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American Documentary FilmProjecting the Nation$
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Jeffrey Geiger

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780748621477

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621477.001.0001

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Activism and Advocacy: The Depression Era

Activism and Advocacy: The Depression Era

(p.86) Chapter 4 Activism and Advocacy: The Depression Era
American Documentary Film

Jeffrey Geiger

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 4 ranges between the late 1920s and the Second World War, charting the ‘invention’ of documentary film and outlining the social functions for which it commonly came to be known. The idea of documentary as a specific form and as a professional practice came into its own during this period. At the same time, ongoing reassessments of what it meant to be American and part of an evolving national entity were paramount. Significantly, this period also saw a concerted effort to establish a government-funded documentary programme under Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal policies. Though this era is often seen as a time of increasing conformity and assimilation to a narrow ideological consensus, this chapter takes into account the incredible political and social diversity of the period, a diversity amply reflected in documentaries of the time. It includes a close reading of The Plow that Broke the Plains.

Keywords:   Great Depression, Film and Photo League, social documentary, New Deal, Popular Front, Joris Ivens, Pare Lorentz, The Plow that Broke the Plains

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