Film and Photo League

by Russell Campbell

from Jump Cut, no. 14, 1977, pp. 32-33
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1977, 2004

Barnouw, Erik. Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. New York: Oxford University, 1974. Includes some discussion of the FPL.

Brandon. Tom. “Workers Study the Film,” New Theatre, January. 1934, pp. 14-15. Outline of the program of the FPL’s Harry Alan Potamkin Film School, with a brief survey of League production to date.

B(rody). S(amuel). “The Movies as a Weapon Against the Working Class,” Daily Worker, May 20, 1930, p. 4. Polemic against the imperialist propaganda and “stinking quality” of Hollywood films, and indication of the need for working class production.

_______ “The Hunger March Film,” Daily Worker, December 29, 1932, p. 4. Analyzes FPL shooting techniques.

_______ “The Revolutionary Film: Problem of Form,” New Theatre, February, 1934, pp. 21-22.

Filmfront, Nos. 1-5, December 1934 - March 1935. Official organ of the National FPL. Contains news of FPL activities, as well as reviews of Hollywood films, articles by Dziga Vertov, etc.

Gessner, Robert. “Movies About Us,” New Theatre, June, 1935, P. 20. Reprinted in Lewis Jacobs, ed. The Documentary Tradition: From Nanook to Woodstock (New York: Hopkinson & Blake, 1971). pp. 94-96. Critical description and survey of FPL production.

Gold, Michael. “Change the World!”, Daily Worker, November 5, 1934, p. 7. Critique of the FPL, scoring its failure to fulfill the potentialities of film as a revolutionary cultural weapon.

Gross, Babette. Willi Muenzenberg: A Political Biography. Michigan: Michigan State University. 1974. Contains details of the WIR’s film enterprises in Germany and the Soviet Union.

Hurwitz, Leo T. “The Revolutionary Film—Next Step,” New Theatre, May, 1934, 14-15. Reprinted in a shortened version in Jacobs, ed. op. cit., pp. 91-93. Outlines a proposal for extending FPL production into the field of “documentary dramatic revolutionary films.”

_________ “Survey of Workers Films,” New Theatre, October, 1934, pp. 27-28. Report to the National Film Conference, criticizing the FPL for its sporadic output and failure to transcend newsreel forms, and arguing for the creation of a “shock-troupe” of fulltime filmmakers.

________ “One Man’s Voyage: Ideas and Films in the 1930s,” Cinema Journal 15, Fall, 1975, 1-15. Retrospective survey of his filmmaking career in the Thirties, including work with the FPL.

Johnson, J.J., and Frank Weissman. “The Missing Chapter: Social and Political Movies of the 30s, Presented by Tom Brandon,” World Magazine, July 21, 1973, pp. 10-11. Reviews of several surviving FPL films shown in a retrospective program by Brandon.

Klein, Michael and Jill. “NATIVE LAND: An Interview with Leo Hurwitz,” Cineaste 6, No. 3 (1974). 3-7. Hurwitz’s assessment of his radical film work in the thirties, including his FPL period.

“Lens.” “Flashes and Closeups,” Daily Worker, January 17, 1934, p. 5, and January 18, 1934, p. 5. The FPL’s side of a dispute with the editors of Experimental Cinema centering on an abortive California production.

Muenzenberg, Willi. “Capture the Film!”, Daily Worker, July 23, 1925, p. 3. Pioneering demand for working-class film production to counter bourgeois propaganda in the movies.

________ Solidarität: Zehn Jahre Intarnationale Arbeiterhilfe, 1921-1931. Berlin: Neuer Deutscher Verlag. 1931. History of the WIR, including its film activities (but with little directly concerning the film and photo leagues).

New Theatre, 1933-1936. Succeeds Workers Theatre. Official organ of the FPL (except for the period of publication of Flimfront). Contains monthly columns devoted to League activities.

________ “Program of the International Cinema Bureau: Summary of the Decisions of the Film Conference Held in Moscow Recently to Plan a Program for the Cinema Bureau of the International Union of Revolutionary Theatre,” New Theatre, May, 1934, pp. 15-16. Outline for an ambitious international program of revolutionary film work, by an organization with which the FPL had links.

Nichols, Bill. “The American Photo League,” Screen 13 (Winter, 1972/73), pp. 108-115. First study of the League in recent years. Unreliable.

Petric, Vladimir. Soviet Revolutionary Films in America (1926-1935). Unpublished PhD dissertation, New York University, 1973. 2 vols. Chapter Nine studies the “Ideological Impact of Soviet Revolutionary Cinema on American Leftist Directors,” particularly those of the FPL.

Platt, David. “The Movie Front: National Film Conference,” New Theatre, November, 1934, p. 30. Report on the decisions of the Conference, including the reasons advanced for concentrating attention on newsreel production.

_______ “World of the Movies: A Reply to Michael Gold,” Daily Worker, November 16, 1934, p. 6. Admits weaknesses in the FPL, attributing them to financial problems and lack of support from cultural workers in other fields, but adds an optimistic forecast for the future.

_______ “Flashes and Closeups,” Daily Worker, May 10, 1935. Outline of recent FPL production and interview with James Guy on the making of TAXI.

Potamkin, Harry A. “Workers Films,” Daily Worker, May 31, 1930, p. 3. Call for production of workers’ films for distribution to working-class audiences.

Steiner, Ralph. “Revolutionary Movie Production,” New Theatre, September, 1934, p. 22-23. A plea for higher quality revolutionary films, to be made by a small group of full-time, committed workers.

__________ and Leo T. Hurwitz. “A New Approach to Film Making.” New Theatre, September, 1935, 22-23. Reflections on the significance of dramatic elements in revolutionary filmmaking, by two former FPL members who broke away to form Nykino.

S(tern), S(eymour). “A Working-Class Cinema for America,” The Left, No. 1 (Spring, 1931), pp. 69-73. Lively polemic advocating revolutionary film production along Soviet lines.

Sweet, Fred, Eugen Rosow and Allan Francovich. “Pioneers: An Interview with Tom Brandon,” Film Quarterly, 27 (Fall, 1973), pp. 12-24. Fullest account of the FPL’s work in print to date, by a participant.

Workers Theatre, 1931-1933. Contains news and notes on FPL activities.

Zuker. Joel. Ralph Steiner: Filmmaker and Still Photographer. Unpublished PhD dissertation, New York University, 1976. Close analysis of the work of a major figure in the radical film movement.