History Piece

 
The Making of Power and the Land (1939-1940)


Current Page: 3
Previous Page in Essay (page 2) Next Page in Essay (page 4)
Jump To Page: 1 2 3 4


While this seems an appropriate epitaph for Ivens’ subsequent career, he never made a documentary film on the TVA. In view of his talents as a filmmaker and the appropriateness of that topic in view of his earlier work on New Earth, this was clearly a loss for both Ivens, the TVA, and film scholars. But Ivens, having made good contacts in Hollywood, had found sponsors for a film on the Spanish Civil War. In The Spanish Earth in 1937, Ivens, an avowed anti-fascist, repeatedly put himself at risk in filming battle scenes. This film, which featured commentary by Ernest Hemingway, was used to raise funds to send ambulances to the republican forces. In 1938, Ivens again put himself in the line of fire in filming the resistance of the Chinese against the Japanese Army in Manchuria. The final film, edited (as was the case with so many of his early films) by Helen van Dongen, was released in 1940 as The 400 Million.

These films brought Ivens’ work to the attention of Pare Lorentz, the head of the United States Film Service. In 1939, Lorentz had been asked by the Rural Electrification Administration to make a film showing the advantages of electrifying a typical farm. Rejecting an earlier script prepared by a Department of Agriculture employee, Lorentz developed a new outline based on a “dawn to dusk” concept showing one day on a farm without electricity and a second day with electricity. The REA apparently assumed that Lorentz, who was already known as “FDR’s Filmmaker,” would shoot and edit the film. But this was not to be the case. Loretnz, preoccupied with the completion of The Fight for Life and Ecce Homo and securing continued funding for the US Film Service, asked Ivens to take over the direction of the REA film. After going over the outline of this proposed REA film, Lorentz suggested to Ivens that he scout out possible locations in the scenic rural countryside of southeastern Ohio. In the summer of 1939, Ivens, accompanied by script writer and photographer Edwin Locke, set out to find a suitable farm and farm family.

After traveling through the Mid-West looking for a suitable location and family, Ivens selected the Bill and Hazel Parkinson farm near Warnock, Ohio. When Ivens and Locke first stopped at the Parkinson farm, they met Bill and one or more of the sons. Bill Parkinson, Ivens later recalled, seemed cool to the proposal. Ivens and Locke then traveled on and interviewed other farm families, but their thoughts kept coming back to the Parkinson farm. When they returned after several weeks, , they met Hazel, Bill’s wife, and were struck by her gracious and dignified demeanor. Andre Stufkens, the Executive Director of the European Foundation Joris Ivens, believes, as noted in the documentary Power in the Parkinsons, that Hazel reminded Ivens of his own mother. Whatever Ivens’ motivation, he and his film crew spent two months on location at the Parkinson farm filming Bill and Hazel and their five children: Dan, Tom, Jake, Ruth, and Frank (“Bip”).


Current Page: 3
Previous Page in Essay (page 2) Next Page in Essay (page 4)
Jump To Page: 1 2 3 4



Return To Top