sequence of digital files, black and white, silent, 9 minutes and 18 seconds looped, 2010
Berlin Flash Frames makes use of unedited film found in the National Archives of the United States. Labeled with the title “Berlin 1961,” the reel contains raw footage shot for a propaganda film produced by the U. S. Information Agency. Some shots are obviously fictional, featuring actors on sets; others are documentary, showing the construction of the Berlin Wall; still others are somewhere in between, such as scenes of a handsome actor asking questions of people waiting in line to apply for relocation to the West, and a photo opportunity with then-mayor Willi Brandt and a delegation from Africa visiting Checkpoint Charlie. Berlin Flash Frames concentrates on the frames mentioned in the title, moments when the actors let down their guard, and the cameramen held identifying slates up to the lens. These parts were immediately discarded by professional editors as having no proper place in a film, but when seen in isolation, they reveal the tensions between documentary and fiction, which are especially important in propaganda films. (Note: A flash frame is produced when a film camera slows down just before coming to a complete stop, thereby overexposing a few frames in between takes.)
An essay about the original footage upon which Berlin Flash Frames is based appears on the blog Amber Waves of Brain.