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June 27 - 30

Emile de Antonio’s America

Emile de Antonio (1919-1989) was a preeminent force in independent film and political documentary. The ten documentaries he made between 1963 and 1989 dissect the power structures governing Cold War America, critiquing the power elite and lionizing dissenters. A gifted raconteur, de Antonio socialized with both groups while remaining a fierce leftist intellectual. A self-described "radical scavenger," he reinvigorated the art of compilation documentary, building critical or subversive arguments out of archival footage. Choosing a bohemian life in New York, de Antonio also became an animateur for a significant cast of artists that included Cage, Rauschenberg, and Warhol. In 1959, inspired by Alfred Leslie and Robert Frank's Pull My Daisy, he joined the group of New Yorkers whose 1960 manifesto called for a "New American Cinema" that would make films "the color of blood."

The success of de Antonio's debut film, Point of Order (1963), transformed him, at mid-life, into a fulltime filmmaker. For each project, he cobbled together funding, film stock, footage and young talent. Rush To Judgment (1966) was an early rebuttal of the Warren Report, In The Year of The Pig (1968) was the first major anti-war film about Vietnam, and his satirical attack on Richard Milhous Nixon, Millhouse: A White Comedy (1971), brought de Antonio heightened political scrutiny. The government surveillance that had followed him from his youth came to a head in 1975 when de Antonio filmed interviews with the incendiary Weather Underground, whose members the FBI could not find. In an era dominated by cinema vérité conceptions of documentary filmmaking, de Antonio insisted on perpetual experimentation. In a time of liberal convention, he stuck to his maverick Marxism. Before there was a vogue for "independent film," Emile de Antonio was simply independent-making challenging work and getting it theatrical distribution.

All notes and descriptions are adapted from Anthology Film Archives program notes, written by Dan Streible, co-editor of Emile de Antonio: A Reader. Special thanks to Andrew Lampert and Jed Rapvogel (Anthology Film Archives).

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Friday June 27 at 7pm

In the Year of the Pig

Directed by Emile de Antonio.
US 1968, 35mm, b/w, 103 min.

Regarded as Emile de Antonio's best – and most politically effective – work, In the Year of the Pig was also at the vanguard of American documentaries arguing unequivocally against U.S. policy in Vietnam. The provocatively titled documentary is as much a cool, intellectual work of cinematic art as it is a hot piece of agit-prop. In making a film that conveyed the historical background of the war in Vietnam while also compelling people to turn against American military involvement, de Antonio brought together massive film documentation and daring cinematic form. Pauline Kael's review brought de Antonio public attention. "Taking footage from all over," she wrote, "he has made a strong film that does what American television has failed to do." Preservation print from UCLA Film and Television Archive.

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Friday June 27 at 9:30pm

Rush to Judgment

Directed by Emile de Antonio
US 1966, 16mm, b/w, 98 min.

Made with attorney Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment was a seminal entry in the burgeoning field of JFK assassination documentaries. Most striking today is the film's understatement, its lack of paranoia or hysterical speculation; it offers no theory about who killed JFK, but punches holes in the 1964 Warren Report. For the movie's press kit, de Antonio wrote: "In documentary film content is all. Further, documentary is anti-camp. Susan Sontag, pace. Rush to Judgment is like 'art brut.' The camera simply records what's there. Angles, tricks, staging, effects would have been self-defeating as well as unneeded. Content carries itself: it is quite simply a brief for the defense which becomes an attack on tin gods and power structures." He later added, "Film, tape, the camera, the recorder and the moviola on which film is edited are neutral – when not in use. They are neutral like a gun."

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Saturday June 28 at 7pm

Point of Order

Directed by Emile de Antonio.
US 1963, 16mm, b/w, 97 min.

After its successful debut at the first New York Film Festival, Point
of Order!
got a distribution deal (and an exclamation point). Rookie director de Antonio and his producer obtained from CBS 188 hours of kinescopes showing the 1954 Army-McCarthy senate hearings, and then spent three years culling the footage down to 97 minutes. A too-conventional cut narrated by Mike Wallace was junked; de Antonio supervised the innovative final version, edited by young neophyte Robert Duncan in his East Village apartment. Best known for its shunning of voice-over narration, the film actually begins with a minute of nothing but a narrator's voice (de Antonio himself), which explains, "Everything you are about to see actually happened…"

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Saturday June 28 at 9pm

America is Hard to See

Directed by Emile de Antonio.
US 1970, 16mm, b/w, 90 min.

