Anthology Film Archives


April 13 – April 21

In the aftermath of the 20th century’s gruesome world wars, advances in infrastructure propelled forward with a utopian determination that was both ardent and threatening. The Eisenhower-inducted Interstate Highway System was a signature achievement of postwar America, and the preening roadways lay supine across the vast countryside, showing off their concrete pylons and cloverleaf junctions. “I believe that a clean and well functioning freeway has a beauty of its own,” said one besotted spokesperson for the American Road Buildings Association. This beauty, however, was in the eye of the beholder, for the freeway could just as easily sneer into a maliciously functioning ugliness, dividing cities, isolating communities, and cutting off small rural towns – not to mention rushing giddy teenagers to their deathbeds. Is it any wonder that in the 1970s, in the wake of oppressive 1950s-era nationalism and its demolition in the 1960s, the disaster film would take hold as a popular genre?

Portrayals of disaster and destruction run right alongside the admiring depictions of human achievement from the Industrial Age to the emerging Information Age. Photography, film, and video have captured plenty of horrific catastrophes, but the exploitation of their spectacle for entertainment suggests a link between the disaster genre and exploitation cinema: their rebellion against the homogenizing classicism of studio Hollywood. The disaster films in this series undermine the propaganda of the built world by vividly conjuring scenarios in which the roadways under our feet, the ships that carry us across the oceans, the machines in our service, and the cities and buildings containing us become malevolent antagonists, hell-bent on our destruction. To further titillate the audience, a carefully arranged program of topical music will play while people await their grim entertainment.

Guest-curated by Rebecca Cleman (Electronic Arts Intermix), who also wrote the introduction and film descriptions. “Infradestruction!” is presented in the wake of our earlier (March) series, “Infrastructure on Film,” and alongside our trucker-themed film series, “Jammin’ Gears” (April 3-21).

Special thanks to Zoe Beloff, Chris Chouinard (Park Circus), Eric Di Bernardo (Rialto Pictures), Joe McKay, John Mhiripiri, Kristie Nakamura (WB), and Veronica Neely (20th Century Fox).

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