“Lest we forget…”
Ordet and Profit motive and the whispering wind

The following text was written by the American teacher and filmmaker John Gianvito to be read as an introduction to the screenings of his film Profit motive and the whispering wind (2007) at the Instituto Moreira Salles in July of 2019.
I want to thank you for attending this screening, and to extend a special word of gratitude to Aaron Cutler and Mariana Shellard for their kind invitation to screen Profit motive and the whispering wind for the first time in Brazil.
Growing up in the United States during the time that I did and within the particular middle-class environment within which I was raised, it was easy to fall under the spell of the belief that the United States was the foremost bastion of liberty in the world, a noble nation committed at its core to defending the principles of democracy and justice for all. In grade school, we all dutifully and daily held our hands to our chest and collectively called out the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. In my early schooling we were taught a version of American history in which Western expansionism was made to seem a glorious conquest of the wilderness, with scarce mention of the Native peoples whose land and whose lives were, in the blink of the Eye of History, being obliterated. Television, which had just come into popularity, frequently proved to be no better at opening windows upon the harsher realities of this world, keeping many of us comfortably wrapped up in the seductively suffocating dreams of the entertainment industry. How I eventually awoke from the fierce grip of that sleep is another story, for another day.
Profit motive and the whispering wind is an attempt to offer a small visual meditation on a portion of the frequently untold stories of the history of the United States – specifically on the history of those who fought, and struggled, shed blood, and often died, in their efforts to create a more just and equal society. I call it a visual meditation as it is a film that seeks to provide you with a fair amount of contemplative space. In this sense I often say that it is a film of which I only made 50%. The other 50% is made – or not made – with what one does with that space which is provided.
While it has been my experience that individuals in countries outside the United States often know more about our history than do many American citizens, I can’t presume to know what your response may be to this quiet little film so focused on a kind of “shadow history”. It is, however, likely that many of the names and events you will see will be unfamiliar to you. The fact that they are also unfamiliar to most folks in my own country is, of course, no accident. Every nation has its relationship with history that is suppressed.
I imagine that having little or no knowledge of these names and events can be frustrating and that, overall, this might appear meaningless to citizens of Brazil, where one must contend daily with a flood of urgent issues confronting the country. If this proves to be the case, then I apologize in advance for having wasted an hour of your time. With that said, I suppose that if I had grown up in a place which had the U.S.’s economic boot on its neck my whole life, that consistently allowed the siphoning of much of the nation’s wealth out of the country, that saw the United States secretly support military coups and the pushing back against democratic reforms, the pushing back against organized labor, and the consistent turning of a blind eye to profound poverty and corruption, then I might be interested to know that there exists within the confines of the United States another citizenry historically committed to the fight for a vision of a different world.
I am hopeful that you will find some resonance in the film with the telling of Brazil's own stories – the ones that are continually upheld, the ones that have been forgotten, and those that have been willfully suppressed. Why is knowledge of the seemingly dusty past so vital? I can think of many answers to this question, but as I have a predilection for quotes, let me invoke these succinct words of Noam Chomsky: “Historical amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, not only because it undermines moral and intellectual integrity, but because it paves the way for crimes yet to come.”
As for the pairing with Carl Dreyer’s magisterial Ordet (1955), I am enormously humbled by this choice. And, to be honest, a little puzzled. Certainly Aaron and Mariana could not have known that during my high school years, when my passion for cinema first caught fire, Dreyer was the filmmaker who captivated me most alongside, perversely, Luis Buñuel. Nor did they know that a clip from a Dreyer film appears in an unreleased early work of mine. But in terms of specific thematic connections, I leave that up for discussion. While Carl and I have deviated paths in the ensuing years (Carl having once declared, “I am not a rebel. I don’t believe in revolutions. Too often they carry us many steps backwards. I am more inclined to believe in ‘evolutions’ with small steps forward…”), his lifelong confronting of all forms of intolerance and abuse of power remain a source of enduring respect and inspiration. In fact, in my estimation, Ordet is not only a film about the power of belief and the idea of miracles, it is, in its very existence, a miracle. A truly flawless work of art.
I hope that you find the experience of viewing these films, in the deepest sense of the word, invigorating. I also hope this work provides you with some food for thought – and for action. Beneath the dark clouds here in Trumpland, skies that cast shadows across this fragile globe, I remain heartened by the beckoning words of that famous anarchist, feminist, and writer Emma Goldman whose constant motto was “To the Daring Belongs the Future!” Onward, friends!

John Gianvito
Boston, June 2019