Author: Film Quarterly

Loving the Lie: Elizabeth Holmes, Thomas Edison, and Alex Gibney

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019), about the infamous biotech company Theranos and its enigmatic founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is the latest documentary from Alex Gibney. The Theranos/Holmes story is a perfect vehicle for Gibney, a writer-director who specializes in essayistic films that detail the complex nexus of dishonesty, ruthlessness, hubris, and painful reckonings. His filmography is filled with documentaries that fastidiously recount the dark underbelly of outrageous acts by rich and powerful people who eventually get their comeuppance—such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005), Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), The Armstrong Lie (2013), Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010), and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015).

Thinking about Watchmen: A Roundtable

Michael Boyce Gillespie leads a roundtable with scholars Jonathan W. Gray, Rebecca A. Wanzo, and Kristen Warner to discuss issues of medium, genre, fandom, and African American history in the highly regarded HBO series Watchmen. Characterizing the HBO series as a disobedient adaptation that modifies, extends, and redirects the world making of its source material, the famed twelve-issue comic-book series of the same name, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, Gillespie et al. explore the ways in which Watchmen remediates American history, starting with the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 that serves as the historical and ideological trigger that sets the series in motion. In a wide-ranging conversation that encompasses subjects including fan fiction, adaptation, cultural mythology, and black superheroes, the authors argue for Watchmen’s significance as some of the most consequential television of the century so far.

From the Archives: The Time is Now

In February 1968, at the West Indian Students’ Centre in London, James Baldwin delivered a now-famous lecture on black experience and identity in Britain and America. Boldly rejecting simplistic notions of race and color by elucidating the history of racial mixing in the United States and the colonies, he also led a discussion with civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory on the role of white liberals in the black struggle. The event was brilliantly captured by Trinidadian-British photographer and recently trained filmmaker Horace Ové in Baldwin’s Nigger (1969), a forty-eight-minute black-and-white documentary made in a simple but intimate cinema verité style.

From the Archives: Death Grips

Christina Sharpe’s conception of “wake work” concentrates on how visual and expressive culture renders and contemplates death and the afterlife of slavery in black life.[1]  For Sharpe this entails a focus on how “literature, performance, and the visual culture observe and mediate this un/survival.”[2] Her assessment of existence “in the wake” as a critical positioning attends to the structural and affective with reference to a range of connotations including “the keeping watch with the dead, the path of a ship, a consequence of something, in the line of flight and/or sight, awakening, and consciousness.”[3]

Webinar: Asian American Film @ 50

On May 22, Brian Hu and FQ’s editor B. Ruby Rich moderated a virtual conversation celebrating fifty years of Asian American film. With FQ special dossier contributors Lan Duong, Viola Lasmana, Josslyn Luckett, Melissa Phruksachart, and Oliver Wang.

From the Archives: Filming the Crisis

At one point in Alexander Kluge’s News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx — Eisenstein — Das Kapital (2008), the director quizzes the German essayist Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, born in 1929, on the images produced in that fateful year of the stock-market crash.  Enzensberger, who laments his own difficulties in writing lyric poetry on the economy, recalls newsreels showing the destruction of mountains of foodstuffs and commodities that could no longer find a market.  This emblem of capital’s irrationality was indeed used to great effect at the beginning of Joris Ivens’s tremendous fresco of Stalinist industrialization, Komsomol (1933).