Reflections

SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

Spectres of the Spectrum

Dir/Scr/Prod: Craig Baldwin; DP: Bill Daniel; Music: John Waterman, Korla Pandit, Dominic Frontiere, Isaq Tomita, DJ Spooky, et al; Cast: Sean Kilcoyne, Caroline Koebel, Beth Usick.

16mm, 88 min., 1999 (RP)

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission." This sci-fi quasi-drama from "media archaeologist" Craig Baldwin is on the same wavelength as that old paranoia-inducing intro to The Outer Limits. In its near-future setting, Big Brother and Big Business control your TV -- and radio and phone and computer -- and only a ragtag band of waveband pirates, the New Electromagnetic Order, stand between them and total domination of our brainwaves. The plot has cigar-chomping guerrilla transmitter Yogi and his telepathic daughter Boo Boo seeking the secret that will free the spectrum for all humankind, but the film has about as much to do with plot as Hanna Barbera bears have to do with subatomic particle theory. Maybe 10 minutes are devoted to advancing the story. The other 80 are a conspiracy theorist's history of electronic media, presented via video clips ranging from Fifties TV to Nineties cable newscasts. It plays like some lost Lone Gunmen episode of The X-Files scripted by Firesign Theatre -- quirky, quip-filled, and heavy on the suspicion. But what really distinguishes it is Baldwin's dazzling command of video artifacts, artfully chosen and masterfully edited into a continually compelling collage. If anyone's in control of the image, it's Baldwin.

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