This film explores a now-obscure American expansionist and military dictator, William Walker, who through military force and coercion became president of Nicaragua in 1856. The film blends found footage, documentary photography, ethnographic inquiry, and personal travelogue with experimental film techniques such as hand-processing, optical printing, and time-lapse to detour and derail the various approaches to history-making that have been applied to this story.
Director's Statement Collapse
In an effort to simultaneously recover history and question the ability to objectively report it, Yanqui WALKER and the OPTICAL REVOLUTION blends educational films, images from my travel to those countries central to the narrative, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras as well as marching music from the time and first-person plural narration regarding the events depicted in the film. Text on screen takes on multiple roles, sometimes translating location sound, sometimes contradicting or augmenting the voiceover or image and sometimes giving a Spanish translation of English spoken words.
A "reading film" on William Walker created in an education program at Harvard university in the 1930s helps to provide one historical perspective on the story while two different films, one from the 1950s and one from the 1970s on the economy and culture of Central America also contextualize the region and American conceptions of it. Educational films are also used to engage Walker's history with the economic, social and political themes of "manifest destiny" or territorial expansionism in the United States as well as the tensions leading up to the American Civil War. All of these "voices" blend to create a rich multi-vocality that not only calls attention to the constructedness of history but to the perspectives, personal, academic, cultural, that we use to try to approach and represent it.