The Secret Cinema presents
NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY 30TH ANNIVERSARY program
On Thursday, January 10, as the Secret Cinema enters its 27th year, we'll present a special program of short films paying tribute to the National Film Registry, on it 30th anniversary.
In our current, divided political climate, the legislative branch of government often seems frozen, but in 1988 it managed to pass, of all things, laws mandating the establishment of "a National Film Registry to register films that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." This unusual legislation was a side effect of public controversy over the colorizing of classic black and white Hollywood films, and the fear that future generations would not be able to see such works as they were originally created. In 1989 the first group of 25 titles was named to the Registry (including THE WIZARD OF OZ, NANOOK OF THE NORTH and STAR WARS). The National Film Registry today lists 725 films, including many obscure and "orphan works" -- not just features, but short films that encompass early cinema, documentaries, cartoons, newsreels, educational films and even home movies.
A quick look through the Secret Cinema archive shows that we hold prints of over 50 films from this list -- including one title (the locally made THE JUNGLE*) whose inclusion was the result of our lobbying. Quite a few are feature-length, but since any of those would constitute a whole show, we'll instead focus on shorts for our NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY 30TH ANNIVERSARY program, to show the variety of our film heritage that is honored in this important pantheon.
Additionally, Secret Cinema's Jay Schwartz will speak briefly about his experience working behind the scenes to get a forgotten but important film named to the Registry.
There will be one complete program, starting at 8:00 pm. Admission is free.
As always with Secret Cinema events, the films will be shown using real film (not video) projected on a giant screen.
Highlights of the NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY 30TH ANNIVERSARY program are:
A CORNER IN WHEAT (1909, Dir: D.W. Griffith) - D.W. Griffith began his directing career making hundreds of mostly one-reel dramas for the Biograph company, between 1908 and 1913. During this period Griffith's experimentation with pictorial grammar were hugely influential, and these ideas would culminate in his controversial feature masterpiece THE BIRTH OF A NATION. A CORNER IN WHEAT, made with Griffith's stock company of players (including his wife Linda Arvidson, H. B. Walthall and Blanche Sweet) combined Billy Bitzer's lush cinematography with social criticism derived from Frank Norris' short stories. The plot contrasted the poor who cannot afford bread with a greedy speculator who gains at their expense, but ultimately gets his just reward.
HINDENBURG DISASTER NEWSREEL FOOTAGE (1937) - This Registry entry is unusual in that it includes, under one listing, the work of many newreel cameramen and companies who shot similar footage of the tragic explosion that quickly consumed the Hindenburg airship in Lakewood, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. We'll show a Pathé newsreel that includes graceful scenes flying over Manhattan, as well as the dirigible's fiery end.
THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS (1936, Dir: Pare Lorentz) - This unique film documents not only its subject (soil erosion and the resulting dust bowl of the depression years), but a fascinating, long-gone time when the federal government funded politically progressive and artistically avant-garde art. FDR's Resettlement Administration assigned this project to Pare Lorentz, a political columnist freshly-fired by William Randolph Hearst. Lorentz assembled a crew of notable photographers, including Leo Hurwitz, Ralph Steiner and Paul Strand, all from the leftist Film and Photo league. He set their dramatic footage to haunting music from prominent modernist composer Virgil Thomson, and poetic narration read by Metropolitan Opera baritone Thomas Chalmers. The troubled and controversial production ultimately became one of the most famous documentaries of all time. It was hugely popular with theater audiences, and its influence on later Hollywood productions like THE GRAPES OF WRATH is clear. SHOWN USING THE DIRECTOR'S PERSONAL PRINT.
THE INNER WORLD OF APHASIA (1968, Dir: Edward and Naomi Feil) - This, a medical training film made by a small regional production company and starring the director's wife, is surely one of the most unlikely entries in the National Film Registry -- and one of its most powerful viewing experiences. It details the frustration of a nurse whose traumatic injury causes her to lose the ability to speak. For sheer emotional impact, this rather startling film handily matches any Hollywood product.
Plus THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY and STEAMBOAT WILLIE.
*We will NOT be including THE JUNGLE in this program, only because we showed it (along with an illustrated talk on its history) at the Fleisher Art Memorial just 14 months ago...AND it was subsequently shown again, at the Lightbox Film Center (as part of the touring UCLA Festival of Preservation), in 2018.
Admission is FREE