Thursday, December 7, 1995

Brigham Young's Iron Heel

Deseret by James Benning

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

James Benning’s Deseret (1995, 80 min.) is a frightening account of the 140 plus-year history of Brigham Young’s creation of the Mormons, the state of Utah, the awesome Church of Latter Day Saints, and his latter-day legacy. Constructed from dozens of New York Times clippings spanning 1853-1995, contrasted with contemplative images of Utah itself, the narrative becomes a terrifying vision of America’s struggle between defiant independence and cult fanaticism, freedom and imposed order. Benning has been observing American culture (11X14, One Way Boogie-Woogie, Landscape Suicide, North On Evers) for over twenty-five years, with a rigorous sensitivity to American landscape, and his work has influenced filmmakers from Jim Jarmusch to Eric Saks.