Joshua Oppenheimer – Early Works – A Collection of 12 Films (1995 – 2003)

Joshua Oppenheimer is one of the world’s most renowned documentary filmmakers. His multi award-winning films The Act of Killing (2012) and The Look of Silence (2014) have challenged and redefined perceptions about the very nature of documentary cinema.


The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase is an imaginative and innovative film essay which combines faux and real documentary with lyrical fiction to paint a monstrous yet beautiful portrait of America at the end of the millennium. With unflinching originality, the film meditates humorously on faith, myth, scapegoats, the idea of the alien, the end of the world, and the beginnings of redemption. The film is a playful intellectual travelogue through the abandoned remnants of the Wild West, an ex-frontier turned into a heartland deprived of its promises, gazing at the stars for signposts to a brighter future. The film reminds us that the West may share something more than barbed wire with genocide, and that history can be told through the moving image in startling new ways. Oppenheimer suggests that we may look to cinema to understand the dark secrets at the heart of the American dream. Oppenheimer asks: if we can identify with larger-than-life epics on the silver screen, why can’t we see the larger-than-life history of the United States in the fringe acts of violence (motivated by the most irrational fantasies) which this country nurtures more than any other on our planet?

Oppenheimer interviews an extravagant selection of individuals, alumni from the pages of The National Enquirer. A story of infanticide and fanaticism unfolds through interviews with the inventor of the microwave, UFOlogists, and militia leaders – we even hear from the Antichrist while his mother prepares rice in the kitchen of a Vegas trailer home. Every detail fits perfectly into si-non-e-vero-e-ben-trovato of imminent doom. As in Buñuel’s dogless Andalusian Dog, there is no textbook history and no Louisiana in The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase. Examining hallucinatory stories told by religious and political eccentrics, he shows how they, broken existentially and orphaned by a corporation-state and its laissez-faire praxis, use their closed minds as a last shelter, as their Andalusian doghouses.

Oppenheimer’s monstrous yet charming ‘history of my country’ is written by a poet, sweet and dark, joyous as the wet rats who save themselves from drowning in the film’s last sequence. And the film never loses sight of the rats’ wealthy cousin, that most famous mouse from the West Coast. The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase is a pioneering and innovative work. It opens a genre of film as revelatory and intelligent dream, stimulant of social memory, and means for re-examining the relationship between fact and fiction, historical truth and social myth. – Dušan Makavejev, May 1997

Light Test (1995)

Camera Test (1995)

Hugh (1996)

The Challenge of Manufacturing (1996)

These Places We’ve Learned to Call Home (1996)

The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase (1997)

Land of Enchantment (2000)

The Globalisation Tapes (2002)

Market Update (2002)

A Brief History of Paradise as Told by the Cockroaches (2002)

Muzak: A Tool of Management (2002)

Postcard from Sun City, Arizona (2003)

Interview with Joshua Oppenheimer (2016)

Language(s):English, Indonesian, None
Subtitles:English, None

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