Just before his execution, abolitionist John Brown wrote, “I am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” Brown was hung on December 2, 1859, less than two months after he led a raid on a federal armory in an attempt to incite an armed rebellion against slavery. In her new film, Purge This Land, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Lee Anne Schmitt uses Brown’s legacy to consider the long shadows of slavery and systemic, violent racism on the United States’ psychic and physical landscape. She interweaves shots of rural back roads and urban centers throughout the country, memorializing the sites of Brown’s radicalization alongside those of race riots, police shootings, and other forms of White racial violence and Black disenfranchisement throughout the last 150 years. Set to a score by Jeff Parker that references histories of Black music, the film resists easy resolution, modeling resistance instead.
2017, USA, DCP, 80 min + discussion
Lee Anne Schmitt and Jeff Parker in person
Lee Anne Schmitt’s films and related projects have addressed American exceptionalism, the logic of utility and labor, gestures of kindness and refusal, racial violence, “cowboyism,” trauma and narrative, and the efficacy of solitude. She has exhibited widely at venues that include MoMA, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, Los Angeles; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and festivals such as Viennale, Austria; Copenhagen International Documentary Festival, Denmark; International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany; International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Argentina; and Marseille Festival of Documentary Film, France. Schmitt is a recent recipient of both a Graham Foundation Grant and a Creative Capital Award.
Jeff Parker is an American jazz and rock guitarist based in Los Angeles. Parker is best known as an experimental musician, working with avant-garde electronic, rock, and improvisational groups. Parker plays guitar in the post-rock group Tortoise and was a founding member of Isotope 217 and the Chicago Underground Trio in the 1990s and early 2000s. He is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and has worked with George Lewis, Ernest Dawkins, Brian Blade, Joshua Redman, Fred Anderson, and Jason Moran, among many others.