2016, 60 min, 16mm or DCP
A suite of Midwestern parables that question the historical role belief has played in ideology and national identity.
An experimental documentary comprised of regional vignettes about faith, force, technology and exodus.
Eleven parables relay histories of settlement, removal, technological breakthrough, violence, messianism and resistance, all occurring somewhere in the state of Illinois. The state is a convenient structural ruse, allowing its histories to become allegories that explore how we’re shaped by conviction and ideology.
The film suggests links between technological and religious abstraction, placing them in conversation with governance. Locations are those where the boundaries between the rational and supernatural are tenuous. They are “thin places” where the distance between heaven and earth has collapsed, or more secularly, any place that bears a heavy past, where desire and displacement have lead us into or erased us from the land. What began as a consideration of religious freedom eventually led to sites where belief or invention triggered expulsion. The film utilizes reenactment, archival footage, observational shooting, inter-titles and voiceover to tell its stories and is an extension of previous works in which the director questioned foundational American tenants.
The Parables consider what might constitute a liturgical form. Not a sermon, but a form that questions what morality catalyzes, and what belief might teach us about nationhood. In our desire to explain the unknown, who or what do we end up blaming or endorsing?
World Premiere: Sundance, January 2016
European Premiere: Berlinale, February 2016
Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video Prize – 42nd LA Film Critics Association Awards
The Stan Brakhage award at the 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival
Special Mention at the l'Alternativa Festival de Cinema Independent de Barcelona
Prix d’Aide a la Distribution Ciné + Award – EntreVues Belfort International Film Festival
Second Prize, Best International Documentary – Filmmaker Festival, Milan
IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
Ravenwolf – Raven Wolf C. Felton Jennings II
Jacques Marquette – José Oubrerie
Alexis de Tocqueville – Daniel Verdier
Ralph Waldo Emerson – David Gatten
Enrico Fermi – Joshua Frieman
Wanet McNeill – Anna Toborg
Tornado Eyewitnesses: Pauline Gardner, Bob Hill, Mary Holder, Minnie Rieckenberg, Dolly Schwebel, Raymond Schwebel, Mark Wells, Josie Taylor Wells
Hanrahan’s Raiders: Chris Bournea, Riley Cruttenden, Joshua Finnell, Paul Hill, Peter Morgan, Blake Turner, Adrian Waggoner
Okkyung Lee, Olivia Block, Jeanne Demessieux, Arvo Pärt, Les Porte-Mentaux, Lunenberg Travelers, Hauschka, György Kurtág, Gurdjieff & DeHartmann, Alfred Schnittke, Barry Adamson, JS Bach
List of parable locations & dates:
I Cahokia, IL 600-1400 CE
II Alton, IL 1673
III Golconda, IL- Jonesboro, IL 1838-1839
IV Nauvoo, IL 1839-1848
V Icaria/Nauvoo, IL 1849-1860
VI Gorham, IL - Crossville, IL 1925
VII Chicago, IL 1942
VIII Joliet, IL 1940-1976
IX Macomb, IL 1948
X Chicago, IL 1969
XI Buffalo Rock, IL 1985
Director, Producer, Screenplay, Camera, Edit, Sound Design: Deborah Stratman
Sound Mix: Jacob Ross
Sound Recordists: Steve Badgett, Melinda Fries, Edgar Jorge, Jennifer Lange, Chris Salveter, Deborah Stratman
Intertitles: Edgar Jorge
REVIEWS - Click on the link for the full review.
"...a glorious monument to all those cast by the wayside."
- James Lattimer, Slant Magazine, 2016
"...conveys a unique and precious kind of knowledge."
- A.O. Scott, New York Times, 2016
"...does nothing by the numbers, constantly redefining its approach."
- Nick Pinkerton, Film Comment, 2016
"...at once an experimental documentary, a work of historical excavation and an insistently moral ideological critique."
- Manohla Dargis, New York Times, 2016
"Here, histories are no longer reduced to placards or lines on maps, but are active, collective, and, in a word, hopeful."
- Brittany Stigler, Screen Slate, 2016
"...one of the most striking examples of documentary filmmaking you're likely to see anywhere this year."
- Kieron Korless, BFI, 2016
"...a beautiful ghost of a film"
- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, 2016
"... accelerates through fourteen centuries with maximalist abandon."
- Michael Pattison, rogerebert.com, 2016
"Stratman, like [William] Vollmann, gives us each moment as a vision of how a place, how a person might have been, and what that possibility can mean to us now as we glacially awaken from our long nightmares into an incandescent present."
- Kian Bergstrom, Cine-File Blog, 2016
"The seduction comes from the rigorous composition of the shots and from a strategy – not unlike that of Eastern Asian scroll painting – that allows the spectator to project him/herself in the “empty spaces” of the shot."
- Bérénice Reynaud, senses of cinema, 2016
"...an essay, where the various threads and motifs gain meaning from being placed next to one another."
- Alissa Wilkinson, christianitytoday.com, 2016
"...the ugly reality of human nature, the power of faith and the danger of human ingenuity are all examined through a masterful presentation of both archival footage and audio recordings."
- Robbie Shutt, Vox Magazine, 2016
"The movie is fascinating because whatever interpretation you give the parables,
the film takes you to interesting places in unusual ways, making it a pleasure to develop your own elucidation."
- William L. Blizek, Journal of Religion & Film, 2016 (pdf)
"...a work of progressive convictions"
- Vadim Rizov, filmmakermagazine.com, 2016
"Con l'avanzare dei capitoli il film muta, si scioglie e trova una sedimentazione sempre più potente. (With the advance of the chapters the film changes, melts and is an increasingly powerful sedimentation.)"
- Erik Negro, cine lapsus, 2016 (Italian)
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