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Native Land

The Boulder Public Library's admirable and far-ranging film program is presenting "History and Development of the Documentary Film," featuring works by such disparate practitioners of the non-fiction art as the father of them all, Robert Flaherty, John Huston (in his wartime role as a documentarian for the U.S. Army) and Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Next week, the series will offer a rare chance to view Paul Strand and Leo Hurwitz's Native Land (1942), which remains a vivid model for radical social documentaries.

Based on a 1939 report of the U.S. Senate Civil Liberties Committee, this fascinating hybrid -- part documentary, part re-enactment -- examines racism, violent union-busting, labor spying and other violations of constitutional rights in the late years of the Depression. A prime example of what became known as the New York School of documentary filmmaking, Native Land was initially financed by thousands of small contributors and completed with a grant from the Roosevelt administration; it was made by the legendary Frontier Films cooperative, which was founded in 1936 and whose members later came under fire during Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist witch hunts.

Native Land will screen at 7 p.m. Friday, September 24, at the library, 1000 Canyon Boulevard in Boulder; admission is free. For more information, go to www.boulder.lib.co.us/films.

 
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