January 29, 2015
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We have a guest blog from Maia Krivoruk, intern extraordinaire. Ms. Krivoruk is currently a sophomore attending the University of Pittsburgh. She is a social work major with a concentration in global studies. She grew up in New Jersey as an active member of Girl Scouts along with involvement in Habitat for Humanity International. While home, she works for Milestone Film and Video where she can pursue her side interests in film and history.
I am currently an intern at Milestone Film and Video; therefore, I might be a little bias when it comes to their films. Over the past month, I have been fortunate enough to work on two films: Leo Hurwitz's "Strange Victory" and Kathleen Collins' "Losing Ground." Both are incredible masterpieces that shed light on often underrepresented populations within movies.
"Losing Ground" was created in the 1982 by the wonderful filmmaker, Kathleen Collins. Collins has two successful black professionals as her main characters who are experiencing a crisis in their marriage. Instead of casting African Americans as criminals, thieves, thugs (the stereotypical roles) – Collin's is able to represent a more accurate depiction. The wife, Sara (Seret Scott) is a university professor who is researching the Ecstatic Experience in order to experience it for herself. Her husband, Victor (Bill Gunn) is an abstract painter who uses his talents to get involved with other women. The film is a great representation of a couple in trouble – a problem that most people have had or might have regardless of skin color. It is truly refreshing to watch.
The second film, which I have I have worked very closely on is "Strange Victory." The film addresses the hypocritical post-WWII society. After just having fought a war overseas against Fascism and Nazism, black veterans and citizens return home to a similar environment. Racism and discrimination is still present on home soil. A majority of the film is actual footage from the war. The script is incredibly poetic and unapologetic. While researching the background of the film, we were able to discover that one of the actors was in fact a Tuskegee Airman, Virgil Richardson. He truly lived up to his role in "Strange Victory" as a black Air Corps veteran. This film is timeless; the issues it addresses, unfortunately, can represent societies throughout history...including today's. I highly recommend seeing it.
Both films fulfill the desire to be relevant to the world and committed to truth.
A couple of years ago, we had a phone call from our friend at Turner Classic Movies. He had just read a biography of the Huston family and was enthralled with the story of John Huston's post-war documentary, LET THERE BE LIGHT. It was a public domain film and I suggested that TCM could acquire it anywhere, but he wanted the best version and sent us to find it. It didn't seem very exciting to us -- just call the archive and get what we needed. But there was a happy surprise -- I called our friend Russ Suniewick at Colorlab who is one of the authorized labs the government uses and he told me this was an odd coincidence. That very week, they were finishing a brand-new restoration of LET THERE BE LIGHT that they worked on with Chace Audio in Burbank. If I could wait a few days, we could get a video master off the new version!
Well needless to say, we felt very good that through a little (minimal, actually) detective work and good friends, we could provide TCM with a version far superior to the public domain versions out there. LET THERE BE LIGHT is a brave, honest film about soldiers coming back home from World War II with "shell-shock" or now known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, with the end of the war and a focus on the future ahead, the Army banned the film and it wasn't officially shown until 1972. Selected to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, it remains a remarkable film exploring the beginnings of the treatment of a problem that remains the most misunderstood (see RAMBO) and most difficult "side-effects" of war.
There's a story on the film today on NPR that features Daniel Eagan, an expert on the National Film Registry. You can hear the report here and see a portion of the restored film on YouTube below. And you can find it on our website here.