In October 1990, the Library of Congress announced its list of twenty-five culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant films to be added to the National Film Registry. The River, written and directed by Pare Lorentz in 1937, was inducted along with Scorsese's Raging Bull and Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
Originally published in 1967, Pare Lorentz and the Documentary Film was the first book devoted exclusively to the works of Lorentz. Robert L. Snyder focuses on the films Lorentz made for the United State Film Service--The River, The Plow That Broke the Plains, and The Fight for Life. With the exception of a few vintage World War I training films, these three films were the first made by the government for general viewing by the American public.
It was Lorentz's idea to produce a series of films about the pressing problems facing the nation during the Great Depression--drought, floods, poverty, and slums. With an initial budget of $6,000 and the enormous drive and energy of a young director who had never made a motion picture, the beignnings were anything but auspicious. The results, however, were sensational and often made national headlines.
In spite of inadequate budgets, bureaucratic red tape, and professional jealousies, Lorentz developed new filming techniques and set new standards in his documentaries. Snyder has written a perceptive account of the production of these classic films and the contemporary reaction to them, along with a critical evaluation of each work. This is an important book for anyone interested in documentary film and the history of the Depression era.
The Right to Play Oneself collects for the first time Thomas Waugh’s essays on the politics, history, and aesthetics of documentary film, written between 1974 and 2008. The title, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s and Joris Ivens’s manifestos of “committed” documentary from the 19 0s, reflects the book’s theme of the political potential of documentary for representing the democratic performance of citizens and artists.
Waugh analyzes an eclectic international selection of films and issues from the 1920s to the present day. The essays provide a transcultural focus, moving from documentaries of the industrialized societies of North America and Europe to those of 1980s India and addressing such canonical directors as Dziga Vertov, Emile de Antonio, Barbara Hammer, Rosa von Praunheim, and Anand Patwardhan. Woven through the volume is the relationship of the documentary with the history of the Left, including discussions of LGBT documentary pioneers and the firebrand collectives that changed the history of documentary, such as Challenge for Change and ACT UP’s Women’s Collective.
Together with the introduction by the author, Waugh’s essays advance a defiantly and persuasively personal point of view on the history and significance of documentary film.
Revolutionary thinking around gender and race merged with new film technologies to usher in a wave of women's documentaries in the 1970s. Driven by the various promises of second-wave feminism, activist filmmakers believed authentic stories about women would bring more people into an imminent revolution. Yet their films soon faded into obscurity.
Shilyh Warren reopens this understudied period and links it to a neglected era of women's filmmaking that took place from 1920 to 1940, another key period of thinking around documentary, race, and gender. Drawing women’s cultural expression during these two explosive times into conversation, Warren reconsiders key debates about subjectivity, feminism, realism, and documentary and their lasting epistemological and material consequences for film and feminist studies. She also excavates the lost ethnographic history of women's documentary filmmaking in the earlier era and explores the political and aesthetic legacy of these films in more explicitly feminist periods like the Seventies.
Filled with challenging insights and new close readings, Subject to Reality sheds light on a profound and unexamined history of feminist documentaries while revealing their influence on the filmmakers of today.