the traveler's resource guide to festivals & films
a site
part of Insider Media llc.

Connect with us:


Leo Hurwitz & the NY School of Documentary Film

For many Americans, "terrorism" is an anthropological term meaning dark foreigners. They might be surprised to learn that it was how a U.S. Senate committee once described corporate America's tactics to crush labor unions.

Leo Hurwitz in 1942Social documentarian Leo Hurwitz reenacted findings from that official body — the La Follette Senate Civil Liberties Committee — in his 1942 feature film, Native Land. The hybrid documentary raised the specter of fascism and called exploited workers to action. Narrated by Paul Robeson and co-directed by Paul Strand, it's now seen as an early waypost of progressive filmmaking in this country, and whether you're gainfully employed or a jobless statistic, you can catch it at an Anthology Film Archives series saluting Hurwitz and his peers.

Titled "Leo Hurwitz and the New York School of Documentary Film," the retrospective will unfold March 10-19, 2010, at Anthology's shrine to indie/avant-garde filmmaking in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Following the crowd was never Hurwitz's way. Leading was, and arguably the Brooklyn-born son of a Russian socialist shook up the documentary narrative more than most. Yet he was in fine company with fellow filmmakers Strand, Willard Van Dyke, Ralph Steiner, Sidney Meyers and later pariah Elia Kazan, among others. Seeded by Robert Flaherty and Pare Lorentz, the New York School marked a second generation of American media frontiersmen who would bushwhack the way for the TV documentary and next for the flowering of non-fiction filmmaking in the 1960s and 70s.

Anthology begins its look back with modern documentary's 11-year gestation period, from 1931 to 1942. It continues on through Hurwitz’s hounded productions of the McCarthyite 1950s (when Kazan "named names") along with his contribution to cinéma vérité and the more artistically driven, less political films of his later career.

Exposing what forces spurred reactionary elements toward a taste for red meat, a collective of left-liberal photographers, filmmakers and critics came together in 1930 under the aegis of the Film and Photo League. Anthology's roundup of their shorts and newsreels includes Detroit Workers News Special 1932: Ford Massacre and two works about national hunger marches, photographed from the perspective of the marchers.

Depression breadlines, Hoovervilles and labor unrest are chronicled here not only as a social document, but also as a way of rallying audiences of workers who otherwise might not grasp the scope of the economic debacle and class tensions. "When you put your hand in your pocket and you can touch your total savings, your life is revealed as not the private thing it seemed before. It becomes connected with others who share your problem," as Hurwitz is quoted saying in William Alexander's book, Film on the Left.

Agit-prop filmmaking also united the Nykino group, which Hurwitz split from the Film and Photo League to co-found with Steiner and Irving Lerner. A segment called "Nykino and American Documentary Film in the Thirties" showcases such films as Fred Zinnemann and Strand's docudrama about a fishermen’s strike in Mexico, The Wave, and Steiner's irreverent poke at religion and poverty, Pie in the Sky (featuring loopy antics by Kazan and Group Theater colleagues).

"American Documentary Film in the Thirties" clusters some of the decade's most poetic work. It opens with Lorentz's The Plow that Broke the Plains, which laments the Dust Bowl — arable land sold out for a quick buck — and plugs the green-minded policies of the New Deal. Strand, Steiner and Hurwitz contributed cinematography alongside images by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, and Virgil Thompson composed the score. Lorentz's next film, The River, may be better known (it's not included in the series), but Washington-funded The Plow had the distinction of being the first motion picture to enter the Congressional archives.

Valley Town, by Van Dyke shares Anthology's 30s marquee; its study of steelworker's family thrust into poverty when automation eliminates jobs holds up as one the most searing portraits of that hard knocks era.

In 1936 Hurwitz joined with Strand and fellow travelers in founding Frontier Films, the first nonprofit documentary production company in the U.S. Its politically committed slate debuted with Heart of Spain, Hurwitz's half-hour film about the Spanish Civil War. Heart of Spain will be shown in part one of two Frontier Film blocs. It's followed by China Strikes Back, which marked two more firsts: footage both of Mao Tse-Tung at his Yenan base and of the Chinese Communist army; and a dialectical approach to editing that not only became emblematic of Frontier Films but also fashioned a long-lingering sensibility in the art form.

