The production company Contemporary Historians was set up to raise money for a documentary about the Spanish Civil War, filmed on the spot. With John Ferno and initially with John Dos Passos, who when he left the crew, was replaced by Ernest Hemingway, Joris Ivens went to Fuenteduena, near Madrid, to film on the front of the Republican armies. It has become one of the major films on the Spanish Civil War and one of the most important films in Ivens’ career. Like in many other films Ivens finds a balance between the daily life of people and their struggle to survive.
The strong photography, mainly by John Ferno, combined with the powerful editing by Helen van Dongen and the commentary of Ernest Hemingway make the film a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking. In a first version the commentary was spoken by Orson Welles, but his voice was considered ‘too beautiful’ to be combined with the film, so it was decided that Hemingway himself do the commentary. One year later Jean Renoir made a French version, in a different editing which destroyed most of the power of the film. —ivens.nl
Joris Ivens (18 November 1898, Nijmegen – 28 June 1989, Paris) was a Dutch documentary filmmaker and committed communist.
Born into a wealthy family, Ivens went to work in his father’s photo supply shop and from there developed an interest in film. He completed his first film at 13; in college he studied economics with the goal of continuing his father’s business, but an interest in class issues distracted him from that path. Originally his work focused on technique – some argue that it had that focus at the cost of relevance, especially in Rain (Regen, 1929), a 10-minute short filmed over 2 years which features impressive cinematography and a number of ‘characters’ (but no information about them aside from what was visible) and in The Bridge (De Brug, 1928), which showed a frank admiration of engineering and also featured a number of “characters” but again did not give any information about them.
In 1931 Ivens went to the Soviet Union… read more
Joris Ivens’ agitprop in favor of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. (Not to be confused with our Republicans.) Surprisingly great for a film that was created to be a fundraising aid. But Ivens’… read review