This is perhaps de Antonio's hardest to see film. The filmmaker's notes for a 1974 BFI retrospective read: "The 1968 campaign for Democratic presidential nomination seen from the POV of liberals and Eugene McCarthy. Failure of liberal, peace politics and why. Detailed material from New Hampshire and Wisconsin primaries which brought down LBJ. The intellectual in politics, Senator Eugene McCarthy. Chicago 1968 seen from inside Convention Hall rather than the streets." He told Jonas Mekas, who interviewed him during the editing, that the "assumption of the film" was that McCarthy "was the last best hope of working within the system in a national election."

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Writer Teri Tynes In Person
Sunday June 29 at 3pm

Painters Painting

Directed by Emile de Antonio.
With Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hoffman
US 1972, 16mm, color, 116 min.

Before he became a filmmaker at age 43, Emile de Antonio had already made a significant contribution to modern art, promoting the careers of Warhol, Stella, Johns and others before they were well known. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition "New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970" opened, the curator gave de Antonio exclusive access to the canvases. Working with cinematographer Ed Emshwiller brought a pictorial sophistication new to de Antonio's work. Together they profiled thirteen painters, interviewing them at length, observing them at work in their studios. At times as compelling as the artists are the art dealer Leo Castelli, collectors Robert and Ethel Scull, critic Clement Greenberg and others who shaped the environment of the post-WWII art world.

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Scholar Dan Streible In Person
Sunday June 29 at 7pm

Underground

Directed by Emile de Antonio, Mary Lampson, Haskell Wexler.
US 1976, 16mm, color, 87 min

On May Day, 1975, three filmmakers recorded interviews with Weatherpeople Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Kathy Boudin, Jeff Jones, and Cathy Wilkerson at a “safe house” near Los Angeles. The film they completed a year later was much more than long sequences of talking heads, intercutting a well-scavenged collection of footage that was not 'archival' so much as it was a compendium of leftist documentaries from that moment in history. With excerpts from works by Chris Marker, Third World Newsreel, Jane Fonda's Indochina Peace Campaign, and others, Underground now serves as a double-barreled time capsule. We see deep into the interior of the Weather Underground and broadly sample the texture of documentaries of dissent.

audio from evening Listen to this evening's introduction and Q&A.

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Sunday June 29 at 9pm

Millhouse: a White Comedy

Directed by Emile de Antonio.
US 1971, 16mm, b/w, 92 min.

Largely comedic, and a not entirely unsympathetic characterization, de Antonio's portrait of Richard Milhous Nixon was a surprising departure from his previous work. As the film satirizes Nixon's manipulative side, it also reveals a resourceful Horatio Alger figure, a "poor boy from the lower middle classes with burning desire and energy" (de Antonio). Millhouse is also a continuation of de Antonio's work in compilation documentary. Just before the '68 election, de Antonio sought, in vain, for a print of Nixon's 1952 telecast "Checkers Speech," which he wanted screened in theaters, to remind viewers about the "old Nixon." Two years later, an anonymous delivery of hundreds of cans of news film – including a complete kinescope of the 1952 broadcast – became the core material for Millhouse.

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Monday June 30 at 7pm

In the King of Prussia

Directed by Emile de Antonio.
US 1992, 16mm, color, 92 min.

In 1980, Father Daniel Berrigan led a group of radical, pacifist Catholics – the Plowshares 8 – in a symbolic defilement of nuclear bomb parts, then manufactured in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Decidedly not a theatrical film, this is de Antonio's most problematic work for critics and audiences. Shot mostly on videotape, it mixes documentary footage of protests, interviews, and a self-consciously staged reenactment of the trial at which the Plowshares 8 were convicted. An attempt to rejuvenate film form by undoing the stultifying conventions of commercial film and television, In the King of Prussia is meant to be both an exploration of new cinematic strategies and an organizing tool for the nuclear freeze movement and radical peace activists.

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Monday June 30 at 9pm

Mr. Hoover and I

Directed by Emile de Antonio.
US 1989, 16mm, color, 90 min.

This autobiographical swansong (released only months before his death) captures de Antonio's political voice via a personal profile, and simultaneously assaults the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover, who compiled a 10,000-page FBI dossier on the filmmaker. Gone are his predilections for archival compilation, interviews with powerbrokers, and the emphasis on montage. Instead the film is constructed largely from simple pieces of direct cinema that alternate with De Antonio's direct address to the camera as he reflects on his life and its curious entangling with Hoover's pathological police state. Mr. Hoover and I, he wrote in 1989, "is made of poor means but it is ambitious, more ambitious than Batman."

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