UCLA Festival of Preservation Film “Native Land” Is “Exciting Filmmaking, First and Foremost”

Michael Koresky (of Criterion Collection and Reverse Shot) is a fan of Native Land, which is screening in the UCLA Festival of Preservation tomorrow at 8:30pm. Here's why:

"Hybrid documentary form" has steadily grown into a critical catchphrase: Kiarostami's Close-up is an obvious seminal moment, but one can see it in more recent international jewels as Miguel Gomes's Our Beloved Month of August and Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio's Alamar. Those fascinated with these types of films—which purposely throw into question what's "real"—would do well to go back and check out Native Land. Just the fact that it's a collaboration between blacklisted TV and cinema vérité visionary Leo Hurwitz and modernist photog extraordinaire Paul Strand should be enough reason to see it. But this pseudo-nonfiction film from 1942, which details, in a series of richly dramatized episodes, everyday losses of civil liberties by citizens all across the United States, is also arresting for the way it uses narrative cinematic devices (in camera, in editing, in voiceover—by the amazing Paul Robeson, in a bold, political bit of casting) to get at what it holds to be self-evident truths about the American way of life. It's mostly an excuse for lefty polemics and appeals to workers' rights, no doubt. If you have a problem with that, that's your funeral—but this is exciting filmmaking first and foremost. Its zeal for its art is as vivid as its pursuit for justice.

- Michael Koresky

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