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The Black Legion - Nykino


Rental Format(s): Digital File

Complete title: The Black Legion: The World Today Series, Issue No. 1, "A Shadow of Fascism Over America"
Co-makers: Mike Gordon, Ralph Steiner, Willard Van Dyke, Ben Maddow, Irving Lerner, and Lionel Berman
Production: NYKINO
Original format: 35mm sound film 1.37:1
Courtesy: British Film Institute National Archive

Unhappy with the limited structure of Film and Photo League newsreels, NYKINO, a splinter filmmaking collective, produced a March of Time-type news series under the banner The World Today. Only two episodes were released, the first premiering with Strand's The Wave (1936). This short, like the feature-length Native Land, addresses fascism in America. -Bruce Posner

NYKINO (1934-1937) was a radical newsreel group centered around filmmakers Ralph Steiner, Irving Lerner, and Leo Hurwitz, who split away from the Film and Photo League. They felt the League's newsreels were "formless and as poorly made as the commercial reel." NYKINO released Pie in the Sky (1934) and the two-part, The World Today (1936-37). -Bruce Posner

Irving Lerner (1909-1976) was an accomplished, all-around filmmaker who could perform all aspects of production, camerawork, editing, sound recording, you-name-it. His '30s work for NYKINO, Frontier Films, and other independents and for the Office of War Information during W.W.II mark him as an influential member of classic American documentary film. -Cecile Starr/Bruce Posner

Educated at Dartmouth, Ralph Steiner (1899-1986) became a successful commercial and much honored fine art photographer. He made perhaps the first American abstract film, H2O (1929), following it with other experiments, some political in nature, some in Hollywood. Steiner also photographed with Paul Strand The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936) and co-directed and photographed The City (1939) with Willard Van Dyke and Henwar Rodakiewicz. -Robert A. Haller

Willard Van Dyke (1906-1986), a photographer by age 12, formed in 1932 with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham the pivotal West Coast photography group f/64. Moving East, he became a noted documentary film-maker working closely with Pare Lorentz and Ralph Steiner among others. Hands may be his first completed film. -Robert A. Haller

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