Films of the decade: "Star Spangled to Death"

This daring experimental film depicts a sold-out and stolen country. Oh yeah -- my dad made it

By Azazel Jacobs

Published December 22, 2009 8:12PM (EST)

Still from "Star Spangled to Death"
Still from "Star Spangled to Death"

I'm picking "Star Spangled to Death," by the experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs. I know how that looks, considering the film was made by my father -- but that just proves how much I believe in it. What could mean more than to be invited into a world only to find out that it is the actual world we live in? That the one that existed before stepping into the theater or pressing play was mostly built on delusions?

By seeing clips of certain films as a whole, ones that mostly show the cruelty, racism and bullshit that have served as bedrocks for both this country and movies themselves, and by interspersing them with people who hold art above eating, "Star Spangled to Death" as a whole serves as a testament of humanity and of great possibility. I leave that film with a way of seeing where things make sense, for better or for worse. With that clarity comes a lot less fear. In the context where the film places Richard Nixon -- the fumbling, awkward man revealed with the "Checkers" speech, in its entirety -- he and his propaganda are reduced to bare bones, almost toothless and entirely human. It's a great way to be armed for whatever comes next.

I also want to sneak in the one film that plays in a continuous loop in my mind since seeing it. It's the film that intimidates me the most, and I hope to be part of its conversation with my own work some day. That's Ronald Bronstein's "Frownland." Whether it's the '80s, '90s or 2000s, I'm not sure films get better than that.

Film Salon has invited a group of special guests to write about their favorite film(s) of the 2000s. To read the entire series, go here.

Azazel Jacobs

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