SXSW 2023: No Odd Marketing campaign, The Arc of Oblivion, Be a part of or Die | Festivals & Awards

The ark is a manufactured unifying gadget for a film that’s, by definition, most likely unattainable to make coherent, a lot much less tidy and tight. As Cheney guides the viewers by a succession of setpieces constructed round family members and skilled witnesses, the movie turns into an ark of one other type, collating a pair dozen sketches of distinctive real-life characters, together with documentarian Kristen Johnson (“Dick Johnson is Useless”), whose personal work focuses on time, reminiscence, and mortality; her brother Kirk Johnson, a paleontologist and fossil collector who fantasizes about being interred in on the backside of the Mississippi River; Erin and Brian Palmer, married photographers who shoot cemeteries memorializing Black Individuals from slavery by Jim Crow; poet; potter Yasmin Glinton Poitier, whose childhood house was destroyed in a hurricane; David Hoch, a limestone magnate and religious Christian who stops in to test the standard the concrete Cheney combined to be used within the ark’s basis, then fetches a magic lantern and explains the place the phrase “within the limelight” got here from; Bogdan Onac, a speleologist (cave scientist) who has stored almost each pattern that meant one thing to him, and in addition collects artwork depicting hedgehogs and owls; and the director’s brother, musician Colin Cheney, who created the movie’s ambient, summary rating by mixing the household’s private audio and video with recordings of sounds that he produced by placing, scratching, rubbing, and in any other case manipulating objects their father stored within the household barn.

All of them have their very own ideas on any topic Cheney raises, from record-keeping, preservation, and bodily versus digital archiving to the best way through which timber, rocks, minerals, our bodies, and the land itself make information of their experiences, whether or not they take the type of limestone layers, the concentric rings of timber, or the staggering array onerous drives, video and audio cassettes, and different testamentary objects that Cheney has gathered (some damaged and ineffective). Cheney’s movie is govt produced by Werner Herzog and owes lots to Herzog’s non-fiction work, notably the extra rambling and discursive initiatives he launched throughout his Guru Emeritus interval. “The Arc of Oblivion” travels to the Sahara, Spain, the Arctic, and the Alps however all the time returns to the farm the place the ark is being constructed. It’s loosely held collectively by the personalities of the interviewees; by leisurely photographs of landscapes, skies, and analog televisions planted in nature; and by Cheney’s earnest, self-deprecating narration, which threatens to go Full Podcaster, then stops itself by introducing a stunning new location or thought, or by falling silent and letting us watch individuals discuss, work, and assume. There are occasions when the fragmented construction frustrates, seeming to maneuver too slowly or shortly. 

However that’s all the time a threat with this type of mission, and “The Arc of Oblivion” owns it. Two hours isn’t sufficient time for all this, however the film is aware of this and is aware of that moviemaking is not any completely different from the rest in that respect. There’s by no means sufficient time, and ultimately, every little thing and everybody finally ends up as a tree ring. The “c” within the title isn’t a typo. 

“Be a part of or Die” may have simply as simply been referred to as “Bowling Alone,” after the well-known ebook that provides it a title and principal interview topic, writer Robert D. Putman. Putman, a political scientist specializing in comparative topics, thinks it’s potential to quantify the decline in group memberships in America and outlined it in his shock best-seller that blames the fragmentation of recent society on elevated emotions of loneliness and despair. Invoice Clinton requested to fulfill with him on the White Home and paraphrased a few of his concepts in his 1995 second inaugural tackle, and Barack Obama awarded him the Humanitarian Prize, an honor of nice emotional significance to Putnam as a result of Obama was one in every of his seminar college students within the ‘90s, and he and his spouse attended John F. Kennedy’s inauguration within the capital fifty years earlier.