Tribulation 99 + ¡O No Coronado! + Stolen Movie

AVANT TO LIVE: Retrospective Program 1

Craig Baldwin In Person!

“Our movie is a revolutionary broadside, it’s science fiction, it’s an expansion of the human potential!” — Craig Baldwin as cited by Bill Daniel: This Cannot Be Done: Making Films with Craig Baldwin

Presented as part of San Francisco Cinematheque’s publication of Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live!, a 508 page publication documenting the life and work of the acclaimed filmmaker, curator and underground legend, Cinematheque and The Roxie are thrilled to present this three-program partial Craig Baldwin retrospective. 

ABOUT THE ARTIST: As a filmmaker, Craig Baldwin’s works appropriate footage from pre-existing films, fusing form and content and embodying a radical vision of media culture as a participatory field. Engaging mainstream media as an adversary, using its languages in ironic opposition, Baldwin talks back to corporately produced media and creates inspiring, wildly imaginative works which profoundly challenge the nature of one-way media consumption. Our three-program series includes Baldwin’s classic agitational pseudo-pseudo-doc Tribulation 99; the wide-ranging rock doc diatribe Sonic Outlaws (featuring Negativland); exemplars of Baldwin’s genre busting “collage narrative” features (including Spectres of the Spectrum) plus shorts, excerpts and rarities, all presented by Craig Baldwin in person!

Program 1: The week’s whirlwind retrospective opens with Craig Baldwin’s paranoically prescient Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1991) presented with excerpted sections from Baldwin’s first foray into “collage narrative”: the black-comic Conquistador chronicle ¡O No Coronado! (1992). Also included: the semi-world premiere of Baldwin’s newly-rediscovered “lost film” Stolen Movie (1976).

SCREENING: Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1991); 16mm, color, sound, 48 minutes. ¡O No Coronado! (1992); 16mm, color, sound, 40 minutes (excerpts to screen). Stolen Movie (1976); Super-8mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 9 minutes. All works by Craig Baldwin.

Tribulation 99: Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America is one of the most complex North American found footage films produced in recent decades, and one that functions as a limit case of the experimental found footage film’s relation to history. […] A committed leftist satire directed at American foreign policy and media culture, […] Tribulation 99 uses an astonishingly heterogeneous collection of images. Composed entirely of found footage (with a few rephotographed still images and documents), the film culls its images both from ostensibly legitimate institutional sources of knowledge production (e.g., government documentaries and documents, newsreels, instructional and science films) and from unofficial sources not typically accorded legitimate status (e.g., B movies, science fiction, exploitation films, propaganda, advertising). At 48 minutes, and with its extremely rapid montage […], Tribulation 99 is extraordinary in its density and length. (Micheal Zryd: Found Footage Filmas Discursive Metahistory: Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99)

So it is interesting to return to Tribulation 99 30 years later when the film no longer has the topicality it had when it was made in the midst of the bloody political struggles in Latin America of the 1980s […]. Who under 40 even recognizes the names and events referenced in the film? But in the digital age of social media, fake news, and alternative facts, when any image can be altered, recontextualized, and re-narrativized to mean nearly anything, Tribulation 99 seems more breathtakingly prescient than ever. […] As political satire, Tribulation 99’s building up of multiple scenarios produces narrative entropy, blowing apart any sense of coherent truth claims for history, and happily narrative chaos ensues. More than anything, Tribulation 99 captures the hallucinatory and ambiguous form of the present [2020], in which the truth always seems just out of reach and can never be grasped as anything more than a paranoid fantasy. The truth lies in its inability to be believed. Thus Tribulation 99 continues to be a potent allegory for the present. (Jeffrey Skoller: 2020 introduction to Shards: Allegory as Historical Procedure)

¡O No Coronado! There are surely many more than 200 16mm film sources for the archival images and audio in Craig Baldwin’s 40-minute collage-essay film about the expedition, ¡O No Coronado!. Marking the quincentennial of Columbus’s arrival on the archipelago now known as the Bahamas […] Baldwin’s post-colonial critique spirals outward from a reconstruction of [Francisco Vázquez de] Coronado’s misfortunes to broader reflection on issues of colonialism, intercultural miscommunication, environmental devastation, and the long and dark shadows cast by these historical traumas in the present day. […] The film’s radical strategies of montage match its post-colonial theses. Through fragmentation upon fragmentation, the original ideological program embodied in the appropriated footage is broken to pieces, as Baldwin enters into what the scholar of colonial Mexico Serge Gruzinski calls a war of images. […] The question here is not simply how did the Crusades, the Book of Revelations, the Crucifixion, and the centuries of warfare on the Iberian Peninsula between Christians and Muslims frame the Conquest of the Americas in the imaginations of European, Native, and African participants, but how might the recontextualization and re-representation of these events, historical or mythical, performed over and over again, possibly open up spaces of interpretation, agency, and critique. (Jesse Lerner: ¡O No Coronado!: A Post-Colonial Critique from Baldwin’s Cinematic Scrapyard)

Stolen Movie: Stolen Movie was filmed in the spring of 1976. San Francisco was an infinitely wilder and more ragged city back then. The town had been shaken by the 1960s, the sexual revolution, and the economic crises of the early 70s. Punk was just about to explode, and AIDS was still around the corner. Another San Francisco legend and OG Rebecca Solnit has written about the city at that time, “it was clear we were living at the end of something—of modernism, of the American dream, of the industrial economy, of a certain kind of urbanism… Ruin was everywhere, for cities had been abandoned by the rich, by politics, by a vision of the future.” It was in this context that Craig was a 24-year-old film student at San Francisco State University, working nights at a porn cinema on Taylor Street called the Art Theater 1 & 2. (Sam Green: Don’t Make Such a Big Deal About Stolen Movie!)


Meticulously detailed, with contributions from over 50 writers, artists, illustrators and ideologues, AVANT TO LIVE! is the first critical text to examine the artist’s films analytically as a coherent and meaningful body of work and critical artist’s statement while also examining the cultural impact of Baldwin’s Other Cinema curatorial project. Get yourself a copy of the book in advance of or at the AVANT TO LIVE! Book Launch Celebration on May 28.

Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live! is a collaborative project of San Francisco Cinematheque and INCITE: Journal of Experimental Media.

Part of Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live!


1h 30m
Craig Baldwin