Native Land was Frontier Films' swansong. In "After Frontier Films," Anthology pays tribute to a 1948 feature entitled Strange Victory, the only production of Hurwitz's subsequent shingle. The documentary, which dissected post-War racism and complacency in the U.S, won awards at the Karlovy-Vary and Venice Film Festivals.

In the 50's and 60's, while blacklisted, the Harvard-educated Lefty continued to make independent films and, with Life magazine photographer Fons Iannelli as his "front," co-produced, directed and edited a number of segments for CBS's "Omnibus" magazine show. Emergency Ward gives a sampling in "The Pre-history of Cinéma Vérite."

After pocketing Emmy and Peabody awards for directing Verdict for Tomorrow about the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, Hurwitz produced several feature-length films for National Educational Television, including Essay on Death: A Memorial to John F. Kennedy. Rather than rehash the all-too-familiar details of the President's assassination, Hurwitz took art, literature and such actors as Christopher Plummer to plumb the meaning of death. The film will unspool in one of three "Hurwitz in the Sixties" spotlights, as will his other artsy NET productions, The Sun and Richard Lippold and In Search of Hart Crane.

Anthology audiences will find mostly short works in this New York School series, however, Dialogue with a Woman Departed stands to test their bladders. A four-hour epic collage dedicated to Hurwitz's late second wife and co-worker, Peggy Lawson, it was shot over eight years in the 70s. It was his last major production, and it earned him an International Film Critics Prize in 1981.

Hurwitz's seminal short, The Scottsboro Boys, about the 1931 trial of nine black teens falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama, is absent from the Anthology lineup. Yet for a bit of Hurwitz trivia told by Tom Hurwitz (who assisted Anthology in mounting the exhibition), his father redirected his energy to the Scottsboro project after reaching out to Charlie Chaplin to no avail.

Had the silent comic come through, the New York voice of Leo Hurwitz — and the generations he influenced — may have sounded different. The resonance it achieved fills 10 days that will shake your documentary world.

Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Avenue

New York, NY 10003
(212) 505-5181

A Preview of the Birds Eye View

With its cheeky owning of the British term "bird" for "woman," the UK's apostrophe-less Birds Eye View Film Festival takes place March 4-12, 2010, during International Women's Week, at several venues around London including the ICA, BFI Southbank, Renoir Cinema, Lexi Cinema and Ritzy Picturehouse. This is the festival that celebrates, promotes and develops the work of outstanding creative women from around the world.

The Festival showcase features, documentaries and short films made by women around the world, along with a retrospective celebrating the pioneering women of cinema and a program exploring the creative possibilities opened up by new technology.

On Opening Night, actress Jane Horrocks officially opens the festivities, presenting a showcase of new shorts, including Juanita Wilson's Oscar-nominated "The Door." The Closing Night feature is Drew Baryrmore's directorial debut, Whip It!.

This year's Master Class speaker is Danish auteur Susanne Bier, who appears with screenings of three of her films: After the Wedding, Brothers, and Things We Lost in the Fire.

Features screened include:

Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, directed by Isabel Coixet. It stars Oscar-nominee Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Sergi López (Pan's Labyrinth).

Mall Girls, directed by Katarzyna Roslaniec. A major hit in its native Poland, this teen drama explores the condition of a generation exposed to too much too soon.

The Father of My Children, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, tells of an independent film producer and loving father whose company is approaching financial collapse.

From A Whisper, directed by Wanuri Kahiu, is about a family torn apart by the terrorist bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998. This film won top awards at the African Movie Academy Awards 2009, including Best Picture and Best Director. 

Documentaries include:

Rough Aunties, directed by Kim Longinotto, celebrates the strength and compassion of the "Rough Aunties" who care, and fight, for South Africa’s abused children.

