16mm, color, sound, 11:25, 2006
Transcript is part one of the Perlin Papers series.
The Perlin Papers is an archive located at Columbia University Law School that contains 250,000 documents related to the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were tried and executed in 1953 for alleged espionage for the Soviet Union. For two decades after the execution, the FBI spied on hundreds of people tangentially connected to the case. The archive is named for my relative, Marshall Perlin, a lawyer who forced the U.S. government to release the papers in the early 1970s, in one of the first successful uses of the Freedom of Information Act in the U.S.
The text comes from an October 1953 transcript of a dinner party that took place four months after the Rosenbergs? execution. On October 30, informant NY-964-S eavesdropped on two couples having a dinner party at an apartment in the West Village, New York. Both of these couples had been friends of the Rosenbergs, and were being called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee about their roles in the "Commie spy ring." NY-964-S cannot hear many details of the conversation and fills in words he cannot understand. Most of the text is inaudible, but one gathers that the guests at the dinner party know they are being spied on. The fragmented text reveals clues to the culture in which it was captured, and by extension, to current conditions. I worked with actors to re-create this fragmentary script to compose a soundtrack to accompany desolate, minimal images of a mysterious corridor in a New York apartment building.
Kittson O’Neill as Vivian Pataki
Ross Beschler as Ernest Pataki
David Brooks as Max Finestone
Rachel Schwartz as Annette Finestone
Lanna Joffrey as Narrator
Bill Seery-Mercer Media, New York, Jenny Perlin, Daniel Perlin
Bill Seery-Mercer Media, New York
Special thanks to Trebor Scholz, Emily Jacir, Valerie Tevere, Maryam Jafri, Anna Faroqhi, Hayley Finn, Bill Seery, Susan Agliata, Columbia University Law School, Daniel, Roberta, and Terry Perlin, and the actors who gave their time and energy to the project. Post-production services provided by the Standby Program, NY.
Read more about the Perlin Papers series here>>