Over the course of three summers, John Gianvito crisscrossed the country, filming the monuments to and overgrown gravesites of the mainstreamed and marginalized American revolution making up the roster of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. In Profit motive and the whispering wind, that footage is edited into roughly chronological order — the ghosts of Indian chiefs and union martyrs and socialist activists and crusading writers and civil rights and suffrage leaders and antiwar protestors, the forgotten alongside the textbooked — and interspersed with footage of the wind shaking trees, fields and untamed undergrowth. It’s an invocation of our radical past, a call to arms in an Emersonian spirit of possibility.
It plays at Anthology Film Archives today through next week; you should see it. Completely predictably, I wish it was longer and more boring — it’s most effective when, like James Benning’s landscape films (to which it’s very obviously indebted), it lingers on a spot, and you as a viewer can let your mind amble through whatever associations are sparked in your head by the monument and person (or natural vista) (or both) under consideration. But it’s a gorgeous, rousing movie. (For more on it, the L’s Benjamin Strong wrote about the movie prior to its screenings at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and interviewed Gianvito for thefanzine.com.)