The Truth Comes Out

Creating ex nihilo is something that if possible by human artists occurs very rarely. Typical creators take everything they create from somewhere else wether that is mere inspiration from a single image that bares a new context or wanting to have ones own take on a narrative device or structure. There are countless ways to grow work from other work but found footage is a genre that does this in a self-aware and wildly inventive way. Though its mainstream narrative success that was born in the late 90s is now dying off the genre has always been rooted most deeply in the world of experimental film. The three films we looked at in class; Outer Space, Removed, and Tribulation 99, all provide a great glance into the world of reinvention that found footage media creates.

Outer Space, by Peter Tscherkassky, uses footage from the 1982 horror film The Entity. A kaleidoscope of horror. Much like how in the animated short Rejected the animation begins to collapse the very film of The Entity goes through a literal deconstruction. It attacks the subject creating a completely new experience. The film uses collage to explore the very texture of the medium, it is an exploration of foundation. This more than the other two seems to be aware of the original. In Found Footage As Ethnography Catherine Russel states,”Recycling found images implies a profound sense of the already-seen, the already-happened, creating a spectator position that is necessarily historical.” This resounds most with this film because the presence of The Entity as a recognizable film product make us think more of the source. We may not recognize the film but we recognize it is a Hollywood, conventional film.

Removed, by Naomi Uman, is along the category of appropriation, taking footage and using it, both by showing and by manipulating, to make a point. Satire & biting critique that easily brings across its message of how the female body is used in pornography. It is simple and short enough to avoid being alienating but combines two clips well enough to illustrate the ideas and be a visually engaging piece of art. The process of protecting and bleaching the film is incredible and makes the source a physical presence.

The final found footage film we looked at was Tribulation 99 which is allowed by its length to explore both collage and appropriation but is mainly a compilation. It treats its footage as that of a documentary tying them into a false narrative. It is satire, docu-fiction, and all around brilliant. It tells the “truth” of America’s history with alien threats, military involvement in Latin and South America, and their eventual travel to Mars to rebuild a human society. This trip to Mars is a brilliant bookend which matches the aliens arrival on earth upon the escape of their dying planet. It is a movie that pulls no punches in showing how the “threat” of these aliens turns America into their worse fears. It also does not hold back on the insanity of the story and the sheer insanity and at points evil “facts” that create the paranoid conspiracy tale. America during the red scare and into the cold war lead to overly extreme reactions that are more than appropriately shown in Tribulation. It creates something completely unrecognizable from its many many sources. It is the standard for found footage films not in a way that others films should emulate it but that others should use its footage as wisely as it is used here.

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