The American Sector

The American Sector ★★★½

From the ridiculous to the sublime, this surprising site study examines where an assortment of segments from the Berlin Wall ended up in the United States. Early on, it seems as if the film will peddle in ironies, showcasing how slabs have been converted into tchotchkes (e.g. there’s one behind the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Studios, FL). As it proceeds, however, empty cynicism frequently gives way to moments that show that these historical objects still resonate with some Americans (an African immigrant food truck operator’s eloquent explanation of their meaning, for example). The sum of a film that frequently oscillates between these two responses (sometimes within the same scene, such as when a Virginia student explains that she’s “not overly impressed” by the wall segment on her campus, largely because it seems to be her University’s way of wallpapering over the racial injustices closer to home) is a critique of history that amounts to more than empty cynicism and a feat of editorial sequencing.