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Profit Motive and The Whispering Wind 2007


Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Producer n/a
Directed by John Gianvito
DVD, color, 88 min.

American Studies, History, Labor Relations, Photography, Political Science, Sociology

Date Entered: 06/03/2008

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

This unusual documentary film, directed and photographed by Emerson College professor and experimental filmmaker John Gianvito, both records and serves as an elegy to American progressive social movements during the past 300 years. Inspired by historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, 1492-Present, the film attempts to capture the story of the nation’s development from the perspective of the working classes. That story is shown in a series of still camera film shots of cemeteries, statutes, plaques, historical markers, and monuments dedicated to both well-known and obscure participants in the struggle for religious, political, and social equality and justice. Beginning with pre-Revolutionary colonists who died seeking religious freedom, continuing through slave rebellions, ethnic massacres, labor strikes, and the civil rights movement, and ending with news shots of current marches and protests, the film effectively records the names of the people and the places that tell a powerful story of American idealism and activism. A complete list of all the graves and commemorative sites is listed during the end credits of the film.

With no introduction, narration or background music, only the ambient sound of wind in the trees and grasses of the countryside, the theme of the film is not immediately clear to the first-time viewer. Only after several minutes does it become obvious that the film will be made up entirely of memorial sites and that each was chosen and chronologically arranged to communicate a message that is decidedly subjective. Randomly interspersed are several brief pen and ink animations that also come with no explanation and do not seem to fit into the flow of the chronicle. .Although the experimental nature and political bias of the film will not appeal to all audiences; it provides an excellent starting point for a discussion of both U.S. history and documentary filmmaking from a different point of view.