Joris Ivens (1898 Nijmegen -1989 Parijs) made more then 80 films and filmed between 1912 and 1988 in over 20 countries. His life and work provide a unique insight in the turbulent 20th century, exploring the world with his camera in an era in which new means of communciation and transportation like film, radio, TV, trains, cars and planes made the world visible and within reach, while world wars, global migration, revolutions and world trade made people share their fate. The era of Ivens was the age of film, telegram, typewriter and air plane, the period between the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the era of the rise and fall of the artistic and political vanguard.
Being raised in a family of photographers in which observing was important, he tried to record this new world in an innovative and modern film language. With his bourgeois background of entrepeneurs he became a communist for many years and as a world citizen supported struggles for social progress, for national independence in the Third World, against colonialism and fascism. A steady faith in a happy ending made him for a long time blind for the seduction of totalitarianism. Besides films, full of social-political engagement, we also find a different approach in his work, the side of the emotional person and the poet, who can catch, and even play with, the very essence of something as illusive as a rainshower or the wind in just ten minutes. These aspects stem from the same passion for movement and moving images. In Ivens` personality his romantic attitude towards nature and the position of an artist fights with his rational attitude of a modernist and entrepeneur. He had the skills to adept very easily to people with different social backgrounds, to different spheres, cultures, countries and technical developments and yet remain himself
Looking back one can state that Ivens was an oeuvre builder, who recorded the extreme turns of the 20th century: the shocking transformation of a seven thousand years old agricultural world into a modern industrialised society. A change that occured in a short while with most violent circumstances. Whether it concerns the reclamation of the Zuiderzee in the Netherlands, the furnaces in Russia, the electrification of the rural area in the USA or irrigation by farmers in China and Vietnam, Ivens documents this worldwide revolution, in the East and West, in the North or South. It explains why Ivens could as easily work for trade unions as for capitalist multinationals. When seventy years of age Ivens was filming in the trenches of Vietnam, after having filmed four war frontiers before, ending his film career at the age of 88 with a film fairy tale on the wind and the history of Chinese culture. `Filming the impossible is the most wonderful thing there is`, Ivens stated.
His status in film history is still undisputed, being one of the great inventors of documentary film and many modern day filmmakers claim Ivens was of great influence to their work.
TOP 5 :
1. The Seine Meets Paris
2. The 17th Parallel: Vietnam in War
3. A Tale of the Wind
4. The Mistral
5. New Earth