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The United States of America, by James Benning

The United States of America, by James Benning

The United States of America (2021), by James Benning

UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hammer Museum present

Contested Landscapes: Three Digital Features by James Benning


Program 3: The United States of America

U.S. Premiere!


Co-presented by Los Angeles Filmforum

Sunday March 6, 2022, 7:00 pm

At the UCLA Film & Television Archive , Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum

In-person:  filmmaker James Benning, Steve Anker.

Screenings are free; Register in advance


Stemple Pass:

The United States of America:


"The artist is someone who pays attention and reports back."—James Benning.

In recognition of James Benning’s 50 years as the creator of singular and uncompromising films, videos and installations, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hammer Museum present a weekend of three features that span the artist’s years of working with digital technology. Beginning with Ruhr (2009), a penetrating study of Germany’s primary industrial region and continuing with Stemple Pass (2012), a portrait of revolutionary social outsiders, the weekend concludes with the U.S. premiere of a major new piece, Benning’s THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (2021). Long considered a consummate craftsman of 16mm film, James Benning transitioned to digital technology in 2009, quickly achieving a comparable level of mastery with this new medium. Throughout the decades, the artist is best known for elegantly framed landscape studies—built upon rigorous conceptual and formal structures—that slowly and subtly become fields of evidence and revelations of discovery. Indefatigable for five decades, Benning has produced over 30 feature-length films and videos as well as numerous shorts and museum installations that deal with the perception of reality and underlying social implications. Each Benning film becomes an encounter with time and the unexpected in ways that can only be achieved through cinema.

In conjunction with this program, James Benning will be showing further work at two locations in the Los Angeles area. His recent film on Paradise Road (2020) will be on view throughout March at O-Town House. Second, in collaboration with neugerriemachneider, Berlin, Benning’s new and expansive project ALABAMA (2019-2021) will be on view to the public for three consecutive weekends in March in his home in Val Verde. For further information please visit:  —Steve Anker

James Benning will appear in person at every screening in this series.

Program curated by Steve Anker and James Benning.

Special thanks to the Archive’s community partner: Los Angeles Filmforum


The United States of America (2021), by James Benning

The United States of America (2021)

U.S. Premiere

2021, Digital, color, sound, 97 min. Director: James Benning.

Both elegiac and lovingly rendered, critical and celebratory, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is Benning’s paean to the ideals and hard truths of the American cultural landscape. Emerging from the era of COVID-19 and its social restrictions, Benning’s USA (an updating of the 1975 film with the same title co-made with Bette Gordon) portrays the country’s 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, as sites that exist in the imagination as well as through representational sounds and images. But while THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is meditative and reflective in ways that are characteristic of Benning’s earlier work, this is a landscape that is haunted by its past, evidence of which can be seen, heard and felt throughout the film. —Steve Anker