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Breakthrough Documentary Lessens Chances of Noticing by Keeping Screen Black
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The new film Expedition Content appears to be a model for future documentaries in an age when showing video might lead to noticing (and we can’t have that). This new documentary about the making of a famous old 1963 anthropology documentary Dead Birds about tribal warfare in New Guinea makes the breakthrough of having almost no images. You wouldn’t want to stereotype the headhunters as looking like headhunters!

Honest to God, here’s the trailer:

From the movie review in the New York Times:

‘Expedition Content’ Review: Anthropological Maneuvers in the Dark

An engrossing documentary looks back at a 1961 expedition to New Guinea and the creation of the landmark ethnographic film that resulted.

By Manohla Dargis
Jan. 5, 2022

“But what to do with your eyes?” — this ridiculous question popped into my head early while watching “Expedition Content,” though watching doesn’t entirely describe what I was doing. I was listening, a lot. That’s because for most of its 78 minutes, this startling and fascinating experimental documentary shows you only a black screen. Every so often, a shock of slate-y, steely blue fills the frame, followed by text. Late in the work, there is a cut to a brief scene that was shot from inside a cave. There, silhouetted figures carrying torches move about, faintly illuminated by light from the mouth of the cave.

The genesis of this project is 37 hours of audio, recorded in what was then called Netherlands New Guinea (the western half of New Guinea). The tapes were made by Michael C. Rockefeller for “Dead Birds” (1964), a milestone in ethnographic cinema directed by Robert Gardner, which focuses on the Dani (also known as the Hubula), tribal people living in the Baliem Valley.

… Among the other details listed is Michael’s disappearance and presumed death in New Guinea in late 1961. This brief family bio ends with a reference to Michael’s father, Nelson A. Rockefeller, “who ordered the police assault on the Attica prison uprising.”

The Attica detail feels like a provocation, partly because it leaves you wondering what exactly Attica has to do with a 1961 expedition across the globe or why the histories of the other participants aren’t included. Be patient! As it turns out, these snippets of text are bread crumbs that help lead you — gradually, elliptically — down the movie’s darkly lit path. …

The Dani also talk, murmur and yell, but not everything they say is translated, which is another provocation. The expedition participants speak in English and almost everything they say is understandable, at least if you speak the language. Whether this means that you, as an English speaker, are aligned or even implicated in the expedition is a question the movie presents without answering. …

The problem of translation — who speaks for whom and why — echoes through “Expedition Content,” which builds to a shattering climax during a long, boozy revel in which the expedition men joke and laugh. They’re celebrating, cutting loose. And then they start talking about jazz, and their talk grows progressively squirm-inducing, upsetting, ugly.

Apparently, the white men imitated their favorite black jazz musicians, which is the most important thing in the world: racist. It’s like blackface … in audio!

Whether the conversation serves as an indictment of Gardner’s project and, by extension, the white ethnographic gaze, is left open. I found it heartbreaking, and instructive.

After all, who cares about New Guinea headhunters? Boring. But catching white men talking about African-Americans 51 years ago is exciting! From Slant:

Expedition Content transforms visual anthropology into a work of sonic ethnography that becomes more about Gardner and his crew than the people that they’re studying. In the final, extended outtake from the production of Dead Birds, the seemingly stoned men mimic the voices of black jazz musicians. “I’ve got a flip flop floogie and a floy floy,” says one man,

I bet he said, “Flat Foot Floogie,” which was Slim Gaillard’s big hit in the 1940s.

after which another one goes on a riff, ending with the words, “Snow White, you black, bitch, and don’t you forget it.” The outtake lacks important context or commentary, but the implication is that these white men, so amused by their mocking of black culture, are racist.

The NYT review does not dare mention the single most famous fact about this expedition: that Michael Rockefeller, the son of sitting New York governor (and future U.S. VP) Nelson Rockefeller and great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, almost certainly got eaten by headhunters. Of course, why would anybody be interested in learning that young Mr. Rockefeller was devoured by cannibals rather than of his connection, such as it was, to Attica?

 
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  1. Kronos says:

    The film “Idiocracy” called it again. I tell people, it’s not fiction but simply a documentary of a potential future.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  2. Altai says:

    Expedition Content transforms visual anthropology into a work of sonic ethnography that becomes more about Gardner and his crew than the people that they’re studying.

    The irony of modern sociology, the most peculiar subculture and most rapid, widespread religious movement yet recorded is not just among them but driven from the core of them, from the humanities departments of American universities.