Junior, directed by Jenna Rosher, studies the ups and downs of cohabitation with a 75-year-old man who has moved back in with his 98-year-old mother.

She Is the Matador, directed by Celeste Carrasco & Gemma Cubero del Barrio, follows two female bullfighters, Mari Paz Vega and Eva Florencia, as they fight to realize their dream of working in the arena.

The "Sound and Silents" track features screenings of three silent stars as part of the festival's tributes to pioneering women in the medium:

The Patsy (1928), directed by King Vidor, starring Marion Davies and Marie Dressler.  Music is a specially commissioned live accompaniment from Gwyneth Herbert with an introduction by actress Patsy Kensit.

Chicago (1927), directed by Frank Urson and starring Phyllis Haver and Virginia Bradford. This is the original story of Roxie Hart, which later became the Bob Fosse musical. Live accompaniment is by Patti Plinko.

Her Sister From Paris (1925), directed by Sidney Franklin, starring Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman. Live accompaniment is by pianist Jane Gardner.

Also screening is director Lotte Reiniger's silhouette-animatedThe Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), the oldest known surviving animated feature. British Composer Award-winner Mira Calix premieres her new live musical accompaniment.

The program "Innovation" showcases new developments in media technology, including:

"Papermint: Game Development Live," a demonstration of an all-new animated world of social interaction.

"New Technologies: Who? What? & Why?" Can online technologies do more to change minds and mobilize people than traditional linear media? Do games have a key role to play in schools, hospitals and workplaces?

"She Says: A Cross Disciplinary Networking Event"

For more information, visit  

Birds Eye View Film Festival
March 4-12, 2010
London, England

Korean Film Festival LA

As the biggest Korean film festival in the United States, The Korean Film Festival in Los Angeles (KOFFLA) is being held March 4-7, 2010 at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and the Laemmle Music Hall, among other venues in Los Angeles, California.

KOFFLA’s main purpose is to introduce Korean films to avid film lovers and the industry alike. It aims not only to bridge the gap between Hollywood and Korea but also between Korea and the Korean-American community through the medium of film and visual arts.

Over 70 films are screening, with In-competition films being judged by a select jury board consisting of industry professionals and prominent figures in the Korean community.

Hosting the 2010 KOFFLA is Korean director Chang-Wha Chung, one of the first to introduce martial arts films to the U.S. through his film Five Fingers of Death, which helped light the kung fu movie explosion in the early 1970s.

This year’s spokesperson for the Festival is famed actor John Cho (Star Trek, the Harold and Kumar films, TV’s FlashForward).

Opening Night Film is Le Grand Chef II: Kimchi War , about two chefs who compete for bragging rights as "Kimchi-originator" and the future of a family restaurant. Directed by Baek Dong-hoon, the film stars Kim Jeong Eun (Lover in Paris) and Jin Goo (Mother), who are appearing with the director at the screening. A KOFFLA representative states, “[We] specifically chose this film to launch the festival because of what it symbolizes to the Korean community. Kimchi represents the specialty of the country and the feelings and sensitivity of a Korean.”

The Closing Night film is A Good Rain Knows, directed by Heo Jin-Ho, about two former students who meet later and discover the romantic connection they had not realized before.

Korean features include:

Memories of Murder / Salinui chueok, directed by Bong Joon-ho (Mother), starring Song Kang-ho (The Host, Lady Vengeance, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) and Kim Sang-kyung (May 18, The World of Silence) is based on a true story about two brutal and stupid local detectives who try to solve serial murders of young women.

White Night / Baek-ya-haeng, directed by Park Shin-Woo starring Han Suk-Kyu (The President's Last Bang), Son Ye-Jin, Ko Su and Lee Min-Jung. A long forgotten case reveals a hidden relationship between a victim's son and the neighborhood woman's daughter.

The Righteous Thief (aka Descendants of Hong Gil-dong) / Hong-gil-dong-eui Hoo-ye, directed by Jeong Yong-Ki (The Doll Master), starring Lee Beom-Soo, Kim Soo-Ro, Seong Dong-Il and Lee Si-Yeong, is a Robin Hood tale about a family who schemes to fight against corrupt business moguls.

