Utopia

  • 94'
  • USA
  • 1998
An opening title describes Benning's effort as a combination of images found in the desert landscape from Death Valley and the Mexican border with the entire sound track of the English-langua¡ge version of Richard Dindo's 1994 Swiss documentary, Ernesto Che Guevara, the Bolivian Journal. Benning has added a few ambient sounds, but otherwise you might say that Utopia is two separate movies running on parallel tracks. There turns out to be more synchronicity than you might expect. Thanks to Dindo's sound track the eye winds up narrativizing the images; even when there's no apparent relation, the imagination tends to impose one.The sound track has so much narrative and political power in its own right that even if you kept your eyes closed you'd still have plenty to keep you engaged. Once you decide to keep them open, however, the issue becomes not only what sort of images Benning brings to the material but what convergences between sound and image are staged in the mind of each spectator.Most of Dindo's documentary follows the last days of Che Guevara as a revolutionary guerrilla in the wilds of Bolivia, mainly alternating between a narration of his activities (recited byJudith Burnett) and quotations from his journals (recited by filmmaker Robert Kramer); there are also statements by Castro, Guevara, and others in Spanish. Benning's images are always landscape shots of one sort or another, and the camera is almost always stationary; nearly all of his shots are handsome, and some are breathtakingly beautiful. (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader)
Director
James Benning
Premiere
International premiere
Country of production
USA
Production Year
1998
Festival Edition
IFFR 1999
Length
94'
Medium
16mm
Languages
English, Spanish
Producer
James Benning
Sales
James Benning
Screenplay
James Benning
Cinematography
James Benning
Editor
James Benning
Sound Design
James Benning