PANORAMA EPHEMERA (made by Rick Prelinger, 2004, 89:35 min., color and black and white) focuses on familiar and mythical American images (1626-1978). Its cast includes children, animals, farmers, industrial workers, superheroes, pioneers heading West, crash test dummies, and many others. Many creatures, objects, and substances that often seem too familiar to notice take center stage, including pigs, corn, water, telephones, fire, and rice. At first resembling a compilation, it soon reveals itself as a journey through American landscape and history, and the story begins to emerge between the sequences. The film is composed of sequences drawn from a wide variety of ephemeral (industrial, advertising, educational and amateur) films, touring conflicted North American landscapes. The films' often-skewed visions reconstruct a history filled with horror and hope, unreeling in familiar and unexpected ways.
The film consists of 64 self-contained film sequences ranging from 5 seconds to 4 minutes in length arranged into a narrative. Unlike many films made using archival footage, it's primarily a combination of sequences rather than a collage of individual shots. While other found-footage or archival films speak as if in words, syllables or even phonemes, PANORAMA EPHEMERA speaks in sentences and paragraphs.
"Beautiful and bizarre…a compelling narrative of our collective conscious." – Manohla Dargis, New York Times