Director in Tucson to explore legal limits of pop culture

By Jon Roig

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Castro is an unkillable zombie. The Earth is hollow and flying saucers enter it at the South Pole. Howard Hughes may be an agent of the anti-Christ.

Enter the world of Craig Baldwin, a very unique filmmaker with a style unlike any others in the public eye. He's a kind of media scavenger. By reassembling old film clips and news broadcast footage, he is able to turn the material against itself and create something totally new. Think of it as a collage, of sorts, for media addicts.

He's coming to Tucson, along with a member of Negativland, to bring his message that copyright law needs to be updated for the digital age. It's not often that Tusconans get this kind of opportunity to interact with true visionaries.

His work, while impressive, by its nature raises some important philosophical questions about intellectual property. Current copyright laws are basically an artifact of the printed age, and obviously need to be updated for the digital age ... but its not entirely clear about how that should be done.

Baldwin, with his twisted sense of humor and background in "culture jamming," is perhaps the best-suited filmmaker to address these issues. Part educational documentary, part art collage film, "Sonic Outlaws" was shot in eight different formats and covers the full range of topics from the Barbie Liberation Organization (a group of cultural terrorists who replace the chips of the talking Barbie with G.I. Joe voice boxes) to 2 Live Crew's recent Supreme Court appearance and subsequent victory. Also glimpsed, according to a Variety review (May 8, 1995) "... are cellular-phone eavesdropping 'scanners,' pirate radio station operators, cut-and-paste video satirists and ad-altering 'billboard bandits.'" And, of course, there are appearances from Negativland, fresh from their recent court battles with U2.

To get an idea of the type of work he does, seek out an older film of his called "Tribulation 99." In it, Baldwin uses his cut 'n' paste approach to filmmaking as a way to tell a story. In this case, the film explains every major conspiracy in 48 minutes or less. The pace is frantic and it literally blasts the viewer into a state of information overload. Falling somewhere between documentary and insanity, at times, it almost makes sense. It's a heck of a movie, and there really isn't anything else like it.

The Screening Room presents Craig Baldwin's "Sonic Outlaws" June 8 and 9th at 7 and 9 p.m. For more information, call 622-2262

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