These Amazing Shadows

Synopsis: What do the films Casablanca, Blazing Saddles, and West Side Story have in common? Besides being popular, they have also been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," by the Library of Congress and listed on the National Film Registry. These Amazing Shadows tells the history and importance of The Registry, a roll call of American cinema treasures that reflects the diversity of film, and indeed the American experience itself. The current list of 525 films includes selections from every genre - documentaries, home movies, Hollywood classics, avant-garde, newsreels and silent films. These Amazing Shadows reveals how American movies tell us so much about ourselves...not just what we did, but what we thought, what we felt, what we aspired to, and the lies we told ourselves.
Genre: Documentary
Production: IFC Films
  3 wins & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
88 min

There is nothing like

going to a theater,

a communal atmosphere,

watching something

that is bigger than life.

It's dark...

You don't look at anybody...

And then the movie started

and it was really,

really magical.

I went to a movie at 10

in the morning,

which to me was so odd, right?

Who goes to a movie at 10?

But there was light, there was drama,

there was narrative

and I think what I most loved was the way

the filmmaker was present,

saying "Here, take a look at this,

think about that."

We were all an eight-year-old boy.

We were all a 10-year-old girl.

We were all sitting there in that audience

watching whatever that movie was.

It became a magical experience.

You go into the dark

and you learn something new

and you come out

and it's almost

like a religious experience.

If you want a window

into what was going on...

in humankind at a given point in time,

you look at movies.

It gave me the sense that...

I was more

than just this little boy,

and there was a lot of other things

out there that I could do.

And if I just kept going

in the right direction,

maybe the right thing would happen.

Because that's what happened

in the movies.

It's heavy.

What is it?

The, uh...

Stuff that dreams are made of.


Media giant Ted Turner

has upset a lot of people,

because of what he's doing

to some of Hollywood's greatest old films.

Turner recently

bought the M.G.M. film library.

Now, he's adding color

to the black and white ones.

To colorize or not to colorize,

Ted Turner has said is his choice.

Well, last time I checked,

they were my films.

You know, I'm working on my films.

Let us just say that a very rich man

has purchased all the films

ever made in Hollywood.

He calls together his staff and says,

"take all the black and white ones

and turn them into color,

using our new computer."

It was kind of an artists' rights issue

involving material alteration of films,

such as colorization,

panning and scanning,

that sort of thing.

It was a big controversy between directors

who don't like to see their films changed

and studios who were looking to take, say,

black and white films

and introduce them to a new generation

by, they thought, colorizing them

would make them more appealing.


really was the combustible issue

because a lot of film critics,

as well as the directors...

and the cinematographers and the actors

were all so incensed at these changes,

especially the possibility of changes to,

you know, classic films.

Because the films are a part

of our cultural history,

and like all accurate representations of

who and what we were,

I think they deserve preservation

in their authentic form.

The committee rooms were packed...

and when you get Jimmy Stewart coming,

you know, Mr. Smith literally

coming to Washington,

you know, I was just sitting there,

sort of admiring the whole scene.

I feel that they're being

tampered with...

and I...

I want to speak out against this.

The Librarian of Congress got the idea

that if film was honored...

in some way by the national government,

that it would be recognized

as having cultural and artistic value.

Today, the congress is taking up a bill

called the National Film Preservation Act.

Congress finally stepped in

and we were kind of...

the person brought in

to referee it if we could.

And that was essentially

the creation of the National Film Registry.

The National Film Registry

is a list of films...

of enduring cultural, historical

and aesthetic importance,

recommended to the Librarian of Congress

by a very distinguished board.

25 films are announced each year

as being added to that registry.

1989, the first year of the board meeting,

was very much focused

on the artists' rights issues.

And then after that,

it seemed very quickly to fade.

The issue became preservation,

and which films should be

awarded the seal

of the national film preservation board.

This process

serves as an invaluable means

to advance public awareness

of the richness and variety

of the American film heritage.

This is not simply

just another list of great films.

It is saying to America

and to the world,

"These films matter."

What the film registry says

is "Here are great works of art."

They were created in a commercial context

but we need to preserve them the way...

the metropolitan museum

preserves Leonardo da Vinci's.

One of the nice things

about the National Film Registry...

is that it's not only preserving our films,

but it's also, to a large extent,

preserving our cultural heritage,

and all the things that film capture.

If you look at the advent

of movies from the 1890s forward,

they were in many ways

the most important force...

for shaping a common sense

of American culture.

There was a time

when people in Southern California

didn't have much in common

with the people in Maine

and the people in Florida had

virtually nothing in common

with the people in the Pacific Northwest,

and it's movies

that came along that began...

to create the sense of nationhood.

The American film was

a particular way in which a young nation...

learned to express itself,

express its exuberance,

expose its problems,

reflect its hopes.

It was living history,

audio-visual history

of the 20th century.

Movies have been the document

of our history and culture.

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Douglas Blush

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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