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Los Angeles Red Squad: The Communist Situation in California

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by Anthony Kaufman
June 28, 2013 9:39 AM
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Travis Wilkerson, one of the more radical and exciting nonfiction cinema essayists working today ("An Injury to One"), has a new feature-length documentary, "Los Angeles Red Squad: The Communist Situation in California," which is having its world premiere at the International Film Festival of Marseilles. I've been a big fan of Wilkerson's ever since "An Injury to One" blew my mind in 2003, having written about the film here and here. Dennis Lim. in an L.A. Times story. called it "one of American independent cinema's great achievements of the past decade." The new film, with a running time of 70 minutes, looks to follow in the aesthetic footsteps of "Injury to One," with a idiosyncratic mix of narration, history, and digitally manipulated archival images.

The trailer is available for viewing

here. Here is the film's synopsis, from the Marseilles festival's website.

"The opening, Los Angeles today, at dusk. In this first instalment of a series about the police in the United States, Travis Wilkerson seeks to trace the early activities of the Red Squad section of the municipal police, under the zealous tutelage of its figurehead in the 1920s and 30s, William “Red” Hynes. Of him, we only see a face and a gesture, revolver pointed at the person photographing him. His mission? To track down, flush out and threaten communist activists. Infiltration and intimidation were the lot of this political militia purposely created to break any hint of social or political subversion. Combining sketches of today’s struggle and those of yesteryear with a detailed summary of repression which then runs throughout the film, a veil covering the images of the present, Wilkerson creates a superimposition that is as metaphorical as it is real. While the methods have changed, the determined rumbling of today’s demonstrators, heard off camera, nevertheless meets the throbbing roar of flying helicopters. With contemporary Los Angeles featuring as a backdrop marked by the effects of this policy in its current configuration, a gridded city, segmented by fences, walls and ubiquitous barbed wire, history seems to be repeating itself."

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