A double bill of early Oppenheimer films, both of which employ his trademark mix of documentary and fiction to produce evocative, unsettling portraits of contemporary America.
The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase
Oppenheimer’s 1998 film combines documentary, collage, and fiction to tell the story of a woman who thinks she’s had an immaculate conception and murders her infant in a microwave oven. This fictional story unfolds through documentary interviews with denizens of the apocalyptic fringes of American society: a self-proclaimed antichrist and his loving mother, a Christian fundamentalist UFOlogist, militia leaders, and the inventor of the microwave oven. The interviews locate a fictional story as an inevitable part of the American landscape – if it hasn’t happened, it should have. Gradually, the film leaves interview behind to transform Mary Anne Ward’s extraordinary case into a sweeping and schizophrenic history of the American west, an archeology of America’s home-grown and starry eyed sense of omnipotence, and a diary of one woman’s attempt to find meaning and history amid the nuclear age’s apocalyptic amnesia.
“a monstrous yet beautiful portrait of America at the end of the millennium. With unflinching originality, the film meditates humorously on faith, myth, scapegoats, the idea of the alien, the end of the world, and the beginnings of redemption… Oppenheimer suggests that we may look to cinema to understand the dark secrets at the heart of the American dream.’” Dusan Makavejev, Director of WR: Mysteries of the Organism
Joshua Oppenheimer, USA, 1998, 56 minutes
These Places We’ve Learned to Call Home
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.
Joshua Oppenheimer, USA, 1996, 30 min
Share your comments @arnolfiniarts #ArnolfiniFilm