Craig Baldwin b. 1952
RocketKitKongoKit (1985)
This kaleidoscopic, amphetamine-paced tour de force uses a barrage of found-footage images and rapid-fire narration to trace a history of Zaire since its independence in 1960. The CIA, German munitions manufacturers, and American popular culture are all indicted in this comic critique of neo-colonialism. Centering on President Mobutu's lease of 1/10 of the country's total land area to a West German rocket firm, the film explores both the explicit and implicit historical contradictions that this astonishing arrangement poses and is posed by. With sources of imagery ranging from corporate advertising through 50's instructional films to Tarzan flicks, and musical components oscillating between aboriginal sounds and contemporary electronic compositions, a critical irony is established between the several voice-over discourses and an energetic montage of "found" visuals. Self-reflexively ordered like a plastic model kit, the film perhaps proposes another, more imaginative model of historiography.

This is the first of Baldwin's imagined histories, or, as he puts it, "prank documentaries." On the surface RocketKitKongoKit is the true story of a German rocket firm leasing land in the Congo (then called "Zaire" under Mobutu's reign), for testing rockets. The larger implications, that of Europe's colonial attitude towards Africain the 1960s and the exploitation of its people for a program the Europeans didn't want in their own backyard, is not an entirely inaccurate one. History is, of course, highly malleable, and interpretations of any event can continue for decades – especially with relatively recent and well-documented events. The direct links between the ESA's rocket program and deteriorating conditions in Africa are made more forcefully than would a more conservative historian, and the information is presented with the authority and integrity the documentary form affords.

Of course the film is also quite funny, pairing up news items from the 1960s with schlock science fiction rocket ships blasting to Mars. The result is a kind of pseudo- documentary, in which all of the re-enactments are unconnected to the material presented.

Baldwin is reminded of the spurious documentaries he saw in general cinema release when he was younger. Harald Reini's 1970 film Chariots of the Gods was one such work, in which the lines between the historical artifacts – undeniably extant and available for study – and the fanciful interpretation – enforced by questionable “experts” and wild half-baked theories that connect vague notions – create what appears to be a cogent and irrefutable hypothesis. Reini's and Baldwin's film are each about how human beings process information and the authority of presentations.

Once again, from the director: "…my project is to liquidate distinctions between official and unofficial history." This includes folk history, perceived history, personal history and the extrapolated history of cinema objects retrieved from the archive. The goal is not an authoritative verisimilitude, but rather multiple points of view.