If I asked “what film is the most important film to you”, what would you say? The question is less about choosing your favourite child (i.e., what is your favourite movie?) and more about the meaning of a film and its impact on your life.
This Monday, I met two filmmakers who asked me this question and I was struck deeply by the notion of importance versus favouritism. Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton are the directors of These Amazing Shadows. You may have seen the film on KACV a couple of times on the Independent Lens series. Their film encapsulates the significance of film with a documentation of film preservation in America through the National Film Registry. Each year, the NFR selects twenty-five films that are “culturally, historically, and aesthetically” important and the films chosen are forever protected by the Library of Congress in a highly-secured vault.
Paul and Kurt exceeded expectations upon meeting them in my university’s parking lot. They weren’t simply nice, they were perfect gentlemen to me and my co-President, Katie. Their genuine interest in people and film fascinated me. Every worry I had about lagging conversations or awkward silences faded quickly from my mind — as stupid as it sounds, I realized they were just people and not solely directors. Paul loves Two for the Road and Kurt appreciates Paths of Glory in the same respect as my love and appreciation for To Kill a Mockingbird. These men had lives before filmmaking (Paul ran against The Governator in 2003!) and they care deeply for their families and the friends.
I think this emotion and reverence for humankind bleeds over into the story of These Amazing Shadows. The film conjures a pathos from the audience unlike any other. Our culture is connected via the film medium and if these amazing shadows in the form of celluloid wither away and turn to vinegar, our connections to the past will be lost forever. Paul and Kurt reminded us that film is an accurate art form in terms of the style of an era or the words spoken in a particular decade — if you want to know how your grandma used to dress, pop in a Bette Davis film. That is why preservation is key to the memory of our past.
These Amazing Shadows preserves preservation in its highest form and I recommend hopping on over to PBS’ website to purchase a copy of their film or watch it the next time it appears on the KACV program guide! Film, as you can clearly see, connects lives, histories, and cultures… so which one is important to you?