John Gianvito’s new documentary, the first of two films focusing on decommissioned, and hazardous, U.S. military bases—one named Clark, the other Subic—in Pampanga province, Philippines, takes its title (minus parenthetical) from the contrails left behind by airplanes at high altitude. A pre-credits sequence shows several such images, in addition to a rolling stream at sunrise; the driver’s-eye interior view of a car, signal clicking, as it prepares to turn (which way unspecified); and faded photographs that depict, we will come to learn, incidents and asides from the Philippine-American War (1899-1913). What connects these disparate objects/mo(ve)ments is a shared sense of impermanence—the feeling that everything we’re viewing is fleeting and, likely, soon forgotten.
The three Gianvito films I’ve seen—this, 2007’s Profit motive and the whispering wind, and, my personal choice for best of the ’00s, 2001’s The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein—share a fascination with, and in some way seek to redress the human propensity toward cultural-historical amnesia. I’m sure some would consider this a more recent mindset, one exacerbated by the ever larger and larger number of ADD-distractions that prove detrimental to more reflective and perceptive thought. (This, to me, is its own kind of amnesia: though based, admittedly, more on feeling than fact, I gather we’ve all of us been creating false histories—dicking each other over whether wielding bones or iProducts—since at least the Upper Paleolithic.)