A family has lunch under the shade of a C-47 warcraft. An army installation contains the last remnants of an endangered grassland ecology. Young filmmakers hone their skills making a cop show on Chicago streets.
Stylized scenes of field botanists, retail clerks, and soldiers in Clarksville, Tennessee and television workers, and police in Chicago, Illinois reveal the unseen forces of imperialism in US daily life.
An examination of a television production and quotations from revolutionary and resistance fighters build to a provocation: name the enemy or become it.
"One could say the same about MacKenzie and Mausert-Mooney’s MAKE A DISTINCTION, a bold step into the feature form by the Chicago-based duo, making its world premiere at Onion City. Made over four (shall we say, fraught) years, the film seems to narrate the course of its own development, from exploratory survey to statement of purpose: if you’re wondering where it’s going at the start, you’ll know exactly where you stand at the end. (Spoiler alert: stolen land.) Not that things are all that vague at the jump: an electric opening montage featuring clips of Kwame Ture and Fred Hampton signals the general direction. But the following scenes, cruising the communities surrounding Kentucky’s Fort Campbell Army Base and glimpsing the travesties inflicted on the American environment by capitalism and militarism, suggest filmmakers seeking refuge in pockets of untrammeled nature—and in a familiar idiom of landscape essay film. This impression is deceptive: halfway through, the film changes course dramatically, turning its focus towards Chicago and adopting a tone of forceful and incisive analysis. Defiantly casting their 16mm camera lens on the many Dick Wolf television productions shooting around the city, the filmmakers unpack incestuous relationships linking the dramatized copaganda of shows like Chicago PD, the corrupt developers behind the Cinespace Chicago studio, and the actual CPD forces who have brutalized city residents with impunity for decades. With damning precision, MacKenzie and Mausert-Mooney lay out on-screen texts and primary documents, arguing implicitly for formal, economic, and political alternatives to the commercial film industry’s hegemony…before changing stylistic gears yet again. These shifts are abrupt, but the film’s own internal polymorphism—the confidence with which it swerves from landscape to essay film to insurrectionary botany lesson (?!)—helps us imagine what such a radical film practice might look like. The electrifying Dick Wolf sequence divides the film, much as the opening’s Fred Hampton quotation divides the people from the pigs. But MacKenzie and Mausert-Mooney don’t just ask us to pick a side, they show us how. By returning, with lucid self-awareness and burning urgency, to landscapes, figures, techniques, and themes from its first half, MAKE A DISTINCTION demonstrates how historical consciousness can orient diverse experimental tactics towards a unitary, emancipatory purpose. In other words, like all the films in this program, it’s an object lesson in political filmmaking." — Michael Metzger, CINE-FILE
"Our selections for Best of Festival were made based on a desire to celebrate the strength of vision in these three works; the ambition, passion and creativity found in Make a Distinction, […]" — 2021 Onion City Experimental Film & Video Festival Jury Statement (Carmel Curtis, Jose Luis Benavides, & Jesse McLean)
A film by Kera MacKenzie & Andrew Mausert-Mooney
With: Dr. L Dwayne Estes, Chris Mausert-Mooney, Stella Brown
Writing: Kera MacKenzie, Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Ro Joonho
Music: Christopher Dammann - Composition & Analog Synths
In Collaboration With: James Davis - Trumpet, Ben Billington - Drums, Catherine Nguyen - Orchestration
Recording and Mixing: Nick Broste
Sound Recording and Design: Kera MacKenzie & Andrew Mausert-Mooney
Final Sound Mix: Ralph Loza