Stuck somewhere between a serious documentary and a mischievous video presentation, Johan Grimonprez’s unconventional Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y investigates the nature of skyjacking and the questionable necessity for large-scale disasters. An infrequent narration tells us an unrelated, Don DeLillo-inspired story. Written statistics and historical events appear on screen, occasionally unrelated to the images they lie on top of. We see and hear personal accounts of passengers from hijacked flights all over the world – Japan, Cuba, the States. Grimonprez punctuates the film with self-filmed, comical interstices to contrast with the solemnity of the news reports. The same situation happens with the soundtrack – disco hit The Hustle is heard playing over a still of hundreds of dead bodies at an airport.
Grimonprez puts forward an interesting counter-argument, suggesting a return to the visible revolutionary terrorist, rather than the anonymous suicide bombers and unpredictable attacks on the public we have grown accustomed to today. It’s less focused than most other films on the subject, and terribly inflammatory, but it does feature some great footage. A psychoanalyst characterises skyjackers as childlike personae, people who still hold on to the dream of being able to fly at whatever cost. Skyjack victim Herbert Brill buoys the film with a quote that sums his experience up as: “running the gamut of many emotions, from surprise to shock to fear, to joy, to laughter, and then again, fear”. However, for all the transparent attempts to crystallise an argument, Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y is horribly inconclusive, making the film a somewhat pointless exercise.