with eccentric, ominous threads, Stratman’s documentary experiment is a mesmerizing slice of paradoxical Americana. Without comment, she depicts a country fascinated by the reenactment, spectacle and simulation of the defense of the freedom, including border patrol trackers, a machine gun festival in the middle of the woods, a tour of luxury Winnebagos, fire-fighting drills and a high school football game with its requisite, interchangeable rituals. This often-explosive urge to fight and protect lands both physical and ideological, culminates in the film’s unforgettable centerpiece. Colonel William Rankin’s harrowing description of a two-hour fall from a fighter jet through a thunderstorm in 1959 swirls together these tangled dreams of heroism and technological control, fueled by an awestruck fear of the unyielding, unbound forces of nature. – BG
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Orienting and un-orienting his viewers to the Bering Sea’s remote Saint Paul Island, Hopinka is aided by an Unangam Tunuu elder who—in what sounds like a linguistic reclamation—describes a richness and diversity of the flora and fauna that is echoed in the drifts and detours of the native language as well as by the filmmaker’s multivalent approach to wandering through an often-colonized land, from dark, playful spaces to otherworldly green places, somewhat resembling an eternal Spring. – BG