TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2020

film

Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor of Artforum.

David Dufresne, Un pays qui se tient sage (The Monopoly of Violence), 2020, 2K video, color, sound, 86 minutes.

1
THE HANDY, AFFORDABLE-TO-EVERYONE, MOVING-IMAGE CAMERA

Dziga Vertov’s idea that the motion-picture camera could speak truth to power and therefore was essential to democratic social and cultural aspiration found ample traction in the 1960s, when an army of filmmakers waged resistance with 16-mm and analog video newsreels. This tradition today manifests in the countless nonfiction works largely shot with small video and cellphone cameras, among them two of the great movies of the year, Garrett Bradley’s Time, which focuses on activist Fox Rich largely through the video diaries she kept for twenty years while she fought to win her incarcerated husband’s release, and David Dufresne’s The Monopoly of Violence, a dialectical interrogation of video shot during eighteen months of France’s Yellow Vest protests. Moreover, this year’s most powerful footage was not mediated by artists but was transmitted raw from the cell phones of citizens like Darnella Frazier, who, by turning their lens on acts of injustice, have mobilized us against state power in numbers never before seen.

I May Destroy You, 2020–, still from a TV show on HBO. Season 1, episode 8. Arabella (Michaela Coel).

2
I MAY DESTROY YOU
(Michaela Coel)

The prodigiously talented Ghanaian British creator, star, and showrunner of this twelve-part series, Coel is the most liberating force on the planet—not just because of the complicated view of sexual trauma and consent she gave us, but because of the totalizing fuck-you to gender definitions in her presentation of self.

Lili Horvát, Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre (Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time), 2020, 35 mm transferred to HD video, color, sound, 95 minutes. Márta Vizy (Natasa Stork).

3
PREPARATIONS TO BE TOGETHER FOR AN UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME (Lili Horvát)

Horvát’s elusively layered, occasionally hilarious investigation of what happens after love at first sight can’t help engaging with Vertigo, but its heroine, a brilliant brain surgeon, pursues her own path through thickets of déjà vu and Schubert lieder to find herself at the heart of the matter—the mystery of consciousness itself.

4
TIME and AMERICA (Garrett Bradley)

The first is a diaristic documentary, the second a multichannel installation; both speak to Bradley’s project of making visible the Black moving-image archive, actual and imagined.

5
GUNDA (Victor Kossakovsky)

The titular, unassuming, and unglamorous sow of this absorbing and inevitably wrenching portrait gives birth to eleven piglets to whom she is totally devoted. Kossakovsky’s remotely controlled cameras similarly lavish Gunda with attention, making their failure to help her when she is desperately in need our failure as well. Bacon lovers, think of Gunda every time you chow down.

Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, 2020, 16 mm transferred to 2K video, color, sound, 95 minutes. Autumn (Sidney Flanigan).

6
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (Eliza Hittman)

A teenager needs an abortion and goes on a next-to-impossible journey to get one.

7
TESLA (Michael Almereyda)

Nikola Tesla—the visionary physicist who tapped into the alternating current that still lights up our lives—gets the radiant, unorthodox biopic he deserves.

Spike Lee, David Byrne’s American Utopia, 2020, HD video, color, sound, 105 minutes.

8
DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA (Spike Lee)

Aided by cinematographer Ellen Kuras, Lee translates Byrne’s gloriously minimalist stage production into a movie that’s just as ecstatic.

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods, 2020, Super 8 and 16 mm transferred to 4K video, color, sound, 156 minutes. Paul (Delroy Lindo) and Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman).

9
DA 5 BLOODS (Spike Lee)

Not for the entire film, which has many ups and a few downs, but for a single transcendent scene between Delroy Lindo as a dying Vietnam vet and Chadwick Boseman as the ghost who offers him redemption.

Sam Pollard, MLK/FBI, 2020, 4K video, color, sound, 102 minutes. Martin Luther King Jr.

10
THE MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE (David Dufresne), MLK/FBI (Sam Pollard), COLLECTIVE (Alexander Nanau), and CODED BIAS (Shalini Kantayya)

Necessary investigative documentaries that focus on flagrant abuses of power.