Previously at the ICA - Films
14 Jul 2013
To mark the release of Joshua Oppenheimer’s acclaimed new documentary The Act of Killing, we're screening a double bill of two of his earlier films.
The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase
USA, 1998, 56 minutes
The story begins: A resident of Hope-on-the-Prairie, New Mexico, Mary Anne Ward, is immaculately impregnated and gives birth to the messiah; then her baby is substituted for a female Antichrist named Lucy, after Lucifer. Alien seduction, governmental conspiracies, apocalyptic prophecies: Oppenheimer's The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase is a crazed travelogue of the rapturous landscape of American quirks and obsessions. Using interviews, B-movie clips, educational films, and dramatic stagings, the film shows us the dizzy remains of the Last Frontier, now populated by militia members, UFOlogists, self-proclaimed Antichrists, and general spooks. It's like a Main Street parade in Area 51.
So what's Oppenheimer getting at? This self-described 'fictional documentary' is really about the transformative power of fantasy. Though The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase may not (or may) be 'true', it is certainly enacted within our collective fantasy. Along with the factual, history becomes a record of our cultural imagination. Mary Anne Ward's story, then, is our story in the light of American weirdness
Winner of a Gold Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival 1998
These Places We've Learned to Call Home
USA, 1996, 30 min
Oppenheimer slips into the militia groups of the American heartland passing himself off as an alien abductee. By infiltrating militia groups and telling the story of a fellow UFO passenger who was impregnated by the aliens, Oppenheimer immediately gained the trust of the militia members. They figured that 'no one from the federal government would infiltrate as an alien abductee'. The film juxtaposes images of chaos, destruction and cruelty with snippets of conversations with members of militias and white supremacist groups, plus sequences of performance art, to create an evocative, unsettling work of contemporary Americana.
Winner of the Gold Spire Award, San Francisco Film Festival, 1997
Please note that all films are 18+ unless otherwise stated