The Tramps New World by Zoe Beloff

A feature length film currently in post production (2019), inspired by a film scenario that James Agee wrote for Charlie Chaplin in 1948. Although Agee’s film was never realized it is a fascinating thought experimental about how a utopian community could form in the ruins of New York. This essay film will explore what this could mean for us today.

Funding for The Tramps New World comes from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

“A Tramp’s New World” is the third part in a trilogy of films that explore unrealized scenarios by radical artists.  These works are neither documentaries of failed films nor pastiches of period movies rather I use the original notes as a starting point to create a dialog with the past to help us gain new perspectives on our world today. 

Film still from The Tramps New World

In a scenario written for Chaplin, James Agee imagined New York City destroyed by a nuclear bomb. At first there appears only one survivor, the little Tramp. The Tramp discovers an abandoned baby and then a young woman. He builds a shack for his newfound family in Central Park. Gradually a little multi-cultural collective takes shape. But it does not last. Representatives from the big corporations reappear to lure the people into a new commodity culture of smart objects and the Tramp finds himself alone again. Though his community is destroyed his spirit remains unbowed. As the Little Tramp sets off across the ruins of our country he remains as ever mischievous, anarchic, eternally optimistic.

Zoe Beloff is an artist and filmmaker. Her projects often involve a range of media including films, drawings and archival documents organized around a theme. They include proposals for new forms of community; “The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its Circle 1926 – 1972” and “The Days of the Commune”, projects that explore relationships between labor, technology and mental states in “The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff” and “Emotions go to Work” as well as the exploration of the origins of cinema from a feminist perspective in “Charming Augustine” and “Shadowland or Light from the Other Side”. Both thematically and formally Beloff draws timelines between past and present helping us to imagine a future against the grain of reactionary ideology. She aims to make radical art that educates, entertains, and provokes discussion. Most importantly, as her work attests, she believes protest should be vibrant, humorous and colorful, a carnival of resistance to light the way in dark times.

Zoe’s work has been featured in international exhibitions and screenings; venues include the Whitney Museum Biennales 1997 and 2002, Site Santa Fe, the M HKA museum in Antwerp, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. She has been awarded fellowships from. The Graham Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a professor at Queens College CUNY.

Collaborator: Cinematographer Eric Muzzy



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