Historical Society to screen international documentary film festival

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documentary-film-festivalThe Historical Society of Long Beach has been chosen by the International Documentary Association to serve as one of the host sites for its travelling documentary film festival. Beginning Saturday, November 6, the Historical Society will transform its main Bixby Knolls gallery into a documentary film theatre, featuring seven groundbreaking films from around the world.

The International Documentary Association film series will begin with a tribute to pioneering mid-twentieth century documentarian Pare Lorentz. On Saturday, November 7, HSLB will screen two of Lorentz’s films: The Plow That Broke The Plains (1936) was Pare Lorentz’s first documentary, a short film made in response to a personal request from President Roosevelt to show the natural and man-made devastation caused by the Dust Bowl. It will be followed by Lorentz’s gripping account of the famous Nazi war crimes trials in Nuremburg – It’s Lesson For Today (1948).

On Sunday, November 8, another Pare Lorentz double feature – his short The River (1938) will be followed by The Fight For Life (1941), a collaboration with author John Steinbeck.

The following weekend, the series will move into the modern world of documentary film. The three feature-length films to be screened are all winners of the International Documentary Association’s Pare Lorentz Award, which the IDA gives each year to the one documentary which “best represents the activist spirit and lyrical vision of the acclaimed Pare Lorentz.”

Admission will be $10 for non-HSLB Members, $5 for members and students, and children under 5 are free. The Historical Society is offering a promotion for new members: Join the HSLB for $40 and attend all five documentaries for free.

Film festival screenings will be conducted in the Historical Society’s Main Gallery at 4260 Atlantic Avenue, Long Beach, California 90807 in Bixby Knolls. For more information call HSLB at 562.424.2220. All screenings begin at 6 p.m.

Saturday, November 7

The Plow That Broke The Plains (1936): With The Plow That Broke the Plains, his first film and the first US Government-sponsored documentary, pioneering filmmaker Pare Lorentz won praise and wide recognition for using sensitive photography, dramatic editing and a beautiful score by composer Virgil Thomson to illuminate a local problem of national importance – the challenges faced by wheat farmers and cattle ranchers in the Great Plains. As the film climaxes in a vivid portrait of the record drought that produced the dust bowl and the plight of the “blown out, baked and broke” people who felt its impact, it becomes clear that a new master of the documentary form has found his voice.

Nuremburg – It’s Lesson For Today (1948): Nuremberg is a grim, unflinching account of the Nuremberg trials, and of the war crimes that made them necessary, told almost entirely without editorial comment. During the trials, the courtroom was dominated by a large motion picture screen upon which the prosecution showed films of Nazi atrocities. Much of this footage was confiscated from the private libraries of high Nazi officials and, ironically, proved to be the most damning evidence against them. Working with more than a million feet of film, and intercutting excerpts from these films with sequences from the trial, Lorentz and his staff created an absorbing historical narrative showing the rise of Hitler, the subjugation of most of Europe–and the systematic murder of millions of innocent people. Writer/Producer/Director Stuart Schulberg, Editor Joseph Zigman, Producer/Executive Producer Pare Lorentz

Sunday, November 8
The River (1938): In The River, Pare Lorentz deploys powerful images, a poetic Pulitzer Prize-nominated script and another score by Virgil Thomson to illustrate the problems of flood control on the Mississippi River and the efforts to correct it. While arguing that the building of dams would put an end to the destruction of crops and property brought about by the havoc of annual floods, Lorentz reveals the ways the river has been misused, and presents a stirring paen to America’s natural land¬scape, and the proud history with which it is imbued.

The Fight For Life (1941): In this short feature, based on a book by Paul De Kruit, Lorentz presents a staged re-enactment of an emergency childbirth in an urban hospital. As the story of the mother’s difficult delivery and death in spite of valiant efforts by the doctors to save her unfolds, The Fight For Life reveals the crisis of health and prenatal care among the urban poor of the period, and explores the impoverished lives of the working people of the cities, who live in slums and tenements where they are forced to suffer from the disabling diseases endemic in such environments.

Saturday, November 14
Garbage Warrior (2008): Directed by Oliver Hodge What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you’re renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of “Earthship Biotecture” by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business. Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most.

Sunday, November 15
Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation (1997): Directed by Jo Menell A captivating view of the indomitable spirit of one of the world’s most fascinating figures, this full-length documentary follows Nelson Mandela from his early days and tribal education to his election as South Africa’s first black president. Providing insights into his early life, the film takes us through Mandela’s childhood, adolescence, career in law and first marriage. “Mandela” is an absorbing look at the courageous life, tribulations and fortitude of Mandela the leader, while never forgetting the engaging and charismatic spirit of Mandela the man, as seen through exclusive interviews and narration from Mandela himself.

Saturday, November 21
Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness (2000): Directed by Rob Kirk In the fall of 1939, Hitler’s murderous wave was sweeping through Eastern Europe. In the face of the Nazi onslaught, Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara set about saving thousands of lives. But his struggle was not fought on the battlefields or in war rooms. He used his power as a diplomat to rescue fleeing Jewish refugees.

On the final night of the festival, Saturday, November 21, the producer of Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness, Diane Estelle Vicari will introduce her film and, after the screening, conduct a discussion with questions from the audience.

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