by Ben Sachs
Writing about another Brown program for the Reader several years ago, Fred Camper praised Confederation Park, "a pastiche of places across Canada where Brown has lived" as a "reflective, even somber film . . . [whose] real subject is the limits of knowledge." On a similar note, Memorial Land depicts roughly a dozen people who have constructed monuments to the victims of September 11, 2001 (most of them with their own money) but seems to be getting at something more abstract. You might expect the subjects to be ultrapatriotic kooks or hucksters exploiting patriotic sentiment, but for the most part this isn't the case. (Still, Brown can't pass up showing us the plaque of one monument, simplistic replicas of the Twin Towers located in a Wisconsin office park, which lists the manufacturer's name right next to the title.)
The explanations behind the memorials are personal more often than political or commercial. The most poignant episode deals with an openly gay priest in Kentucky who dedicated his 9/11 memorial to Michael Judge, an openly gay Franciscan priest who died in the attacks. Yet Brown's somewhat detached approach—which tends toward landscape shots and voiceover narration—encourages us to regard the subjects cerebrally. Memorial Land isn't about these people so much as the ways our culture historicizes the present. That's a heady theme, but Brown develops it clearly and with a certain amount of visual humor.