The films included in this section were sponsored either by the federal government or by an academic establishment. Their essential commonality is that they were not commissioned by an industrial entity, in this case, the automotive industry. Each makes a case for public organization of the American workforce in order to alleviate some ill existant during the 1930s, whether it be widespread unemployment or natural disaster.

I would argue that these films can be differentiated from those created by the Jam Handy Corporation in that all three films suggest that a once-bucolic scene can, under certain conditions, take on monstrous characteristics. In these films, nature is closer to the "hideous wilderness" described by Marx than to beneficent mother earth. In the most radical case, Valley Town, the landscape has gone so awry as to become one with the ruinous machine.

Although machines are used to reign in the raging floods, relief comes, for the most part, directly from the hands of the people. Needing to demonstrate man's innate ability to overcome daunting obstacles, these three films ultimately eschew the pastoral myth. Nature (or, in the case of Valley Town, the mechanized landscape which is given what I would describe as a semi-pastoral treatment) represents an obstacle to be conquered, an opportunity for man to prove himself.




    Government and Scholarly Films
O   r   g   a   n   i   c       M   e   c   h   a   n   i   c   s:
The Aesthetics of American Documentary Film in the 1930s