John Douglas

CV assorted








Douglas began looking through the viewfinder more than fifty years ago, making films in Mississippi, and during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and then in North Vietnam in 1969 with Newsreel... and the list goes on. He has continued work in film, video, computer modeling and animation, and most recently digital photography. He has struggled to bring the world about us into a clearer focus... trying to expose the social and economic contradictions that plague our lives... perhaps making the choices for change clearer and more pressing.

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after a little art and architecture at harvard, and then the army, douglas went to mississppi to make a movie. then, in the late sixties, went to N.Vietnam with Newsreel and made the film, "Peoples War".  last film, "Grenada: the future coming towards us" was a history of the Grenadian revolution. he moved to Vermont in the mid 80's , where he began his digital work in both 3D modeling - animation and digital prints . he has had some success.



John Douglas moved to Vermont in the late 1960s, he is now living in Charlotte. He is still known and revered in many international film circles for his 1960s and early ‘70s collaborative work with the innovative activist documentary filmmakers the Newsreel Group. His personal and political work reflect that world view with clarity, integrity, and vigor. - Steve Bissette



John Douglas describes his profession as 'truth activist'. The Charlotte multimedia artist creates animations, documentaries and photographs that question the heightened polarity in contemporary American politics and social attitudes. In his current work, a series of photographs entitled "Homeland Security", Douglas takes a literal approach to expressing the foolishness of the rubric 'naked power', he appears in the nude, holding an M16. The prosaic domestic settings for his tableaux, a shed, a swimming pool, a trailer home, offer a disturbing portrait of our acute national sense of isolation and vulnerability.   -  Susan Moul / Seven Days Newspaper, 2004



John Douglas moved to Vermont in the late 1960s; initially based in Putney, he is now living in Charlotte. He is still known and revered in many international film circles for his 1960s and early ‘70s collaborative work with the innovative activist documentary filmmakers the Newsreel Group, and with his friend and creative associate Robert Kramer (co-directing the documentary PEOPLE’S WAR, 1969, filmed in North Vietnam, and the epic narrative feature MILESTONES, 1975; and editing Kramer’s ROUTE ONE, 1988). He may live and create in Vermont, but he is very much a ‘citizen of the world,’ and his personal and political (as expressed in his films and videos) reflect that worldview with clarity, integrity, and vigor. 


From his first key work as a cinematographer, editor and co-director, STRIKE CITY (1967) -- a moving portrait of a Greenville, Mississippi-based ‘tent city’ composed of workers who abandoned impoverished near-slavery working conditions at plantations and labored to build their own collective community and housing, eventually marching on Washington to bring national attention to their plight and that of millions of other impoverished Americans -- Douglas’s films have taken the side of the disenfranchised, particularly those who engage with the struggle against the repressive powers-that-be. Among his Newsreel collaborations were BDRG: BOSTON DRAFT RESISTANCE GROUP (1968) and SUMMER ‘68 (1968), both chronicling organized student resistance (the latter culminating in some harrowing footage of the Chicago Democratic Convention); this body of work informed Newsreel and Douglas’s unique orientation to the Vietnam War presented in PEOPLE’S WAR, which detailed the social structures of North Vietnam society -- a culture then at war for a quarter-century -- and their ongoing struggle to elevate an underdeveloped nation while maintaining organized resistance to U.S. occupation and aggression. The film was completed despite the seizure of Newsreel’s footage upon the filmmakers’ return to the U.S.; PEOPLE’S WAR went on to win a Blue Ribbon at the U.S.A. Film Festival in Houston, Texas, and a Golden Bear Award in Moscow, Russia. 


With his first solo work, the short DIE-CAST GRILLS (1968) meshing news footage and original footage to impressionistically capture (in Douglas’s word) “daily life following the King/Kennedy assassinations,” Douglas introduced a distinctive vision of meditative montage. Thus, rapid-fire editing and superimposition of seemingly contrasting imagery (the national/international scope of ‘found’ news footage, usually shot from television; the intimacy of filmed reality, regional/domestic in nature) embodies “think globally, act locally” as a cinematic syntax, and even an aesthetic. This vision and approach reverberates throughout Douglas’s short films and videos, including his computer-animated creations of the 1990s, right through to DA SPEECH. 


Upon his move to Putney, Vermont, Douglas continued chronicling regional eruptions of protest and repression (filming and co-directing FREE FARM, 1970), while adopting a more intimate approach in films like CECIL (1970), a portrait of one of “an old Vermonter who works at the garbage dump, plays Santa Claus for a small rural town, and celebrates Christmas with his wife, eleven children, and forty-one grand-children” (quoted from Douglas’s filmography on his website). Shifting gears, KASKAWALSH (1972) offered a powerfully physical, tactile expressionist ‘diary’ of an excursion into the rugged forests, mountains, and glaciers of the Northwest, marvelously photographed and edited. Still, Douglas never abandoned his activist roots, photographing and co-directing another dissection of US policies against Vietnam entitled TO OUR COMMON VICTORY (1971); Barbara Reilly’s dramatization of the Dhoruba Moore(the, now BinWad) trial THE VERDICT (1976); two films detailing the American government’s ongoing destabilization efforts in Granada, STAND UP GRENADA (1979) and GRENADA: THE FUTURE COMING TOWARDS US (1983), and photographing another, GRENADA: NOBODY’S BACKYARD (1980); and more (see filmography). 


With BIRDS and BUFFALOES (1981), Douglas began to incorporate animation into his work, and he made a crucial transition to video and digital media. Computer animation fused with his political convictions yielded LOVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, NOT THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT (1988) and video for the Quebec/Vermont artist collaborative ACID RAIN PROJECT (1989); this led to a fruitful collaboration with celloist Erich M. Kory on a body of remarkably personal and political animated videos, including WHITE NOISE (1990), THOUGHT I SAW (1991), THE HEART OF IT (1992), REVELATION (1992), UNDERNEATH: A NOSTALGIA FOR PAINT (1993), and more. Probably the most widely-viewed of Douglas’s computer-animated creations is the haunting THE WHITEHOUSE (1998/2000), in which skeletal ‘spirits’ engage in a variety of activities (including dancing around a fire, playing the cello, watching television, kissing, conversing via reversed English tracts, and -- more ominously -- wielding firearms, torturing and tossing a blind-folded prisoner out of a black helicopter, etc.) in and around a doorless, windowless ‘white house’ which is slowly engulfed in rising flood waters.  

- Steve Bissette (from "Green Mountain Cinema"   ISBN 1-932983-29-5)


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