picture palace pictures

The Flak

A feature film by Kevin Jerome Everson

Shooting Locations: Germany, Panama, Korea

The Flak, a hybrid feature film combining elements of fiction and documentary, follows, in three parts, the odyssey of three Black American  soldiers, stationed respectively at  U.S. Army bases in Germany, South Korea, and Panama, in the waning years of the Cold War in the 1980's, to purchase a local automobile to ship  back to  the United States. 

 Cultures will clash when the soldier, speaking only English, tries to negotiate the price of the vehicle with the car salesperson, who speaks no English, and communicates in his native language (German, Korean or Spanish).  When the soldier cannot properly communicate with the salesperson he realizes in fact that he has joined the military under false pretense.  The soldier discovers that purchasing a vehicle in another country is neither easy nor inexpensive. These factors and conditions are in fact, based on the real-life accounts and experiences of the filmmaker's family and friends in the Midwestern United States, in the 1980's, working class African American males, recruited, fresh out of high school,  to enlist and register for the U.S. Army, and falsely  enticed by the possibility of purchasing automobiles at a fraction of their cost and importing them back to the United States at a great profit.

With many automobile factories closing in the Midwest, particularly the filmmaker's home state of Ohio, these methods  were successful in recruiting young men to the Army, shipping them around the world, in search of cheap cars, in the place of the "spoils of war".  The accompanying culture clash will be revealed in the exchanges of economy and consumerism, the price haggling and negotiation common to U.S. capitalist culture is less accepted in these other cultures.

The title, THE FLAK, derives from the name the soldiers used to call the army base Flak Kaserne, near Augsburg, Germany.  It is the base where the filmmaker's uncle, Pleas Everson, was stationed in 1966, as a soldier in the 724th Maintenance Company of the 24th Infantry Division.  Pleas was a diesel mechanic assigned to the repair and maintenance of military trucks and jeeps.

Riffing off the experience of Pleas and his contemporaries, the protagonists--who will be played by the same actor-- will work in the maintenance division of their army unit.  Working on diesel trucks and jeeps used by officers and others, he will have an intimate relation and knowledge of the automobile.


Pleas Everson, Germany, 1950's, courtesy Kevin Jerome Everson. All rights reserved.


a feature film by Kevin Jerome Everson (U.S.)

Shooting Locations: Florence, Italy; Ohio; Virginia

A U.S/Italy Co-Production, Trilobite-Arts DAC & Picture Palace Pictures

in association with  Carlo Shalom Hintermann (Co-Producer)
Cast: Justin Randolph Thompson, Erin Stewart, Gail Fisher
Presented at Visions du Reel, Doc Market, 2012

©KJE 2012, courtesy the artist; Picture Palace Pictures and Trilobite-Arts-DAC

Justin Randolph Thompson in Rhinoceros (2012, 7 minutes, VHS, b&w and color, Italian with English subtitles)
 a short film  shot in Florence and the Villa La Pietra in summer 2012, features a text of a speech spoken by Alessandro de' Medici, but in fact, transcribed from a speech by the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.  This segment will open the feature film Rhino.  The color still on the upper top left of  this page is on location in the Villa La Pietra, July 2012.

Rhino will examine the concurrent worlds of power relations, image making, hidden histories of the African diaspora, representation and identity in the worlds of 16th century Florence and 20th century Hollywood.

Rhino’s main protagonists, who inhabit the not-too-dissimilar worlds of politics and performance, are the first duke of Florence, Italy, Alessandro de’Medici, and the first African-American actress to win an Emmy Award (television’s highest honor) the popular 1970s actress, Gail Fisher.  Both personages will be seen as the subject of historical fictions and representations rather than as historical figures.  Rhino will reflect and comment upon the conventions of the “bio-pic” or documentary hagiographic portrait by multiple staging of these parallel lives.

Alessandro was born in 1511 to an African serving woman, Somonetta, in the Medici household and to seventeen-year-old Cardinal Giulio de Medici, who later became Pope Clement VII.  Alessandro became the first duke of Florence in 1529 at the age of nineteen.  Lorenzino de Medici, a cousin, assassinated him in 1537. 

Gail Fisher (1935- 2001) was an African American actress who starred in the 1970s American television series Mannix as well as other shows, films and theater.  She also was the first African-American to have a speaking role in a national television ad. Mannix, noteworthy for its integrated cast, as well as for its violent thematic, followed the life and work of a private detective, Joe Mannix. Gail Fisher played Joe’s secretary Peggy Fair, and in the film she will represent Alessandro’s mother (both under the employ of white men).

Rhino will be structured around two parallel narratives.  One involves scenes of Alessandro in contemporary Florence, negotiating the politics and landscape of the city.  The other restages scenes of the television program Mannix, focusing on Gail in her role as Peggy Fair and also documents Gail in the pursuit of a theatrical role with a loose connection to the Medici history. A subplot focuses on an explorer retracing the arrival of the first rhinoceros to the Frioul Islands, off the coast of Marseille in 1516.

The scenes in Florence will employ historical locations, but Alessandro and his advisors will be in contemporary dress.  The television show's scenes will be staged on a constructed set and Gail will be wearing 70s clothing.  In both narratives, there will be an emphasis on craft: the craft of acting and the craft of politicking.  Throughout the film, there will be self-consciousness about representation, with both Alessandro and Gail mimicking their own representations in paintings, coins, photographs and the television show. 


from l-r: Daniel Chukwu, Justin Randolph Thompson, Stephen Chris, the set of Rhinoceros, Villa La Pietra, July 2012; courtesy the artist; Trilobite-Arts DAC; Picture Palace Pictures. All rights reserved.
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