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By David Finkelstein | March 25, 2005

This film, lasting precisely 9 minutes and 11 seconds, is a meditation on the spiritual and philosophical implications of the Cold War and its devolution into the current so-called War on Terror. The film is made entirely from found footage, mostly black and white footage from US government propaganda films, with a chilling and profound text heard in Kevin Silva’s voice-over. Silva has an uncanny ability to exactly mimic the tone of the typical educational or propaganda film’s narrator, while adding a menacing tone which speaks volumes through implication. The text itself seems closely based, at times, on what must have been the original texts for some of these films, with only tiny tweaks which give it an entirely new meaning. (Instead of saying that our American freedom is based on the “idea” that each individual’s life is important, Silva says that it is based on the “lie” the each individual’s life is important.) The soundtrack is completed with typical patriotic music, blended expertly with air-raid sirens and other menacing sound effects.

The film begins with a montage from a film, from the period immediately following WW II, in which the narrator boasts that the era of terror is over, and our complete control over our own safety has brought us to an “apex of freedom.” The post 9/11 irony is extremely heavy, as we see footage of happy Americans who “can go wherever we want, without fear of reprisal.”

The film takes us into darker and darker territory. It is revealed that all of this blather about safety is just a “coded message,” and that we are now more vulnerable to attack than ever before. Our post-Cold War position as the sole superpower makes this inevitable: “No matter how beneficent our aims, our very invincibility IS terror.” It remains to be seen, as we face an erosion of centralized authority, if it is really true that human nature is innately destructive, and that our new “freedom” from patriarchal control will unleash a destructive chaos.

“Safety” is expertly constructed, both in the subtle way in which the initially “reliable” narrator gradually transforms into a menacing philosopher whose questions we would rather not hear, in the way the archived footage reinforces the philosophical questions raised, and in the way that the film raises profound questions without providing pat answers.

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