Apr 7, 2022 at 7:30 pm
The American Sector
With Courtney Stephens & Pacho Velez
We are thrilled to bring you a super special screening of THE AMERICAN SECTOR by Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez! A homecoming of sorts, after Velez and Stephens were awarded the UnionDocs Editing Residency where they workshopped this film in 2019.
Traveling widely to document the many fragments of the Berlin Wall on display in different parts of the United States, the film is punctuated by interviews with people who have unique relationships to these historical remnants. The filmic collection of these fragments as well peoples’ diverse projections of meaning onto them offer singular insights into the roots of nationalism, racism and immigration in America today.
Hailed as “A film that powerfully evokes the active presence of history in daily civic life—and reveals the politics that inhere in its commemoration” by Richard Brody in the New Yorker, we are delighted to screen this exceptional film at UnionDocs! Stephens and Velez will be in attendance for a conversation following the screening.
This screening will kick off our 3-day workshop ART OF THE INTERVIEW, led by Velez, where we unpack one of the most effective and common tools in the documentary toolkit: the interview.
The American Sector by Courtney Stephens & Pacho Velez
69 min., 2020
For 18 months, Courtney Stephens (Terra Femme, Mixed Signals (After Hannah Weiner)) and Pacho Velez (Manakamana, The Reagan Show) traveled the US to document sections of the wall that are on display in over 75 locations, ranging from the serious (Fort Benning) to the bizarre (Main Street Station Casino in Las Vegas) and even the campus of nearby Capital University. Along the way, interviews with unusual characters who own, maintain, and interact with pieces of the wall offer a window into American culture, and through the film these Cold War relics become a catalyst for exploring today’s timely issues.
Courtney Stephens is a filmmaker whose non-fiction and experimental films explore the contours of language, historical geography, and women’s lives. Her work is exhibited internationally; venues have included MoMA, National Gallery of Art, Royal Geographical Society, Walker Art Center, BAMPFA, and film festivals including the Berlinale, South by Southwest, IDFA, Art of the Real, and the New York Film Festival. She was a Fulbright Scholar to India and one of Filmmaker Magazine‘s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. A graduate of the AFI, she co-founded the Los Angeles microcinema Veggie Cloud, and has curated film programs for The Getty, Museum of the Moving Image, and Flaherty NYC, and written for Film Comment, BOMB, Cabinet and elsewhere.
Pacho Velez directs nonfiction films. His most recent feature, Searchers, premiered at Sundance 2021. Alternately humorous and touching, the film draws on encounters with a diverse set of New Yorkers as they navigate their preferred dating apps, searching for their special someone.
His last film, The American Sector (2020, co-directed with Courtney Stephens), premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. His previous features, Manakamana (2013, co-directed with Stephanie Spray) and The Reagan Show (2017, co-directed with Sierra Pettengill), have played around the world, including at the New York Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, and on CNN.
In 2010, Pacho received his MFA from CalArts. In 2015, he was awarded a Princeton Arts Fellowship. At present, he is Assistant Professor of Screen Studies at The New School in New York City.
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