Make Yourself At Home (aka Fetish) directed by Soopum Sohn, starring Song Hye-Kyo and Arno Frisch. A young woman marries and moves to New Jersey to avoid the power of shamanism—but Fate knows no borders. The director will be present.

Films by first-time directors include:

Daytime Drinking / Naj sul, by Noh Young-Suk. A young man who just broke up with his girlfriend only wants to drink and winds up on a road trip that makes a hangover from hell seem good. The director will be present.

Members of the Funeral / Jang-rae-sig-ui member by Baek Seung-Bin. The suicide of a 17-year-old dislodges secrets and hidden feelings in a dysfunctional family.

Rough Cut / Yeong-hwa-neun Yeong-hwa-da, directed by Jang Hoon, starring Hong Su-hyeon (Bungee Jumping of Their Own) and Kang Ji-Hwan (Host and Guest). A gangster-turned-actor does a film with an actor (who is practically a gangster), with the only condition that the violence portrayed in the movie has to be real.

Tokyo Taxi / Dokyo taekshi, directed by Kim Tai-sik. In this lighter side of road trips, a lead in a Japanese band must get to a gig in Seoul but he's afraid to fly, so he decides to take a taxi. The director will be present.

Korean-American features include:

God is D_ad, directed by Abraham Lim, starring Cy Shim, Carlo Corbellini, Lauren Mayer, Elvis Garcia, Derek Hicks, Davis Choh and Brett Emanuel. Another road trip movie, as strangers are bound for Chicago. But this one asks: are we bound by  free-will, an omniscient God or the roll of the Dungeon Master's dice? The director will be present.

Munyurangabo, directed by Lee Isaac Chung. An orphan of the Rwandan genocide travels from Kigali to the countryside on a quest for justice.

Numerous short films are also being screened.

Other events include

Actorfest KOFFLA, at the Korean Cultural Center

Master Class at American Film Institute with cinematographer Kim Hyung-ku (The Host, Please Teach Me English, Memories of Murder)

a Surprise Screening on Friday, March 4

KOFFLA was first launched in 2007 by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC). Beginning in 2010, KOFFLA will re-emerge under the Korean Cinematheque, a non-profit organization that helps to bridge the gap between Hollywood and the Korean film industry as well as the Korean and the Korean-American community through the medium of film and visual arts.

For more information, visit

Korean Film Festival in Los Angeles
March 4-7th, 2010

Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA

Laemmle Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA

AFI Conservatory - Mark Goodson Screening Room
2021 N. Western Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Korean Cultural Center - Ari Hall
5505 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Thessaloninki Documentary Festival Seeks Action

If the poster for the 12th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival says anything with its splatter of bullets, it's: "Caution! Powerful films ahead." No reel or celluloid cliché dulls the image of what to expect March 12–21, 2010, in Greece's second largest city.

Though less established than the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, TFD has earned its programming cred.

For artistic director Dmitri Eipedes, the Festival has been "a bet." The risk-happy curator "really wanted to see the level of popularity of documentary, an art form that informs as well as entertains."

With annual crowds of more than 65,000, forefront recognition in Europe and commercial success for the art form, odds are looking good. Yet the big win for Eipedes – who fled dictatorship and only returned to a democratic Greece decades later – is showing "that documentary can make us better, thinking citizens.”

The Festival's subtitle is "Images of the 21st Century," with the tacit understanding that seeing current history propels doing.  Audiences will have 170 films to spur them to action.

Take for example The Mermaid's Tears: Oceans of Plastic, by French filmmaker Sandrine Feydel. Audiences will learn about the Hazmat heap that has become Earth's oceans, and — the Aegean Sea-flanked festival hopes — will take up the cause. (The Aegean is the focus of a Greek tribute that carries late filmmaker Yiorgos Kolozis's Aegean Nin kai Ai trilogy, but I digress.)

Feydel's film will screen under "Planet in Peril," a new section that aims to pick up where the Copenhagen summit on climate change left off. Its confab, "The Earth After Copenhagen," tables as one of its talking points, "What role could organized social groups, non-governmental organizations, artistic creation and the documentary play towards (redressing global warming)?"

