SXSW 2023 documentary review: Ian Cheney’s ‘THE ARC OF OBLIVION’ is here to blow your mind.


Clever, thoughtful, curious, and a bit meta, Ian Cheney asks profound questions about archiving life and memories. From DNA to a digital photo, ancient libraries to bat guano, the SXSW 2023 documentary THE ARC OF OBLIVION is here to blow your mind. What starts as a plan to build an ark in his parents’ Maine backyard spirals into a complex study of man’s obsession with record keeping.

Cheney is building his Arc and documenting each step by delving into the history of the slightest details, human, animal, and mineral. Sporadically punctuated by amusing original limericks and images on his vintage portable television “Rex,” the film is a fascinating rumination on history, memories, and sentimentality. Ezra Wolfinger‘s striking drone shots juxtaposed with Melissa McClung‘s stop-motion transitional sequences are delightful. Close-up shots of wood rings and the ocean floor are awe-inspiring. It is a skillfully crafted journey. Oh, and Werner Herzog appears and produces, and it just makes sense. The final song choice, “Road To Nowhere,” is perfection.

Endlessly engaging, witty, and sometimes akin to experiencing the stream of consciousness of a creative mind, THE ARC OF OBLIVION is the kind of documentary SXSW 2023 audiences seek out. You’ll be surprised at the innumerable ways we record our existence.

Film Screenings

Mar 10, 2023
Mar 15, 2023
Mar 15, 2023

Ian Cheney

Executive Producer:

Greg Boustead, Jessica Harrop, Robyn Metcalfe, Werner Herzog


Meredith Desalazar, Manette Pottle, Rebecca Taylor


Ezra Wolfinger


Ian Cheney


Colin Cheney

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.

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