The town of Allensworth, California, was founded in 1908. Established, run, and entirely financed by African Americans, including Allen Allensworth, a former slave who became a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Army, the community was thriving at the turn of the 20th century and would be home to the state’s first Black school district. Decades later, due to environmental factors and economic downturn, the town was all but abandoned, later to be reconstructed. In his new film, James Benning uses his structuralist approach to landscape to etch an evocative portrait of the town. In 12 static compositions of approximately five minutes, one for each month of the year, Benning trains the camera on different areas and aspects of Allensworth, mostly outdoor shots of restored houses and buildings set against desolate backdrops. With a judicious use of sound and occasional music, the haunting ALLENSWORTH marries the formal precision of so many of Benning’s landmark works to a specific sociopolitical American history.
Air Force Two
Kevin Jerome Everson, 2023, U.S., 5m
Kevin Jerome Everson’s unique observational gaze collapses Hollywood histrionics and American carceral history into one frame, as a Moscow prison break scene from Andrew Marlowe’s original screenplay for Air Force One—read in affectless voiceover on the film’s soundtrack—is offset by handheld footage taken in the Ohio State Reformatory, where the scene was filmed.
Boyd v. Denton
Kevin Jerome Everson, 2023, U.S., 3m
Titled after the United States Federal Court decree that forced the closure of the infamously overcrowded Ohio State Reformatory, Everson’s film is a radical transformation of the prison and popular filming location, at once abstracting its interiors into monochrome patterns and textures, and reanimating the ghostly traces of its real and fictive former inhabitants.
All NYFF61 feature documentaries are presented by:
NYFF61 Currents features are sponsored by:
Recommended Film Comment reading:
- The Film Comment Podcast: ALLENSWORTH (Berlinale 2023)
- Interview: James Benning on The United States of America (2022)
- The Film Comment Podcast: Erika Balsom on James Benning’s Ten Skies
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