    No analysis of that world will ever be done except by armchair anthropologists watching them on social media.

    • Agree: Kronos
  3. Altai says:

    The NYT review does not dare mention the single most interesting and famous fact about this expedition: that Michael Rockefeller, the son of sitting New York governor (and future U.S. VP) Nelson Rockefeller and great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, almost certainly got eaten by headhunters.

    Thanks to listicles and YouTube, almost everyone in the US and much of the rest of the Western world born after say 1988 knows about this. Infact we can all safely assume that the people who made this became interested in the expedition through the mystery and salacious possibility that he was not just murdered but perhaps eaten too.

    And “Advances the possibility of a purely sonic cinema”, sounds a lot like radio or podcasts or audio books to me and precisely not cinema at all. Shades of Mark Rothko’s black canvas that we’re told is actually the most profound and important painting ever.

    Of course, the idea that an elite is trying to tell the story or explain the ways of the native people and their motivations is something they’d never consider happening to Western countries. Even the likes of Eric Kaufmann can see this, even as he dies it himself.

    • Agree: Cortes
  4. Deltacron is here.

  5. Well, the makers of this film can’t imply white majority areas are nicer to live in!

  6. Anonymous[387] • Disclaimer says:

    Introduced by Ernie “Bubbles” Whitman, Slim Gaillard sings Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy-Floy in a 1944 “sonic cinema” broadcast of Armed Forces Radio’s Command Performance. Groovy! Groovy! Twangin’ as it should be twung!

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  7. SafeNow says:

    Here’s Nelson Rockefeller on the campaign trail giving what promptly became known as “The Rockefeller Salute.” This shows that some events would do better rendered in blackscreen. The announcer would simply say, “Responding to a heckler, Rockefeller cooly gave him the famous Rockefeller salute.” Except for old-timers like me, no one would know the truth of the matter.

  8. Hunsdon says:

    The less you see, the less you’ll know. . . that’s wrong.

  9. neutral says:

    But should the screen be black? Surely this is also perpetuating stereotypes.

    • LOL: Cortes
    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  10. El Dato says:

    This sounds like a “lost footage” horror movie for dedicated wokes.

    “The horror. The horror!”

    “We have thrown open a gateway to a dimension of black chaos!”

    “But what to do with your eyes?” — this ridiculous question popped into my head early while watching “Expedition Content”

    “Where we go … we will need no eyes!” (rips out his own eyes)

    1) IMDB entry.

    2) Director: Ernst Karel

  11. El Dato says:
    @JohnnyWalker123

    Looks deflated already.

    There will be new variants, but this is not it.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  12. Cortes says:
    @JohnnyWalker123

    John Michael Greer’s piece on the desperation of the narrative control freaks includes this gem:

    “Watch the way that these same people pounce, with something that looks unsettlingly like delight, on any suggestion that some other microbe is about to spring out of hiding and kill us all.”

    https://www.ecosophia.net/tomorrowland-has-fallen/

    • Thanks: El Dato, Redneck farmer
    • Replies: @El Dato
  13. El Dato says:
    @Cortes

    That’s pretty good writing!

  14. What a missed opportunity! Do they have any marketing people on the project at all? The screen should have shown gallon buckets of popcorn with extra grease, jujyfruits, dots, and peppermint patties the whole time. The theater would make a killing.

    No, I absolutely DID NOT know that about Michael Rockefeller. It’s too bad for America that the Kennedy and Bush families weren’t into exploration…

    • Agree: Catdog
    • Thanks: Hangnail Hans
    • Replies: @International Jew
  15. a reader says:

    They weren’t savages, however, but biologically modern men with all the brainpower and manual dexterity necessary to fly a 747, with a language so complex it had 17 tenses, whose isolated universe of trees, ocean, river and swamp constituted their whole experience.

    This gem comes from the Smithsonian article you link to.

  16. BTW, if you do want to see cannibalization on a non-black screen, you may want to check out The Green Inferno. Peak Stupidity has a 2-part review (but the 2nd part has spoilers) – Part 1 – and – Part 2. I’m not sure if this is much of a date movie… probably as much as Expedition Content is …

  17. The Blair Witch Project…but not as good.
    This one will help the ignoramuses get even crazier.

  18. Kronos says:
    @JohnnyWalker123

    Wake me up when Megatron gets here.

  19. @neutral

    Yeah, and aren’t these white guys imitating black jazzers just doing Norman Mailer’s White Negro thang? Where are their final wives?

