On the road Looking for the Perfect Landscape

On the road to the Colorado River Indian Tribes from the Echo Park Film Center and the International School of Los Angeles—Looking for the Perfect Landscape by Etienne de France

Etienne de France came back to Los Angeles this fall to present his film project Looking for the Perfect Landscape created during the first part of his residency with FLAX in May and June 2017. At that time, he was welcomed by Mohave people from the Colorado Indian River Tribes (CRIT) Reservation to discover their land and learn from the tribe’s culture and traditions. By blending a fictional narrative with real persons, locations and situations, the film ignites a dialogue through the connections between landscape and indigenous culture. The project examines the topic of land use and representation through the journey of Jamahke, a young Mohave from the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation. Looking for locations for a film production, he meets several tribal members and crosses aboriginal lands and sacred sites, transformed by railroads, industry, highways, and which remain threatened today by ongoing urban and energy development.

This protean project made of videos, documents and archives, has seen its first presentations in the United States this fall during the second part of Etienne de France’s residency with FLAX. The 45-minute video Looking for the Perfect Landscape premiered at the Echo Park film Center on November 5, and was attended by 10 members of the CRIT elder’s committee. A discussion and an exchange with the protagonists of the video followed the screening. The following day, an 8-minute video specifically edited for East of Borneo was published along with an interview between Etienne de France and Anna Milone FLAX Program Director and Curator—watch the video here.

After a presentation of the project to the students of the International School of Los Angeles who were preparing for a field trip in the desert, Etienne de France headed to Parker where a series of events were presented.

The video interviews he conducted during his stay at the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation were presented at the CRIT Library. All this material—several hours of audio and video interviews—and the video itself have been given to the tribe for their archives.

This presentation was followed by the annual Colorado River Indian Tribes Fall gathering bringing together all the reservation tribes—Mohave, Chemehuvi, Navajo and Hopi—for a day of celebration. Traditional dances and songs honored many tribal members. In the middle of the afternoon, Looking for the Perfect Landscape was presented to an audience of over 150 tribal members, in the presence of the actors of the video.

Going back to the locations of the video shot in June, Etienne de France was struck by the difference in the landscapes since he was last there. The idea of a never changing deserted landscape was challenged by the changing colors and vegetation of the fall but also by the very different physical experience of the environment. This trip allowed Etienne to access some sites where it was impossible to stand in June when the temperature oscillated between 105 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Reunited with the protagonists of the project and the elder’s committee during a final gathering, new ideas emerged and the future presentations of the project in the United States and in France were discussed. Future screenings will be soon scheduled at CRIT.