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B-52

USA / Germany / Switzerland, 2001 (MIFF 2002, Documentaries)

Director: Harmut Bitomsky

A fetishistic, slyly humorous history of one of America's great war machines, the B-52 bomber. Director Harmut Bitomsky is as fascinated by this gargantuan jet's place in the global power structure as he is by the sensuous curves of wings and fuselage.

Bitomsky pieces together a complete chronology of the 'Stratofortress' from initial design in 1948 to the current digitally equipped weapon. This is interwoven with more personal testimony from pilots and crew providing alternately surreal, humorous and terrifying anecdotes about atomic alerts during the Cold War through to the numerous 'Broken Arrow' incidents, US Air Force code for a crash landing with nukes aboard!

B-52's final narrative thread is a strangely beautiful cinematic essay, lovingly edited footage of a massive warplane graveyard in the Arizona desert where a giant specialised guillotine slices these enormous jets like metallic salami. A thoroughly engrossing account of America's quest for air supremacy.

Author, academic and filmmaker Harmut Bitomsky edited Germany's most influential film magazine, Filmkritik, from 1973, before directing his first feature, By Hook or By Crook, in 1975. Bitomsky's 17 other films include The Theatre of War: The Cinema of John Ford (1976), Highways of the Third Reich (1985) and Cinema and Death (1988).

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