MILESTONES

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“For its 40th anniversary, La quinzaine des réalisateurs organizes a special screening of Milestones, by Robert Kramer and John Douglas.This master piece is the third chapter of Kramer’s “American trilogy”. Shot in 1975 on 16mm, Milestones is a long journey through the United States during the 70’s, the picture of a country built upon genocide and slavery.” – Camilla Gaiaschi, Capricci Films

milestones.jpg

PRESS RELEASE
for the Festival de Cannes
by Cyril Béghin ,
with a poem by Jean-Pierre Oudart, Cahiers du cinéma,
translation by Keja Ho :

It is right from the beginning of Milestones, the moment where an elder woman telling the story of her childhood, a Italian immigrant in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century, does not remember the dates : was it 1916, 1917, 1915 ? Jump cut, and the edit runs on : archives and present shots of her, documentary characters and characters who are fictionalized slide into a gentle collision, as in the image of the whole film – swirls of stories unfold, immense spaces open at each memory that is disturbed and awakened to move ahead. How to go further ?
At the end of the 1960’s, Robert Kramer made In the Country (1966), The Edge (1967), Ice (1969) – three films that probe in the spirits and the minds the limits of a desire for revolution and armed struggle, in the United-States of the Vietnam War and various movements of liberation. He co-founded in 1967 the Newsreel collective and participated in making intervention and information films distributed by activist networks ; with John Douglas he left for Vietnam in 1969 and brought back the images of People’s War. From the beginning of 1970, the Movement, exhausted by the difficulties of the struggle, seeks a second wind. The answer to the question of revolution goes through the communities and seeking other bonds with populations and territories. Milestones is the Grand Oeuvre of this desire and re-created impulse. The film, at first entirely written between 1971 and 1972, and during the following two years rethought and shot with John Douglas and in the company of friends, militants and intellectuals close to the Movement. Afterwards it is the object of a long and deep editing process, by which Kramer and Douglas again reformulate the fractioning, intertwining and swirling. Milestones is invited to Cannes in 1975. The community of persons, who participated, at first opposed to the very principal of festivals, accepts because there is, shortly after, the possibility to present the film in Portugal, at that time in full revolution.
How to go further ?


Cyril Béghin, Press release for Festival de Cannes / Quinzaine des realisateurs.
Translation Keja Ho (Kramer’s daughter).


The voices, in Milestones, are surprising
because we are not accustomed, here,
to memories relentlessly running in this way,
of telling about the complications of the body, the heart, ideals.
They do not flow to the bed of dreams,
they do not flow to the trails of innocence,
they scarcely know naming flowers.
Which bodies, there, taught them to always mark
a target, with such tough agreements, and echoes,
so animal and so sexual ?
to be the bastion of memories, protect the images,
carry the struggles ?
They do not draw forth the laughter of young Americans
who celebrate it with their eyes and white teeth smiles,
they have shut the door to tears, forged their weapons,
cut the thorns.
They now carry the stones from the trail.
The circle and the music of voices are chorus to beautiful
images of the wandering tribe, but let us not be tricked :
The writing of the film is of an infinite cruelty.
It places in actuality only bodies that have been worked, heartbreaking
departures, hazardous homecomings. It puts us
to work, us, by strength of repetition that only matters
the encounters the liveliness of the words, the song of tenderness,
the sharpness of love.
Is it important to you to feel and know something
about this, to say it, to sing it ? So question
your guts, count your guts, enlighten your pleasure,
and give it substance of body – writing, politically.
This is what in USA was made by Robert Kramer and John
Douglas, at the price of many segregation acts
about which we will also have to question ourselves,
us, here, in France.

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