These Amazing Shadows Focuses on Culturally Relevant Films, PBS, December 29
What makes a film “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,” and who keeps a list of such films? Significant films are films that reflect the times in which they are made, are groundbreaking thematically or technically, or are culturally iconic (like that short film so many of us grew up with, “Let’s All Go to the Snack Bar”; I’ll bet you can hear it playing in your head right now). Twenty-five films are named to the list kept by the Library of Congress every year, and there are currently 550 films on the list. These Amazing Shadows premiering on Independent Lens Thursday, December 29 (check local listings for time), looks at the films on this prestigious list.
One would expect to find Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Graduate, The Godfather, and The Grapes of Wrath to appear on the National Film Registry, but the inclusion of documentaries, propaganda, home movies, Hollywood classics, avant-garde, newsreels, and silent film make it truly reflective of the culture. Viewers will enjoy the many clips of favorite films, but the treasures of These Amazing Shadows are the bits and pieces rarely seen: the first talkie, featuring a man making a duck quack; home movies taken at a Japanese internment camp; and a duck-and-cover short that illustrates how painting your house and straightening up your yard will protect you in the event of a nuclear attack.
Among those interviewed in These Amazing Shadows are Dr. James Billington of the Library of Congress; famous directors, producers, and actors; archivists; members of the National Film Preservation Board; award-winning craftsmen; and family members and associates of people involved in making some of the films included in the Registry. Many discuss the impact a particular film made on them personally, while others provide insight into film and society. Though largely an homage to movies, These Amazing Shadows also explores films, like Birth of a Nation, that had a negative influence.
These Amazing Shadows is an entertaining documentary from which viewers are certain to learn a little history—or trivia. The question is, will These Amazing Shadows be nominated to the National Film Registry? If you would like to see if your favorite film is included in the Registry (mine, Bringing Up Baby is), click here. If you would like to purchase These Amazing Shadows, click here.