Architecture on Film: The American Sector + Q&A

The American Sector takes viewers on a roadtrip to visit fragments of The Berlin Wall, scattered across the United States. UK theatrical premiere.


06:30pm, Tuesday, 23 November 2021


08:15pm, Tuesday, 23 November 2021


Cinema 1
Barbican Centre, Level -2
Silk St, London, EC2Y 8DS



AF Members:
£9.60 (Please contact AF for promotional discount code)


Young Barbican:

Tel (9am-8pm):
+44 (0)20 7638 8891

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Following the screening we are delighted to host directors Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez in conversation with Dr. Martin Brady, Reader in German and Film Studies, King’s College London.

The American Sector (UK Theatrical Premiere)

Following its fall in 1989, many sections of the Berlin Wall migrated to the USA. A cinematic roadtrip to these transplanted artefacts of geopolitical division becomes a nuanced reflection on ‘the free world’ of the present.

Sumptuous 16mm vignettes offer a material record of these pieces of the Wall in their eccentrically wide-ranging American situ – from behind the Hard Rock Café in Universal Studios to George W. Bush’s Presidential Library, from the entrance of a gated community to Microsoft’s headquarters – whilst collected on and off camera conversations with the relics’ custodians, owners and passers-by allow the Wall’s mute concrete to become a conduit for contemporary discussions of freedom, 'unfreedom', and nationhood.

A film that powerfully evokes the active presence of history in daily civic life – and reveals the politics that inhere in its commemoration. Yields extraordinary results through audacious methods.
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

Travelling to over 60 of these historical fragments in their current public and private locales – whilst debates over border walls and historical monuments were running rampant – through careful montage and juxtaposition The American Sector weaves a powerful patchwork engaging history’s transformation into symbolism and myth, the artefacts that bind past and present, and America’s ongoing construction of its own identity.

Like the mysterious black monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey, perhaps The Wall is less a monument to the past than a portal to a shared future, propelling new ideas into focus. Disconnected in space and time, the concrete slabs, and the people who speak for them, are instead linked through the collective imagination of America as it continues to shape itself.
– Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez

Whether public monuments or collector’s trophies, these 3.5m high, three tonne, graffiti-daubed slabs of pock-marked concrete now sit ready to serve their new purpose – their status as components of an architectural infrastructure of segregation now exchanged for that of a “‘freedom charm’ applicable to all sorts of ideologies”.

(USA, 2020, Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez, 70 mins)