The United States of America

James Benning’s first film called The United States of America was a 1975 trip across the country, capturing its scenery through a car windshield. This second one also crisscrosses the nation, but without a car, carving it up instead into a series of static shots of just under two minutes, one for each state, presented alphabetically, from Heron Bay, Alabama to Kelly, Wyoming. The names of the places are nondescript, but the images attached to them are anything but, immaculately composed shots of landscape, cityscape and the spaces in between. As we move from A to Z, the images coalesce into a portrait of today’s USA, tracing out its fault lines almost in passing: fenced-off facilities, a river bed running dry, factories and refineries, run-down streets and gas stations, a camp under a bridge. The past is there too, seeping up through the songs and speeches that sporadically pierce the background noise or the motifs that evoke a whole career; the clouds, trains and cabins are stand-ins for films, not just states. As always, there’s time for more abstract thoughts too: each image may stand for a state, but representativity is slippery. Which state is more cinematic than the rest?
by James Benning USA 2022 English 98’ Colour Documentary form


Director James Benning

Produced by

James Benning

James Benning

Born in 1942 in Milwaukee, USA. He completed a degree in film studies and has been making films and created numerous installations since 1972. James Benning has been a frequent guest at the Forum and Forum Expanded since 1977, such as with 11 x 14 (1977).

Filmography (selection)

1972 Time & A Half; 17 min. 1975 The United States of America; 25 min. 1977 11 x 14; 83 min., Forum 1977, Forum 2018 · One Way Boogie Woogie; 60 min. 1979 Grand Opera. An Historical Romance; 90 min., Forum 1980 1985 O Panama; 28 min., Forum 1987 1986 Landscape Suicide; 95 min., Forum 1987 1997 Four Corners; 80 min., Forum 1998 1999 El Valley Centro; 90 min., Forum 2002 2000 Los; 90 min., Forum 2002 2002 Sogobi; 90 min., Forum 2002 2004 13 Lakes; 133 min., Forum 2005 · Ten Skies; 101 min., Forum 2005 2005 One Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later; 120 min., Forum 2006 2007 RR; 110 min., Forum 2008 2009 Ruhr; 121 min. 2010 John Krieg Exiting the Falk Corporation in 1971; 71 min. 2011 Faces; 135 min. · Milwaukee/Duisburg; Installation, Forum Expanded 2011 · Twenty Cigarettes; 99 min., Forum 2011 · Small Roads; 103 min. 2012 Nightfall; 98 min. · Stemple Pass; 121 min., Forum 2013 · Easy Rider; 95 min. · One Way Boogie Woogie 2012; 90 min. · BNSF; 194 min. 2014 Natural History; 77 min. · Farocki; 77 min. · Concord Woods; 121 min. 2015 American Dreams; 85 min. 2017 Untitled Fragments; 75 min. 2018 L. Cohen; 45 min., video installation, Forum Expanded 2018 2019 Maggie’s Farm; 84 min., Forum 2020 2022 United States of America

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2022