Johan Grimonprez b. 1962
Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1997)
DIAL H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, the acclaimed hijacking documentary that eerily foreshadowed 9-11. We meet the romantic skyjackers who fought their revolutions and won airtime on the passenger planes of the 1960's and 1970's. By the 1990's, such characters were apparently no more, replaced on our TV screens by stories of anonymous bombs in suitcases. Director Johan Grimonprez investigates the politics behind this change, at the same time unwrapping our own complicity in the urge for ultimate disaster. Playing on Don DeLillo's riff in his novel Mao II: "what terrorists gain, novelists lose" and "home is a failed idea", he blends archival footage of hijackings with surreal and banal themes, including fast food, pet statistics, disco, and his quirky home movies. David Shea composed the superb soundtrack to this free fall through history, best described in the words of one hijacked Pepsi executive as "running the gamut of many emotions, from surprise to shock to fear, to joy, to laughter, and then again, fear."

""Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y" is a video film structured in a single 68-minute projection installation. The guiding visual thread of the piece is the almost exhaustive chronology of airplane highjackings in the world. The soundtrack is constituted of a fictive narrative inspired by two Don DeLillo novels-"White Noise" and "Mao II"-which, for Grimonprez, "highlight the value of the spectacular in our catastrophe culture." (...) "Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y" blends photographic, electronic, and digital images, interspersing reportage shots, clips from science fiction films, found footage, and reconstituted scenes filmed by the artist. The work denounces the media spectacle and seeks to detect the impact of images on our feelings, our knowledge, our memory.

This film may only be shown for educational and non-commercial purposes. For all other enquiries please contact Other Cinema, the film's distributor.

This film was produced by Emmy Oost (

Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y is made possible on UbuWeb by the permission of Johan Grimonprez and Emmy Oost.