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SFFILM Festival

Persistence of Vision Award: Johan Grimonprez + “Soundtrack for a Coup d’Etat”

Established in 1997, the Persistence of Vision Award honors the achievement of a filmmaker whose main body of work falls outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking each year.


Thu, Apr 25 at 6:30 pm


6:30 pm: Award Presentation plus conversation with Moderator Fumi Okiji

7 pm: Screening

Persistence of Vision Award

Established in 1997, the Persistence of Vision Award honors the achievement of a filmmaker whose main body of work falls outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking each year. This year, the award goes to Belgian filmmaker and multimedia artist Johan Grimonprez.

Soundtrack for a Coup d’Etat
Jazz becomes a successful smokescreen for the US and its allies’ efforts as well-meaning musicians’ diplomatic missions offer cover for a conspiracy to stage a coup against the Democratic Republic of the Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

Guests Expected

Director Johan Grimonprez and presenter Fumi Okiji are expected to attend


Soundtrack for a Coup d’Etat

What is the first step a country might take when engineering its first post-colonial African coup? Weaponize music and appoint a jazz ambassador. The stylings of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, and more form a backbeat in Johan Grimonprez’s (dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, 1997 New Visions GGA; Shadow World, Festival 2016) rich essay that interweaves interviews, archival footage, and more to tell the story of Western nations conspiring against the nascent Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to protect capitalist interests. Featuring a Who’s Who of midcentury international players, the documentary depicts how the US, Belgium, and other Western interests plotted first a coup and then the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first prime minister. The film allows the viewer to connect the dots and make connections, holding a mirror to our own era as it harks back to a violent historical chapter written to serve colonizers and capitalists–all of it set to the soundtrack of cool jazz.

Persistence of Vision Award

Who owns our imagination in a world of existential vertigo where truth has become a shipwrecked refugee? Is it the storyteller who can contain contradictions, who can slip between the languages we have been given to become a time-traveler of the imagination? Johan Grimonprez’s critically acclaimed work dances on the borders of theory and practice, between art and cinema, going beyond the dualisms of documentary and fiction, other and self, mind and brain to weave new pathways in how we perceive our realities. Our histories and memories are not only a means to reimagine our contested past, but also tools to negotiate our shared present. In Wonderland, the Queen rephrases it to Alice: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”

Director Johan Grimonprez

Johan Grimonprez’s feature films include dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (Festival 1998), Double Take (2009), and Shadow World (Festival 2016). Grimonprez’s curatorial projects have exhibited at museums worldwide, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; and MoMA. His works are in the collections of Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; and Tate Modern, London.

Moderator Fumi Okiji

Fumi Okiji is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at University of California, Berkeley. She arrived at the academy by way of the London jazz scene in which she took an active part as a vocalist and improvisor. Okiji works across black study, critical theory, and sound and music studies. Her research and teaching looks to black expression for ways to understand modern and contemporary life, which is to say, she explores works and practices for what they can provide by way of social theory. Her book Jazz as Critique: Adorno and Black Expression Revisited (2018) is a sustained engagement with Theodor Adorno and the critical potential of art. Deepening the engagement established in her first book, Okiji’s current project, Billie’s Bent Elbow: Exorbitance, Intimacy and a Nonsensuous Standard, explores black movement of thought as marked by a failure to be adequately disturbed by contradiction. As an ongoing part of her research and teaching, she experiments with approaches to study and writing, drawn from sound practices. She is a member of Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective, a group of friends who, whenever possible, study, listen to music, and eat good food together.

Film Details

Language English, French, Dutch, Russian

Year 2024

Premiere California

Runtime 150

Country Belgium/France/The Netherlands

Director Johan Grimonprez

Producer Daan Milius, Rémi Grellety

Editor Rik Chaubet

Cinematographer Jonathan Wannyn

Closed Captions Closed Captions are not yet confirmed for this program

Audio Description Audio Descriptions are not yet confirmed for this program

American Sign Language (ASL) Interpretation American Sign Language Interpretation is not currently scheduled for this film