When filmmaker and media artist Jem Cohen, director of Benjamin Smoke, shot footage of a rah-rah military parade in lower Manhattan sometime in the early nineties, it’s more than likely he didn’t quite know what he had. When he finally edited it together, complete with a remixed Fugazi score, to make this short, Little Flags, in 2000, he probably still didn’t quite know what he had. But today, watching Cohen’s six-minute opus is an almost unbearably disturbing experience. From the World Trade Center towers looming in the background, to the errant bits of paper drifting through the air, to the spectators’ blustery apparel (matching “Fuck Saddam” T-shirts!), to the young woman sitting forlornly on the ground, seemingly overwhelmed, to the little American flags of the title that gradually become refuse, Cohen manages to say more about the desperate times we’re living in than pretty much any other film of recent vintage, narrative, documentary, or otherwise. Cohen will be appearing at the IFC Center for a Dialogue on Film this Tuesday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m. —Bilge Ebiri
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