Tagged: William E. Jones

The Cold War Revisited in Two Compilation Films

Light Industry screened two compilation films last week. It had been a long time since I had gone to a screening there, despite that it is a five-minute bike ride from my home in Long Island City. But as the couch surfing tour brings me to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I am now only a few hundred feet away from Light Industry’s space on Freeman Street. I really had no excuse to miss this screening.

The first one, The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography, was a video that I saw for the first time on Tuesday. It was more tame than I had expected. It consisted almost entirely of screen tests, where an off-screen producer, apparently from the West, asks the hopeful actors probing questions about their sexual behavior and preferences. The men all nervously respond but understand that they are doing this for a job and submit to his inquisition. The filmmaker posits this was a reflection of Eastern Europe’s subjugation after decades of Soviet rule. But looking at it today, given the recent resurgence of Russia against the West in the Ukraine, I wonder if the off-screen producer from the West represented just another dominating presence behind the former “iron curtain.” Did one new master simply replace the old one?

The second film, Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99, a film I had not seen since an Experimental Film class I took as an undergraduate student at UCSB in 1998, turned out to be another artifact of the Cold War. Unleashed in 1991, Baldwin’s film stitched together footage from an treasure trove of films in his personal archive. Having not seen the film in a very long time, I had not remembered all the references to American activities in Latin America during the Cold War, at the behest of aliens who controlled everything deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The film mentioned all the major milestones of US interfering in Latin American sovereignty: the overthrow of Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion against Fidel Castro, the assassination of Che Guevara, the overthrow of Salvador Allende and the rise of Augosto Pinochet in Chile, and the cozy relationship between the CIA and Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Looking back at it now, I might want to incorporate this film as a preface to my work on US television and Latin American in the Cold War.

While the two films were likely selected for their appropriation of existing footage to create a political work, it was productive to reflect on the Cold War again. Men and women of a certain age can appreciate how we were consumed by the Cold War, only to forget about it twenty years later with the “end of history” and that whole “war on terror” thing. But, lest we forget that “history repeating itself” axiom, the Cold War always has a chance of making a comeback.

Light Industry Screens Two Compilation Films

Rose Hobart (1936) was a seminal compilation film demonstrating the capability to create a new work from an existing film.

Rose Hobart (1936) was a seminal compilation film demonstrating the capability to create a new work from an existing film.

The other day, I ran out of time to screen Rose Hobart (1936) in my Experimental Film class. As an early example of a compilation film, Joseph Cornell made this film using footage appropriated from a Hollywood B-Movie, East of Borneo (1931), to create a new work that featured only the actress Rose Hobart. He also tinted the image blue, but then screened in the 1960s with a rose tint. A version available on Treasures from American Film Archives is set to a couple of Brazilian musical recordings.1

Usually, when I run out of time to screen things, I direct students to watch it online. But, instead, I am going to screen Rose Hobart in class today. Screening it will serve as an introduction to other compilation filmmakers, which we will screen later in the semester, such as Bruce Conner, but also for an upcoming screening at Light Industry.

Light Industry in Brooklyn will be screening two compilation films from the 1990s on Tuesday, September 30. The first one, The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (1998), by William E. Jones, recomposes Eastern European gay pornographic videos to locate how, according to the program notes, the fall of the Soviet bloc came not from the “seduction” for a Western life but to escape the “coercion” of the State. The second is Tribulation 99 (1991), a film by Craig Baldwin, appropriates a variety of footage to make 99 paranoid diatribes about America being invaded by aliens. When I first saw this film back in the late 1990s, all I could think was how much this seemed like The X Files, a popular TV series of the time, with an absolutely certifiable narrator.


  • Tuesday, September 30
  • 7:00 PM
  • Light Industry, 155 Freeman St, Brooklyn
  • 7.00

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  1. Catherine Corman, “Surrealist Astronomy in the South Pacific: Joseph Cornell and the Collaged Eclipse,” http://www.eastofborneo.org/articles/surrealist-astronomy-in-the-south-pacific-joseph-cornell-and-the-collaged-eclipse