Joris Ivens, born in Nymegen, Holland in 1898, started making films at twelve years old. Continuing the tradition of his grandfather, a daguerreotype artist, and his father, owner of several camera shops, Ivens studied photography at the University of Charlottenburg in Berlin and in 1927 founded FILM LIGA. His films attracted international attention, especially those dealing with controversial social issues such as the rights of working people. Ivens would radically recut "commercial newsreels in order to alter their class orientation, driving home a political message missing from the footage in its original form." 1
In March of 1936, Ivens came to the United States to show his films--radical works combining form and content, reenactment and reportage, romanticism and realism. During his stay he was in touch with Nykino members and left his influence on their work. Irving Lerner refers to Ivens's arrival as "a turning point...a shot in the arm...In him we encounter a complete socially integrated artist, one whose great craft is stimulated by a deep sense of unity with his fellow human beings." 2 Ivens officially joined Frontier Films although the extent of his membership did not exceed beyond his impact on Nykino members. His work on The Spanish Earth and The 400 Million secured his position as a master radical film maker. He toured Spain, China, Ethiopia, and Germany with his partner and editor Helen Von Dongen, gathering footage for his international socialist films. In 1955 Ivens was awarded the World Peace Prize, the international Lenin Prize for science and culture in 1967, and was knighted in the Order of the Dutch Lion in 1998, in addition to numerous other awards.
Ivens and Hemingway on location for The Spanish Earth in 1937.
1Campbell, Russell. Cinema Strikes Back: Radical Filmmaking in the United States 1930-1942. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1978. (23).
2Alexander, William. Film on the Left. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press., 1981. (122).