The American Sector

  • The DocYard presents: THE AMERICAN SECTOR Q&A with Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez

The American Sector Details

  • Year of Production: 2020
  • Length: 70 minutes
  • Color: Color
  • Screening Format: Digital
  • Language: English

About the Film

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

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.

About the Filmmakers

Courtney Stephens Director, Editor, Sound

Courtney Stephens is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her non-fiction and experimental films address the contours of language, historical memory, and women’s lives. Her work has been exhibited at the Berlinale, the Museum of Modern Art, New York Film Festival, The National Gallery of Art, South by Southwest, The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, and […] Read More

Pacho Velez Director, Producer, Camera

Pacho Velez directs nonfiction films. His most recent feature, Searchers, premiered at Sundance 2021. Alternately humorous and touching, the film draws on encounters with a diverse set of New Yorkers as they navigate their preferred dating apps, searching for their special someone. His last film, The American Sector (2020, co-directed with Courtney Stephens), premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. His […] Read More
  • Editor
    Dounia Sichov