Bilheimer filmed A Closer Walk in Africa, India and Eastern Europe -- and in Kansas City for nine days in the spring of 2001. Justifying why a comprehensive look at a world tragedy would scan the Midwest in addition to such countries as South Africa (where as many as one in three adults are HIV-positive), Bilheimer says, "Whether or not it's true, Kansas City resonates as the heart [of America]."
Among the locals in the film are former Mayor Emanuel Cleaver (narrating from his pulpit the woeful story of a cousin who died alone in an abandoned building), Mayor Kay Barnes and AIDS activists Roger Gooden and Ron McMillan. Voices from the Dalai Lama and U2's Bono complete the broader picture.
Bilheimer, who will attend the March 31 screening, says he's driven by a potent question: "What kind of people are we?" Here doctors, elected officials and people living with HIV address the collective moral lapse in the global community's delayed response to a disease that now kills 10,000 people every day.
The film is thoughtful and sympathetic yet graphic to the point of horrific. The opening scene shows a dying African girl so fragile her caretakers are afraid to remove her gown, lest they break her bones. The length of the shot will feel exploitative only to people whose heads have been buried in the sand. The devastating, beautifully photographed film will make viewers wish they could turn back the clock on a disease that is wholly preventable.
Electromediascope completes its ten-year anniversary celebrating independent film, video and new media the next three Fridays. Curators Patrick Clancy and Gwen Widmer invite brave cinephiles somewhere outside the boundaries of everything predictable with a series titled "Welcome to the InterZone." In the first offering, the trippy, wordless Decasia, Bill Morrison spends 67 minutes exploring the shelf life of celluloid -- it's a film about the self-destructiveness of the film stock itself.
Decasia consists of archival footage with "severe emulsion deterioration" caused by moisture, mishandling, general wear or time itself. What's amazing is how Morrison matches images to degrees of damage. Scenes of waves crashing into a rocky shore seem three-dimensional because of the choppy way the film has eroded. Footage from what is probably a school-bus safety film from the 1950s features cherubic (and all white) faces framed by radical slashes and static; the kids seem irradiated -- a bit too late to "duck and cover" during a nuclear attack.
Morrison's superimpositions evoke weirdly powerful emotions. In some amusement-park footage, when a ride seems to be emerging from something incendiary, you're getting rot upon joy; in a scene from a hospital delivery room, deterioration overlaps birth. It is at once a work of art and a salient argument for better film preservation.