Structuring Strategies Presents Travis Wilkerson
CalArts, Bijou Theater
FILM/VIDEO: CalArts Faculty TRAVIS WILKERSON will present LOS ANGELES RED SQUAD: THE COMMUNIST SITUATION IN CALIFORNIA (2013, 70min.)
"Beauty can be a revolutionary force.
They may own everything but they can’t own beauty.
I had written a screenplay, a historical narrative with actors and costumes, about the Los Angeles Red Squad of the Red Hynes era. Red Squad was the popular name for the anti-radical divisions of Police Departments found all over the country. I had done a ton of research, but in fact it was mostly a black comedy even if everything was also true. Something Keystone Kops about it even.
But the film would require money But then it occurred to me that I did have resources. I had already done a ton of research and writing, and that the locations were all, more or less, within a few subway stops.
I had a camera I loved, and an anamorphic lens that I’d been itching to use for years. I had a shotgun microphone I bought for a project ten years ago that sounds beautiful. I had nearly a decade’s worth of audio from demonstrations in Los Angeles and actually even around the world, mostly made with that microphone. I also had an amazing partner who helped me in any way she could and over and over again.
And so I just made the movie..."
- T. W.
"The opening, Los Angeles today, at dusk. In this first installment of a series about the police in the United States, Travis Wilkerson seeks to trace the early activities of the Red Squad section of the municipal police, under the zealous tutelage of its figurehead in the 1920s and 30s, William “Red” Hynes. Of him, we only see a face and a gesture, revolver pointed at the person photographing him. His mission? To track down, flush out and threaten communist activists. Infiltration and intimidation were the lot of this political militia purposely created to break any hint of social or political subversion. Combining sketches of today’s struggle and those of yesteryear with a detailed summary of repression which then runs throughout the film, a veil covering the images of the present, Wilkerson creates a superimposition that is as metaphorical as it is real. While the methods have changed, the determined rumbling of today’s demonstrators, heard off camera, nevertheless meets the throbbing roar of flying helicopters. With contemporary Los Angeles featuring as a backdrop marked by the effects of this policy in its current configuration, a gridded city, segmented by fences, walls and ubiquitous barbed wire, history seems to be repeating itself."
- Nicolas Féodoroff
A chance meeting in Havana with legendary Cuban film propagandist Santiago Alvarez changed the course of Travis Wilkerson's life. He now makes films in the tradition of the "third cinema," wedding politics to form in an indivisible manner. His films have screened at scores of venues and festivals worldwide, including Sundance, Toronto, Locarno, Rotterdam, Vienna, Yamagata, the FID Marseille and the Musée du Louvre. In the fall of 2012, the Slovenska Kinoteka in Ljubljana held an exhaustive retrospective of his work, comprising 11 films. That retrospective will also be the subject of the next issue of the film journal Kino! His best-known work is an agit-prop essay on the lynching of Wobbly Frank Little called An Injury to One, named one of the best avant-garde films of the decade by Film Comment. His other films include Accelerated Underdevelopment (on the filmmaker Santiago Alvarez), the narrative feature Who Killed Cock Robin? and the National Archive series. In 2007, he presented the first ever performance art at the Sundance Film Festival with Proving Ground, a live multi-media rumination on the history of bombing described as “one of the most daring experiments in the history of Sundance.” His most recent feature, Distinguished Flying Cross, was honored with prestigious jury prizes both at Cinema du reel and Yamagata. He also contributed short segments to two omnibus projects: Far From Afghanistan, and Orbit (films). His writings on film have appeared in Cineaste, Kino!, and Senses of Cinema. He has taught filmmaking at the University of Colorado and Film Directing at CalArts. Presently, he is the inaugural Visiting Fellow of Media Praxis in the Pomona College Media Guild.