‘Resurrect Dead’: Photos, Reviews, and Ongoing Mysteries

Toynbee Tile
Toynbee tile at 34th and Chestnut streets, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: Kendall Whitehouse

Jon Foy’s fascinating documentary film, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, recently ended its inaugural Philadelphia run, playing to capacity crowds. Due to the success of the initial screenings, a sixth show was added to the originally-planned five shows at Philadelphia’s International House. The movie now moves on to additional screenings across the U.S.

Resurrect Dead: Philadelphia Premiere. Photos: Kendall Whitehouse

Resurrect Dead follows the exploits of a trio of amateur sleuths seeking to uncover the secrets of the Toynbee tiles — linoleum signs embedded in roadways across the eastern United States and in a few cities in South America. Many of these tiles contain the message:

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN MOVIE 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER

The meaning of the cryptic tiles — and the person behind them — have long remained a mystery. The investigators in Foy’s film doggedly pursue an increasingly bizarre trail of clues: an old newspaper article, a perplexing radio play by David Mamet, and rumors of  pirate radio broadcasts. The movie takes the audience along with the protagonists’ journey as they move ever closer to the center of the mystery.

Resurrect Dead: Second Philadelphia Show. Photos: Kendall Whitehouse

I’ve now attended three four five screenings of the film — an early press screening in New York on February 9, 2011, the Philadelphia premiere on September 8, 2011, the second Philadelphia showing on September 10, 2011, a screening at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia on February 6, 2012, and a showing at the County Theater in Doylestown on March 21, 2012 — and each viewing has provided new insights and engendered a greater appreciation for how cleverly Foy has structured the film.

In its brief 85 minutes, the film weaves together three narrative threads: the search for the identity of the tiler, an explication of the meaning of the tiles,  and — perhaps most notably — the tale of the film’s main protagonist and lead investigator, Justin Duerr.

Resurrect Dead has generally garnered positive reviews — including from the New York Times and Roger Ebert. (The New York Post, however, took a somewhat different view.) My own — very positive — review is here: “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles — Uncovering What Lies Beneath.”

My interview with the film’s writer/director Jon Foy appears in Knowledge@Wharton: “Building a Mystery: The Toynbee Tiles and Jon Foy’s Filmmaking Quest.”

Photographs from the Philadelphia premiere on September 8, 2011, the second Philadelphia showing on September 10, screenings at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia on February 6, 2012, and the County Theater in Doylestown on March 21, 2012,  along with the early press screening on February 9, 2011, are in my Flickr account. Several of my photos are also featured on the film’s official website and Facebook page.

Photos of some of the Toynbee tiles I’ve encountered are in my Flickr account as well. The Toynbee Tiles group in Flickr contains a much larger collection of tile photos, including many early tiles that have long been paved over or destroyed — including the famed “manifesto tile” with its wild, paranoid rant that offers a unique insight into the mind of the elusive tiler.

Meanwhile, new tiles continue to appear. It remains unclear which, if any, are being created by the original tiler.

[Update 1:]  Link to photos from the screening at the Trocadero added.

[Update 2:] Link to photos from the screening at the County Theater added.

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