Posted: 03/27/2008


Grand Wheel


by Jef Burnham

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In his experimental short, independent filmmaker Gavin Heffernan (Expiration), addresses the seemingly futile efforts of the current anti-war movement in the United States. Reminiscent of Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi in that it solely employs silent documentary footage with musical accompaniment, this six-minute documentary is expertly shot and accompanied by the fitting, but unfortunately titled tune, “Washing the Filth off My Stinking Corpse.”

The wheel in question refers to the impossible struggle of the war protestors, going through the movements of organizing marches and scrawling pithy protests on poster board, but ostensibly getting nowhere, as a Ferris wheel. Heffernan stresses the point with his imagery of a protest march played in reverse and the setup of a seaside Veteran’s Memorial. The seaside memorial, without the aid of Heffernan’s clever juxtaposition, evokes its own atmosphere of hopelessness and futility since one cannot discount the temporary gesture this represents, given the inevitable return of the tides. The most superficially effective shot is a man posing with a sign that reads: STOP ALL WARS. In the face of today’s confrontations, a man with a sign is a poor match for all the political and financial reasons that politicians devise to justify the excessive losses we face in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the film runs a mere six minutes, I’ll say no more for fear that I may make it impossible for anyone to come out of the film with their own interpretations. But don’t worry. The images I have discussed comprise a miniscule fraction of the total running time. And thanks to the structure of Grand Wheel, Heffernan was able to say more in this six minutes than if he had made a thirty-minute, straightforward documentary with interviews and statistics.

You can find out more about Gavin and his films by visiting Sunchaser Picture’s site here.

Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.

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