Andrew Luka Zimmerman's Erase and Forget (2017) is exclusively showing July 16 - August 15, 2018 on MUBI.
The making of this film is perhaps as unconventional as the character through which the film explores its subject matter and themes, sadly all too relevant again today. It took me over ten years to make, against constantly changing and challenging odds. Ultimately, however, the independence that came from this way of working was important, to be able properly to explore the issues the film raises, in a way that hopes to open up debate rather than to fix it. This is why I don’t want, in this short introduction, to talk too much about how and why the film’s strategies are working, as I’d rather audiences find their own readings of the layered and sometimes seemingly contradictory material presented. The film, after all, is as much about representations, about the numerous forms of image making that communicate contemporary reality to us.
Bo is an unreliable narrator. When you look at covert operations, those that succeeded we usually never know about, so we can only study the effects of those that spill into public awareness. I think the spaces in between official and private memory are where we might find a form of truth, in the gestures, the inflections of the voice, the words masking what’s unsaid behind them.
Another tension lies in the relationship between the action movie genre and the news media, especially when speaking about war. For instance, First Blood, Rambo’s first appearance on screen, is a work of art, very much an anti-war movie (as is the novel from which it comes). Then the character became a kind of Uberhuman killing machine for the sequel (with the highest on-screen kills at that time). President Reagan then adopted Rambo as a totem of his foreign policy approach, which the media happily propagated. This is the making of myth, and cinema has a key part in that, which is why there is also direct government support for works that are deemed favorable of certain positions.
Then there is the devastating archive, fragments of actual history recorded on Super 8 and 16mm, where Bo trains Afghan mujahideen or films drugs production in the Burmese jungle. And even this history has no clear edge to it.
So, instead of finding out ‘what really happened’ we collated these different strands together into one montage to allow the viewer to see how they often have different agendas. Truth is ultimately something we need to seek daily and rigorously, not expecting it to be revealed by one ‘stable’ narrator.
Bo is currently a contentious figure, given the present state of US politics and society, as well as being an embodiment of its many contradictions. In this climate, and through someone so different from me, I could enter a space that was unfamiliar, one that allowed me to question my own attitudes. In this way, the film became a negotiation between beliefs, between ideology and judgement. We need to cross into ambiguous, often very difficult and complex territories to understand the reasons for our condition.
—Andrea Luka Zimmerman