Oregon Department of Kick Ass

Britton, South Dakota

16mm to video -9 minutes 2003

Britton 3 frames
Britton, South Dakota
Britton, South Dakota
Britton at Jawbreaker in Eugene

Britton, South Dakota by Vanessa Renwick
Score by Johnne Eschleman
Cinematographer: Ivan Besse (shot in 1938)
Footage obtained from The Prelinger Archives / Rick Prelinger
for the DeComposer Film and Music series programmed by Bill Daniel and Vanessa Renwick in Portland, Oregon

Ivan Besse was the Strand movie theater manager in Britton, S. Dakota during the Depression. He had a 16mm camera and went about town shooting people at their various activities during the day. He would show the footage before features and newsreels as a way to lure the people into the theatre.
 Most of the 2 1/2 hours of footage that he shot is of people walking down the street, there are also scenes of a barn being moved, a corn husking contest and kids running out of school.
The footage that really stood out to me was these 8 minutes of portraits of children. They had no idea of what a movie camera was.

The lack of narrative invites dressing these cinematic dolls with futures, now histories. The melancholic drone of the accompanying organ music tends to lead them into sad tragic finery.

“Not only found footage, but a found film made 60-some years ago directly addressing contemporary structural concerns. I wish I had made this film today. Oh, it was made today.”
James Benning

"Britton, SD is of course the greatest of films, one of the few to get to the core of human matters and then stay there for a bit without turning away." Jem Cohen

2005 Gus Van Sant Award Best Experimental Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival
2004 Gecko Prize, Cinematexas
2003 Northwest Film Festival Best Experimental Film, James Benning, judge