The Annotated Field Guide of Ulysses S. Grant
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Few works about the American Civil War reach the level of historical detail and formal playfulness as this musical fantasia about Ulysses S. Grant’s liberatory march through the southern United States. Jim Finn merges stop motion animation, 16mm film, and a 70s-inspired synth score into an unlikely anti-racist combination. — Sheffield Doc/Fest
For four years in the 1860’s half of the United States was held hostage by an unrecognized white supremacist republic. Shot on 16mm in national military parks, swamps, forests and the suburban sprawl across the former battlefields, the film follows General Grant’s path liberating the southern United States. It focuses not only on his battles but on massacres committed by Confederate armies and the role of enslaved people in the war. With additional illustrations and animations from hex & counter wargames and bubblegum cards that were popular after the Centennial Anniversary of the Civil War, the film features original music created by longtime collaborator Colleen Burke.
"Surveying the legacy of the Civil War through the strange remnants that linger in American society, The Annotated Field Guide Of Ulysses S. Grant is an essay film with bite, understatedly but convincingly arguing that the Confederacy’s great shame has yet to be expunged from the national consciousness. Filmmaker Jim Finn details the journey US General Ulysses S. Grant underwent to systematically crush the Confederate army, but this isn’t a documentary about military tactics. Rather, Finn photographs the war’s most famous battlefields as they appear now, as well as explores the odd ways that the country has memorialised the conflict, including through boardgames and bubblegum cards. Told in nine chapters and a damning coda, The Annotated Field Guide may initially seem playful, but the seriousness of purpose becomes evident soon enough...."
—Tim Grierson in Screen Daily
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"...As the contrast between the images and narration starts to develop, Finn arrives at something. He films ruins, monuments and battlefields in their current state, and it is in these visits to places like Stone Mountain up the tram, and stop-motion board games and bubblegum cards, where Finn finds a perspective beyond a corrective history lesson: the cheap commodification of Southern history, sanitized and glazed with a sort of he-man plasticity, revealing the strange ways our culture can present the past as benign myth when its direct effects are still readily observed..."