Courtney Stephens, Pacho Velez

USA, 2020 / 67 min / English OV with French subt. / documentary

A film essay about the Cold War commemoration in America.

The American Sector explores the presence of the Berlin Wall in the United States, 30 years after its fall: as an object, artefact, and supposed symbol of national values. For their fascinating documentary, directors Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez spent 18 months travelling the United States to document remnants of the Wall that are on display in over 75 locations, ranging from the serious – such as the CIA Headquarters, Fort Benning and the Missouri college where Churchill gave his “iron curtain” speech – to the bizarre – a main street casino in Las Vegas or a museum specialised in curiosities at the Alamo. Along this journey, the film captures the ways in which Americans have transformed this decommissioned German border wall into a decidedly American monument, touching on deeper ideas of bondage and freedom. Interviews with unusual characters who own, maintain, and interact with pieces of the wall offer a window into American culture, and through the film these Cold War relics become a catalyst for exploring today’s issues.

Cast & Credits
Courtney Stephens, Pacho Velez
Pacho Velez
Courtney Stephens

Courtney Stephens is a filmmaker, photographer, programmer and writer based in Los Angeles. Her films are in the permanent collection of Oakland's Museum of California and have screened at festivals internationally. She is the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, a Sloan scholarship, and a Hewlett-Packard grant from the American Film Institute, where her thesis collaboration, Equestrian Sexual Response (2010) which she wrote the script for, was nominated for a Student Academy Award. She has curated programmes at institutions including among others the Museum of the Moving Image, and the J Paul Getty Museum. She assisted Terrence Malick during the post production of The Tree of Life (2011) and has lectured at the Royal Geographical Society and elsewhere on narratives of female travel in cinema.

Pacho Velez is a non-fiction filmmaker working at the intersection of ethnography, contemporary art, and political documentary. Before working on The American Sector (2020), he directed The Reagan Show (2017), exploring a prolific actor’s defining role as Leader of the Free World. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival before being broadcast on CNN. His previous feature, Manakamana (2013), won a Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival and played around the world, including at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Luxembourg City Film Festival 2014, which he attended. After receiving his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, he taught filmmaking at Princeton and Harvard University. In 2015, he was awarded a Princeton Arts Fellowship.

  • Courtney Stephens
  • 2020 – The American Sector (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2020 – Standard Intervals (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)
  • 2018 – Mixed Signals (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)
  • 2017 – Labial Quintet (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)
  • 2017 – Mating Games (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)
  • 2014 – Ida Western Exile (court-métrage documentaire / documentary short / Dokumentarkurzfilm)
  • 2012 – Sweet Prospects (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)
  • 2011 – White Gloves (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)
  • Pacho Velez
  • 2020 – The American Sector (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2017 – Mr. Yellow Sweatshirt (court-métrage documentaire / documentary short / Dokumentarkurzfilm)
  • 2017 – The Starting Line (court-métrage documentaire / documentary short / Dokumentarkurzfilm)
  • 2017 – The Reagan Show (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2015 – Dragstrip (court-métrage documentaire / documentary short / Dokumentarkurzfilm)
  • 2013 – Manakamana (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2010 – Bastards of Utopia (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2004 – Orphans of Mathare (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2002 – Occupation (court-métrage documentaire / documentary short / Dokumentarkurzfilm)