A film by Noah Teichner
2022, 85 minutes
No. 361

In 1924, the Buford, a large dormant ship, cost little to rent. Buster Keaton used it as a spacious set for his film The Navigator. And without realising it, by filming the vessel, he archived the scene of another story of crossing. A few years earlier, the Buford had served the forced exile of 249 political opponents of the United States government. 

Noah Teichner explores this short-circuit and uses Keaton’s precious and detailed archive images of the ship to document and illustrate the crossing. Keaton advances on one side of the screen and on the other, exile is written. The voyage on the Buford unfolds through various extant accounts, in particular the poignant writings of the anarchist militants Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, detained on board. 

The dialogue develops and we accept the improbable link between the stories, as its meaning grows clear - getting rid of undesirables, their stories and their ideas through forced exile. 

The documentary interconnects archives, films from those times, logbooks, and assembles these traces to flesh out the story of missing images. From the passengers’ inner turmoil to the affirmation of their unshakeable ideas and their disillusionment with Soviet Russia, where the deportees finally arrived.

Official Selection, Cinéma du Réel
Official Selection, Festival l’Europe autour de l’Europe