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Star Spangled To Death, by Ken Jacobs

As it is almost a tradition, the CGAI welcomes –in its program Desencadres– the prelude of the Festival: a monumental film by a key avant-garde filmmaker. In 2017 it is Ken Jacobs (who visited us in 2015) with his Star Spangled to Death, a masterpiece built of own and found footage, which he began in 1956 and then left in 1960, and finished in digital in 2004.

The movie is a vast, ironic pageant of 20th-century American history and consciousness. Fantastic street theater alternates with classroom hygiene films or dated studies of behavioral modification; Jacobs’s performers, notably the young Jack Smith, hobnob with Mickey Mouse, Al Jolson, and American presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush. Obsession overflows as Jacobs’s private mythology and outspoken cultural criticism merge with relentless documentation of America’s ongoing military mobilization and institutionalized racism.
J. Hoberman

Star Spangled to Death is an epic film shot for hundreds of dollars! combining found-films with my own more-or-less staged filming, it pictures a stolen and dangerously sold-out America, allowing examples of popular culture to self-indict. Racial and religious insanity, monopolization of wealth and the purposeful dumbing down of citizens and addiction to war oppose a Beat playfulness.

A handful of artists costumed and performing unconvincingly appeal to audience imagination and understanding to complete the picture. Jack Smith’s pre-Flaming Creatures performance as The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (the movie has raggedly cosmic pretensions), celebrating Suffering (rattled impoverished artist Jerry Sims) at the crux of sentient existence, is a visitation of the divine.
Ken Jacobs

Acknowledgments: Ken y Flo Jacobs, Beli Martínez

Duration: 440 min. CGAI – 30/05. 17h. (part 1) and 20.45h. (part 2)


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