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The American Sector

From libraries to museums (such as the JFK Library here) to amusement parks, Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez’s The American Sector takes viewers to various places in the United States where pieces of the Berlin Wall are displayed, maintained, and interacted with by the public, and in turn, examines American historical memory and the meanings we ascribe to objects. (KM)

Available Online: Friday, February 12th – Tuesday, February 16th
Director: Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez
Film Details: 2020, 70 minutes, color, sound, English

Order Tickets | Trailer

If you missed the live Q&A with Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez, you can watch it here on our YouTube channel! DocYard filmmaker Q&A sare always on our YouTube channel at least 24 hours to a couple of days after a Q&A for later viewing!

World Premiere at the 2020 Berlinale. Official Selection of San Francisco International Film Festival, AFI Fest, Camden International Film Festival, Art of the Real, and Open City Docs

About The American Sector:

This humorous documentary road trip centers around the slabs of the Berlin Wall that have, over the last 30 years, somehow made their way to America. Some of them are curios for the public, unceremoniously dumped and neglected, others are afforded a measure of context, and still others have been commodified as symbols of freedom in the unrelenting capitalist maw of the Mall of America or the Universal Studios lot. (There are two such monoliths in the Boston area—at the Hult International Business School and at the JFK Library.) Co-directed by Courtney Stephens (Mixed Signals) and Pacho Velez (The Reagan Show, and many shorts) who have both had previous films screened at the DocYard, this survey of memorabilia takes the form of insightful man-on-the-street interviews. These sequences are always fascinating and entertaining, but never flippant: the geographical and political reverberations of where these Wall segments are found is also a vital part of this film. Interviewees make linkages between the Berlin Wall and symbols of nationalism, a nostalgic past, and racism in America. Stephens’ and Dounia Sichov’s editing intelligently strings together complex ideas, without over-emphasizing simplistic connections. With ongoing public contestation of Confederate monuments in this country, it’s poignant and moving to consider what we’ve done to mythologize, memorialize, or forget the meaning of another iconic structural barrier. (AS)

“The explorations undertaken by the directors Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez in their documentary ‘The American Sector’ turn a high concept into high political drama.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker

Courtney Stephens Select Filmography
The American Sector (2020)
Terra Femme (short, 2020)
Mixed Signals (short, 2018, The DocYard Fall ’18

Pacho Velez Select Filmography
Searchers (2021)
The American Sector (2020)
The Reagan Show (2017, The DocYard Fall ’17)