Machine Gun or Typewriter

Part of commentary from the film by Travis Wilkerson showed in the competition Opus Bonum.

Machine Gun or Typewriter (Travis Wilkerson, 2015)

I didn’t even think anyone was listening. I didn’t tell anyone. Didn’t tell a soul. I
only started doing the broadcasts after I quit the movement anyway. Wanted to
make myself feel like I was still political.
But I set my own trap when I switched on that pirate radio transmitter and started

No ruling class
In the whole of human history
Has peacefully abandoned
Its control over society
Now don’t you prefer a typewriter to a machine gun? Isn’t that a better way to
change the world? With ideas, and images, and poetry, instead of violence?
In fact, nobody--except maybe a weapons manufacturer or a war profiteer—
nobody prefers a machine gun to a typewriter.
But still the machine gun
It’s a fact
So when the shooting begins
You have a
You have the choice to be
In front of it
Or behind it
You can either serve the war machine
you can be its target

As soon as the show was over, I get an email from an address I don’t know. It’s
just four words long:
"Machine gun of course."
I have no idea how you could have known who I was or how you figured out my
email address, but of course I reply.
"Who is this?"
Then--before I even get an answer—I write again: “Meet me.”
No name. No description. All I have are those four words. But somehow, across
that crowded bar, I recognize you immediately. When I walk up to you, we begin
speaking as if in mid-conversation.
I convince you to drive to with me to Griffith Park. They had just discovered P22,
a mountain lion there. And I’m obsessed with mountain lions or any kind of wild
animal that lives in the city. We woke up from our very first night together in a
cage in the old zoo sharing a sleeping bag I had in my car.
But I don’t want you to go home. I don’t want to say goodbye. So I take you to the
flower district. We wander through row after row of strange flowers. You seem to
know the names of all of them. I lose all sense of time. I have never wanted
anything so much in my life.
I buy you flowers.
There’s only one kind you want. Black Dahlias.
I should have understood what that meant.
It’s mid-Morning by now. How do I describe what I experienced with you that
morning? I lost myself.

I guess it goes without saying I was bound to fall in love with you.

Travis Wilkerson features as scriptwriter, composer and actor for his own documentaries, film essays and acted films. His work is greatly influenced by the Cuban film activist Santiago Alvarez. Wilkerson’s best-known works include the agitprop essay An Injury to One (2002), the acted film Who Killed Cock Robin? (2005), which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and his poetic portrait Accelerated Under-Development: In The Idiom Of Santiago Alvarez (1999), which was screened at the Jihlava IDFF in 2004. In his new movie a solitary man broadcasts a programme intended for a single listener on a pirate radio station. He is searching for his lost love, who disappeared without a trace. Images of the city, disappearing buildings and crumbling social structure all reflect his growing sense of loss. His anger intensifies; it threatens to explode. The ambient nature of the duel between recitation and static images crystallises into a radical exercise in meditation, in which intimacy decomposes into fundamental societal elements. A collage presenting the guilty conscience of one American and all of America charts the topography of memory of place and relationship. Wilkerson artfully blends fact with fiction, and intimate autobiographical details with ostentatious exaggeration in a genre he calls “punk-agit-noir”.

December 02, 2015

from current issue:

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