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Inspired by the 1938 report of the La Follette Civil Liberties Committees investigation into the repression of labor organizing, Leo Hurwitz and Paul Strands biting and beautiful Native Land (1942, though largely shot between 37 and 39) combines documentary footage with staged reenactments to depict the struggle of trade unions against corporations, their spies and contractors. Legendary singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson narrates the film through words and song, lending the work a sense of powerful gravitas. In part a progressive response to the patriotic newsreel series The March of Time, Hurwitz and Strand (alongside their documentary filmmaking collective, Frontier Films) divided the majority of the film into four parts, all based on real events: the murders of a union farmer in Michigan and a labor organizer in Cleveland; the shooting down of two Southern sharecroppers (one black, one white) by deputies; a brutal Ku Klux Klan rally in which members tar and feather progressive political candidates; and the Republic Steel Massacre of 1937. Interwoven with these sequences are dramatizations of the workings of labor union spies, as well as slice-of-life montages meant to illustrate the themes of liberty, freedom and industrial modernization. Marc Blitzstein (The Cradle Will Rock) worked closely with Hurwitz and Strand to compose the score for Native Land. It includes original songs written specifically for Paul Robeson -- who, at the time of production, was at the peak of his career as an actor and singer, and was fast evolving into an outspoken activist for racial equality. It is Robesons narration that sums up the films message and lasting importance: Once more the old enemy rises to threaten the four freedoms, the rights of all Americans, every creed and color, to a job, a home, adequate food and medical care, the right to bargain collectively, to act for the greatest good of the greatest number, the right to live at peace, unthreatened, threatening no one. Today these words must become deeds. For there has never been a moment in our history when Americans were not ready to stand up as free men and fight for their rights. This edition of Native Land was transferred from a 16mm negative and magnetic track.
Released by Allied Vaughn. See more credits.
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