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Cult Vault #29: Jem Cohen on Investigation of a Flame

Filmmaker Jem Cohen shares where he found the inspiration in Lynne Sach's documentary

Taken from the September 2012 issue of Dazed & Confused:

Filmmaker and artist Jem Cohen is best known for experimental portraits of people, cities and forgotten spaces, such as Lost Book Found (1996), shot in 80s, pre-Giuliani New York, and Chain (2004), which documented America’s homogenised suburban sprawl. His haunting documentary Benjamin Smoke (2000) followed the Atlanta musician and drug addict for a decade until his death, while Instrument (1999) went on the road with high-school buddies, Washington DC post-hardcore band Fugazi. For Cult Vault Cohen, who recently filmed 12 short “newsreels” observing Occupy Wall Street, has chosen Lynne Sach’s 2001 documentary Investigation of a Flame: 

Investigation of a Flame brings to life a shamefully neglected but pivotal 1968 incident in which a group of Vietnam war protestors, including the deeply religious Berrigan brothers, entered a selective service board in suburban Maryland and destroyed active draft records with homemade napalm. The film recharges history, rejecting staid documentary formulas and reality-TV sensationalism in favour of a personal, poetic, rough-hewn beauty. It’s only gotten more important to be reminded what is at stake when we ignore a state militarism which can so easily become normalised and, seemingly, irrevocable. The film is brave and lovely, multifaceted and full of spirit.”