Mobilizing advocacy also appears a goal of such "Human Rights" section entries as The Five Cardinal Points, by Austrian director Fridolin Schönwiese. Globalization and sugarcane companies are the villains in this story of Tres Valles, Mexico, which went from prosperous farming community to destitute village whose families now seek legal or illegal work in the U.S. Another "Human Rights" selection, Dirk Simon's When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun, enlists the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and the music of Philip Glass, Damian Rice and Radiohead's Thom Yorke to chart Tibet's quest for freedom.

Women's power, as embodied in the lives of a Kenyan attorney, a South African school principal and a Zimbabwean housewife/entrepreneur, fuels Africa is a Woman's Name. The three women of ranging social strata narrate how they transformed their immediate worlds. Made by Ingrid Sinclair, Bridget Pickering and Wanjiru Kinyanjui, the "African Stories" pick echoes a broader Festival theme of human resourcefulness in surmounting private or shared hells.

It also joins two other portraits of trios, Winds of Sand, Women of Rock (also an "African Stories" entry) and Meet Me at the Mango Tree ("Views of the World"). The former, by Austria's Nathalie Borgers, follows three women of the Saharan Tubu tribe on a 930-mile date-picking mission across the Sahara desert, their yearly break from domestic drudgery and macho husbands. In the latter film, U.S. filmmaker Brian McKenzie gives a male variation of the three-tiered approach by trailing a coconut gatherer, an ironing man and a TV repairman in Tamil Nadu, India.

The "Portraits – Human Journeys" section will present the world premiere of Baktash Abtin's Park Mark, chronicling a night in the life of a former family man and wealthy U.S. resident who's now a homeless drug addict in Teheran. Like The Five Cardinal Points, When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun, Africa is a Woman's Name and five other films, it receives its world premiere at TDF.

European premieres include Coming Back for More, Willem Alkema's update of elusive Sly and the Family Stone frontman Sly Stone; About Face, an adult's attempt to grapple with severe childhood trauma, by Mary Rosanne Katzke.

This year's Festival pays homage to Dutch documentarian Joris Ivens through a retrospective reaching back to the 1920s. A highlight is The Spanish Earth, which is narrated by Ernest Hemingway and considered one of the premier documentaries on the Spanish Civil War.

Another tribute, to Krysztof Kieslowski, is part of a larger spotlight on Polish nonfiction film. Though largely known for his dramatic productions, Kieslowski documented political unrest in Poland of the 1960s and the 1970s with a rebel's nerve for social critique. The tribute's 18 films fold in the completed version of The Legend, about Polish writer Stefan Zeromski; From the City of Lódz, the director’s graduation project for film school; and interviews with workers that yield his most political film, Workers’71.

Accompanying the Festival is the International Doc Market, run by Greek National Television and the Media Program of the European Union. This year, 50 of its 450 titles will be available via an online library in 30 digital booths, dispensing of DVD and VHS formats entirely. Doc Market takes place in the Electra Palace Hotel, next to Festival headquarters — and flagship Olympion and Pavlos Zannas theaters — in Aristotelous Square.

The European Documentary Network, for its part, operates a pitching forum at TDF that draws financiers and commissioning editors from around the globe. A parallel event, "Just Talking," brings together filmmakers and industry professionals in chats that ideally lead to more than its title suggests — and on to collaboration.

Exhibitions, masterclasses, publications, concerts and parties punch up the Salonica agenda, capped by an awards ceremony.  Amnesty International and FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) are two of the prize givers; the Hellenic Red Cross is another, and three of its six Audience Awards bear cash gifts of 10,000 euros each.

Yet even non-filmmakers can expect to come away with riches from Greek Macedonia's pulsing metropolitan city and its Festival a plate's toss from the wharf.

Additional details are available at

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
9 Alexandras Avenue

11473, Athens, Greece
+30 210 870 6000
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

No Calendar Events Found or Calendar not set to Public.