O'er the Land

Deborah Stratman

2009 | 00:51:40 | United States | English | B&W and Color | Stereo | 4:3 | 16mm film

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Documentary

A meditation on the milieu of elevated threat addressing national identity, gun culture, wilderness, consumption, patriotism and the possibility of personal transcendence. Of particular interest are the ways Americans have come to understand freedom and the increasingly technological reiterations of manifest destiny.

While channeling our national psyche, the film is interrupted by the story of Col. William Rankin who in 1959, was forced to eject from his F8U fighter jet at 48,000 feet without a pressure suit, only to get trapped for 45 minutes in the up and down drafts of a massive thunderstorm. Remarkably, he survived. Rankin's story represents a non-material, metaphysical kind of freedom. He was vomited up by his own jet, that American icon of progress and strength, but violent purging does not necessarily lead to reassessment or redirection.

This film is concerned with the sudden, simple, thorough ways that events can separate us from the system of things, and place us in a kind of limbo. Like when we fall. Or cross a border. Or get shot. Or saved. The film forces together culturally acceptable icons of heroic national tradition with the suggestion of unacceptable historical consequences, so that seemingly benign locations become zones of moral angst.

“When she raises her camera, seeing is already thinking. In all her work there is a quality of watchful attention, an outraged politic, an experience lived through the body and searched out again through her camera double.” - Mike Hoolboom, Millennium Film Journal No. 50

“O'er the Land is like Foucault's idea of lightning: a flash in the night that gives black intensity to the night it denies...” - Holly Willis, Twitter - hollyw

“A bracingly refracted survey of America’s landscape and obsessions" - Bill Horrigan, Director of Media Arts, Wexner Center for the Arts

“Deborah Stratman has created a beautiful meditation on militarized culture, an elegant, logical strand, an oasis in a festival of generally more hurried films.” - Robert Davis, Paste Magazine, “Sundance 2009: Final Scorecard”, Jan. 29, 2009

Pricing Information

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Prizes + Awards

Ken Burns Award for Best of Festival - Ann Arbor Film Festival

Best International Film - Images Festival, Toronto

Best in Festival - Iowa City International Documentary Festival

New Vision Award - CPH:DOX International Documentary Film Festival, Copenhagen

Best Feature Documentary - L’Alternativa Independent Film Festival, Barcelona

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography Nominee - Cinema Eye Awards



Sundance Film Festival
Park City, UT

Exhibitions + Festivals


Rotterdam International Film Festival

Block Cinema, Northwestern University

Union Theater, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

The Media Embassy - Madison, WI

Redcat Theater - Los Angeles, CA

True/False Film Festival

FLEX - Florida Experimental Film/Video Festival

Bradford International Film Festival - England

Cinema, Nature, Ecology - University of Chicago

Ann Arbor Film Festival

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Images Festival, Toronto

(ICDOCS) Iowa City Int’l Documentary Festival

Viva Doc, Columbia University - Chicago

Courtisane Festival - Ghent, Belgium

Athens Int’l Film Festival - Athens, OH

PDX Festival, Portland

Small Change - Philadelphia

Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles

Impakt Festival - Utrecht, the Netherlands

NYFF - Views from the Avant Garde - NY, NY

Antimatter Film Festival - Victoria, BC

Festival du Nouveau Cinema - Montreal

Torino Film Festival - Torino, Italy

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival - Arkansas

First Person Cinema, University of Colorado, Boulder

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - SF, CA

L’Alternativa Independent Film Festival

CPH:DOX Copenhagen Int’l Documentary Film Fest


Reykjavik Art Museum - Iceland

La Enana Marron - Madrid, Spain

Witte de With - Rotterdam, The Netherlands 

WORM - Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Northwest Film Center - Seattle, WA

Cinema Zuid - Antwerp, Belgium

Zagrebdox Int’l Documentary Film Festival - Croatia

Walker Art Center - Minneapolis, MN

Wexner Center for the Arts - Columbus, OH

Balagan Cinema - Boston, MA

Buenos Aires International Film Festival - Argentina

Other Cinema - San Franciso, CA

Pentagon Gallery - Chicago, IL

FIDMarseille Int’l Documentary Festival - France

Lila Filmfestival - Bastad, Sweden

LUX - London, UK