Independent Lens “These Amazing Shadows”

Posted on:

< < Back to

Thursday, December 29 at 10 p.m.

Independent Lens "These Amazing Shadows"


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 in the National Film Registry, a roll call of American
cinema treasures reflecting the diversity of film, and indeed, the American experience itself. The
current list of 550 films includes selections from every genre — documentaries, home movies,
Hollywood classics, avant-garde, newsreels, and silent films. Shaping a cultural history from
pieces of film, These Amazing Shadows reveals how the National Film Registry is nothing less
than a cinematic repository of our nation’s hopes and dreams, myths and truths. Written and
directed by Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton, These Amazing Shadows premieres on the Emmy®
Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Mary Louise-Parker on Thursday,
December 29, 2011 at 10 p.m.
Rich with imagery, These Amazing Shadows interweaves clips from America’s most-beloved
films (and many rarer treasures) with moving personal tales of how specific films have reflected
our culture and changed lives. Interviews with the Librarian of Congress’ Dr. James Billington,
famous directors (including Christopher Nolan, John Lasseter, Rob Reiner, John Singleton,
Barbara Kopple, and John Waters), producers (Gale Anne Hurd and James Schamus), archivists,
admired actors (Tim Roth, Debbie Reynolds, Zooey Deschanel), and members of the National
Film Preservation Board show us how American cinema is truly our “family album.”
These Amazing Shadows tells the story of the passage of the National Film Preservation Act of
1988 and how this law set in motion a system to identify notable films. The Librarian of
Congress, with input from the public and advice from the National Film Preservation Board, selects
twenty-five films each year to add to the Registry. The oldest film listed on the registry is Newark
Athlete (1891), and the most recent is Fargo (1996).
The impact that films have had on the “national memory” and on American attitudes is explored
in different ways: the tumultuous and still unsettled history of race relations is reflected and
examined in such disparate films as D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, John Ford’s The
Searchers, and John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood, while the important role of women in
filmmaking is revealed from the pioneering work of Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner. In
addition, Rick Prelinger takes a humorous look at the influence and impact of such cold war
propaganda films as The House in the Middle.
For over a century, American movies have forged emotional connections with millions of
viewers, providing a portal to our past, defining our present, and imagining our future. American
films helped shape a global cultural language, connecting audiences across borders and different
belief systems. And, just as our ancient ancestors shared stories to connect and thrive, we too
share stories, by retelling the mysterious experience of being alive in our movies. These Amazing
Shadows shows us how movies are part of our history, part of our culture, and part of ourselves.