Energy and the American Landscape

Stratman, Deborah - Energy Country (USA, 2003).mp4 2017-04-26 17-12-35

Grant Fryc

As humans, we rely on the land we live on. Though we might not always respect it or take care of it the way we should, it is the most important thing…ever. The landscape of a given area and the way it is treated can tell you a lot about the people who live in that area. The underlying theme of this week’s films, with the exception of Ito Takashi’s Spacey (1981) is the American landscape and the relationship between the land and its occupants.

Deborah Stratman comments quite directly on this relationship in her film Energy Country (2003). Energy Country paints a harsh portrait of southeastern Texas and the oil industry that resides there. As the oil industry and American nationalism often go hand & hand, Stratman critiques US involvement in the middle east using a combination of both documentary and experimental film techniques. Visually, the film has the cues of the typical avant garde film in the way that the shots are composed and strung together; sonically, Energy Country takes a more  experimental approach than a typical documentary in some instances Stratman layers several audio tracks upon one another to create a chaotic effect. Clips of oil refineries and energy production facilities are layered on top of each other interspersed with clips of bombs dropping while found audio clips from christian radio play in the background. The voices playing over the fiery imagery speak of god and how he loves america. They speak of Islam and how threatening the religion is to the American way of life, mentioning that for the president to say that Islam is a peaceful religion is to “jeopardize all of the free world and America.” All the while Stratman is  showing us American bombs being dropped on a landscape below. Energy Country raises questions about  the ethicacy of the oil industry and the landscapes it affects. Internationally, the destruction caused by the American pursuit of foreign oil is disgusting. Domestically, though the destruction isn’t caused by the dropping of bombs, the effects of the polluting of American landscape by the oil industry are nauseating. This film focuses mainly on the domestic side of the industry and its effects on the landscape of Texas, but Stratman doesn’t shy away from the international issues surrounding energy.

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The Influence of Time in Architectural Spaces

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Claire Bentley

It is simple enough to begin with the fact that all films have some sort of setting. Whether avant-garde or not, films take the viewers somewhere. It might be just one place; a classroom, a wall, or a high school gym. It might be of many places; a hundred different areas of a metropolis, the path of a freight train or an array of factory buildings. Where and how the filmmakers choose to take us is just as important as other components of filmmaking – storyline or lack thereof, background/context and subjects. In four different films made in a period extending from the 1960s to early 2000s, Go, Go, Go! (1964) by Marie Menkin, Spacy (1981) by Ito Takashi, Energy Country (2003) by Deborah Stratman, and Castro Street (1966) by Bruce Baillie, filmmakers tamper with different methods of effect to change our perspective on setting and architectural space, as well as elicit the importance of place in avant-garde film.

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