Films for a Great Recession - Maysles Institute Presents the New New Deal

New York, New York (PressExposure) November 12, 2009 -- FILMS FOR A GREAT RECESSION:


From the Great Depression to the current Great Recession, a series of documentary films reveal the struggles of working class people and the turmoils of their daily lives. The Maysles Institute, a center for provocative documentary films that address topical issues, will be screening a series of important films that deal with economic and social distress caused by the collapse of financial markets and accelerating unemployment as well as a film about our digital age.

“The “New” New Deal,” a series of films curated by Jason Fox, examines that ever-shifting boundary between the public and private in American life. Films in the series focus on the digital age, labor organizing, and the out-sourcing of a national war as well as two highly praised, classic 1930s films funded by the Resettlement Administration (later folded into the Farm Security Administration), a pivotal institution of FDR’s New Deal. Following are a list of films and the dates of the screenings:

Saturday, November 14th, 7:30pm God is My Safest Bunker Dir. Lee Wang, 2008, 42 min. More than 30,000 low-wage workers from Southeast Asia work for American military contractors in Iraq, cleaning toilets, serving food and building barracks. Through the stories of three Filipino workers and their families, Wang's probing documentary investigates the conditions - both domestic and global - which have forced economic migration into the Iraqi war zone, and how they are understood as lived experience. Q&A with director Lee Wang.

Wednesday, November 18th, 7:30pm An Injury to One Dir. Travis Wilkerson, 2003, 53 min. An Injury to One provides a corrective—and absolutely compelling—glimpse of a particularly volatile moment in early 20th century American labor history: the rise and fall of Butte, Montana. Specifically, it chronicles the mysterious death of Wobbly organizer Frank Little, a story whose grisly details have taken on a legendary status in the state. Much of the extant evidence is inscribed upon the landscape of Butte and its surroundings. Thus, a connection is drawn between the unsolved murder of Little, and the attempted murder of the town itself.

Thursday, November 18th, 7:30pm The Plow That Broke the Plains Dir. Pare Lorentz, 1936, 25 min. A Government-sponsored documentary, 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. This film and The River’s soundtracks by Virgil Thomson have become American classics, employing melodies from folk songs and religious hymns. The music has become part of the classical cannon and is considered to be as quintessentially American as concert pieces by George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copland.

The River Dir. Pare Lorentz, 1938, 32 min. Written and directed by Pare Lorentz for the Farm Security Administration, The River is a follow-up to Lorentz's groundbreaking documentary of the previous year, The Plow That Broke the Plains. The River was fully funded and promoted by the Roosevelt administration, and it achieved wide distribution through Paramount. Striking photography and rhythmically insistent editing tell the story of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, their tendency to flood their banks regularly and with great destructive force, and the American grit and ingenuity that tamed the river valley and turned it into a productive, power-generating landscape. The River suffers from a weak, if hopeful, finale: as with all such stories, the problem is more dramatic and visually arresting than the solution. But at its best, Lorentz's film became a model for the new documentary cinema of social advocacy.

Friday, November 20th, 7:30pm It's in the P-I Dir. Bradley Hutchinson, 2009, 7 min. A heartfelt elegy to the last days of Seattle’s newspaper, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

RIP: A Remix Manifesto Dir. Brett Gaylor, 2009, 80 min. In RiP: A remix manifesto, Web activist and filmmaker Brett Gaylor explores issues of copyright in the information age, mashing up the media landscape of the 20th century and shattering the wall between users and producers. The film’s central protagonist is Girl Talk, a mash-up musician topping the charts with his sample-based songs. But is Girl Talk a paragon of people power or the Pied Piper of piracy? Creative Commons founder, Lawrence Lessig, Brazil’s Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and pop culture critic Cory Doctorow are also along for the ride. A participatory media experiment, from day one, Brett shares his raw footage at, for anyone to remix. This movie-as-mash-up method allows these remixes to become an integral part of the film. With RiP: A remix manifesto, Gaylor and Girl Talk sound an urgent alarm and draw the lines of battle.

The films will be screened at the Maysles Cinema (343 Lenox Avenue), the only movie theater in Harlem dedicated to documentary film, which serves as a site of community-based, low-cost popular education and entertainment. Its programming is selected in collaboration with its ever expanding community of viewers, independent curators, educators, and filmmakers. The Maysles Cinema provides a unique space for passionate, engaged and interactive exploration of topics of community interest. For further information, please visit

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Press Release Submitted On: November 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm
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