  20. So this is pretty much like a podcast, except without a female voice rattling on breathlessly about some unsolved Kentucky murder from 1979

  21. TPTB seek to turn us into Plato’s cave-dwellers, but not just metaphorically.

    • Agree: International Jew
  22. @Kronos

    Mike Judge deserves CIA product Barack Obama’s Nobel prize.

    • Agree: Kronos
  23. “You wouldn’t want to stereotype the headhunters as looking like headhunters!”

    Is Steve upset the censors blacked-out images of headhunters or is it because the headhunters were pygmies who carried around small spears?

    “Manohla Dargis”

    Manhole Dragis is a pioneer in injecting identity politics into film reviews.

    “young Mr. Rockefeller was devoured by cannibals”

    That’s ass-backward. It’s the Rockefellers who do the devouring. For Summer Solstice the Rockefellers decamp to their estate in Teton County where they roast the bodies of the non-blood-lined over an open flame. It’s a grand feast. That’s where Rockefeller servant Dick Cheney developed his taste for heart.

    • Replies: @Michigan Patriot
  24. @El Dato

    “Looks deflated already.”

    That’s what she said.
    — Michael Scott

  25. Ralph L says:

    Any reviews from Gallaudet?

  26. Without pictures of topless native girls, this film will flop with the teenage boy market.

  27. @Achmed E. Newman

    They’ll screen those ads during intermission, at the drive-in theatres.

    Yeah, I know, drive-in theatres went extinct some time since I became an adult. But hey, if this Covid panic becomes a permanent thing, maybe drive-ins will make a comeback?!

  28. Malcolm Y says:

    This kind of reminds me of watching TMZ some years ago. Part of what they did was to go and find out and about celebrities and ask them questions. One episode had several black celebrities going in or coming out of restaurants at night. It appeared to be a reporter asking questions to a black background and getting responses out of the dark. Finally the head guy of TMZ yells “Tell these guys to get better lights!” Hilarious.

  29. This brief family bio ends with a reference to Michael’s father, Nelson A. Rockefeller, “who ordered the police assault on the Attica prison uprising.”

    The Attica detail feels like a provocation, partly because it leaves you wondering what exactly Attica has to do with a 1961 expedition across the globe

    More to the point would have been Rocky’s cutting short one of his many out-of-state trips so he could veto in person the (new) Legislature’s 1972 repeal of the 1970 bill legalizing abortion. “Abortion tourism”, a major flash point that year, isn’t all that different from headhunting tourism.

    “Expedition Content,” which builds to a shattering climax during a long, boozy revel in which the expedition men joke and laugh. They’re celebrating, cutting loose.

    Bougainville voted for independence from the eastern half of the island in 2019. The leader of the movement passed away in December. This is what he had to say about Australia’s interference on the side of PNG:

    As it stands now Australia would have more power and influence here if they replaced their foreign and aid corps with a drunk rugby team.

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/bougainville-loses-a-father-of-independence-20211215-p59hs4.html

    Indonesian New Guinea (or West Papua or Irian Jaya or whatever), has 276 living languages, including Yale, Yoke, and Anus. Papua New Guinea has 830.


  30. @SunBakedSuburb

    These cannibals like “ rich food “ therefore must suffer the consequences of their diet ; clogged arteries causing heart attacks & strokes ; “ serves them right ! Would Michael’s testes be listed on the cannibal menus as “ Oysters Rockefeller “ ?

  31. Pretty sure the lyric is actually “flat-footed floosie [or floosy] on the floy-floy,” not “floogie.” A floosie is a loose woman, and when she misbehaves she’s on the floy-floy.

  32. @Achmed E. Newman

    I’m not sure if this is much of a date movie…

    Perhaps if you’re a Praying Mantis?

    • LOL: Achmed E. Newman
  33. @JohnnyWalker123

    Deltacron is here.

    Is he an Autobot or a Decepticon?

  34. Anonymous[115] • Disclaimer says:

    The NYT review does not dare mention the single most famous fact about this expedition: that Michael Rockefeller, the son of sitting New York governor (and future U.S. VP) Nelson Rockefeller and great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, almost certainly got eaten by headhunters.

    Burying the fede.

  35. Cato says:

    Well, you have to admit, this “film” advances the possibility of a purely sonic cinema. And, come to think of it, it does make audible and legible those voices that have been silenced through omission.

  36. Bill B. says:

    It’s not as if the reviewer knew nothing of the Rockefellers:

    In 2012, Dargis received the Nelson A. Rockefeller Award from Purchase College; the award is, according to the college, “presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves through their contributions to the arts.”[3]

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