Blue, a pioneer American independent filmmaker, will be honored through film screenings, guest speakers, and publications
EUGENE, Ore. -- (October 31, 2013) – The late University of Oregon alumnus James Blue, an independent filmmaker renowned for his socially engaged documentaries and teaching, will be honored with a six-month tribute to his career that will include screenings, guest speakers, and panels as well as publications and websites produced by UO faculty and students. The tribute will kick off on November 13 and 14 with Schnitzer Cinema’s presentation of Blue’s ”The March,” featuring visiting scholar Gerald O’Grady, and culminate in April 2014 with events honoring Blue in the Cinema Pacific film festival and the UO School of Journalism and Communication’s “What is Documentary?” conference.
Richard Herskowitz, director of Cinema Pacific and curator of the Schnitzer Cinema film series, is leading the James Blue Research Interest Group (RIG), which is organizing the tribute and studying Blue’s career and Oregon roots. The RIG is comprised of James Fox, Elizabeth Peterson and Lesli Larson of Knight Library; David Frank, professor, Clark Honors College; Daniel Miller, associate professor, School of Journalism and Communication; and Suzanne Clark, professor emerita, English, as well as students Alexandra Wallachy, Jordyn Roach, and Estella Taylor. Among the group’s planned activities are the preparation of a website inspired by James Blue’s “The March” that will incorporate Daniel Miller’s photographs and videos from the 50th anniversary March on Washington, a review of print and moving image materials from James Blue’s archive, and the preparation of a monograph on James Blue’s origins and legacy in Oregon.
According to Herskowitz, “James Blue’s commitment to making film and television more democratic, accessible, and socially engaged has inspired many respected filmmakers who studied with him or simply viewed his important works. He deserves greater recognition, beginning in Oregon at the university and state where his remarkable career was launched.”
The tribute begins at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art with the Schnitzer Cinema screening of “The March,” on Wednesday, November 13, at 7:00p.m. and Thursday, November 14, at 4:00 p.m., with visiting scholar Gerald O’Grady. Fifty years ago, Blue directed a team of fourteen sound and camera men in documenting the landmark civil rights event, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. Blue wrote and narrated the script and edited the footage, producing, in the words of preservation specialist Christina Kovac of the National Archives, “a visually stunning, moving, and arresting documentary of the hope, determination, and camaraderie embodied by the demonstration.” The film won acclaim at many international film festivals, including Bilbao and Venice, and was named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2008.
Gerald O’Grady, who began his academic career as a scholar of medieval literature, established and directed the Media Center at the University of St. Thomas (1967-69), which moved to Rice University in 1970. O’Grady recruited James Blue, who co-directed the Rice Media Center from 1970-75, and then hired him to join him on the faculty of the Department of Media Study at SUNY Buffalo in 1977. O’Grady has written or edited over fifty publications, including the seminal essay “The Preparation of Teachers of Media.” Most recently, he has been Visiting Scholar in the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard, where he worked on “The Films of the American Civil Rights Movement.”
On Wednesday, December 11, Blue’s brother, Dr. Richard Blue, will be joined by Gill Dennis, screenwriter of “Walk the Line” and a student and collaborator of James Blue’s, in presenting Blue’s “Alliance for Progress Trilogy” (1962) and his visionary essay film “A Few Notes on Our Food Problem” (1968). “A Few Notes” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Blue’s 1962 neo-realist film, “Olive Trees of Justice,” the only narrative feature made in Algeria during the war years and winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Prize, will show on Wednesday, February 12. Blue’s co-director Brian Huberman will present, via Skype, excerpts from “Who Killed the Fourth Ward?” (1977) and “Invisible City” (1979) on Wednesday, March 12. Both films are examples of “The Complex Documentary,” the participatory, socially engaged mode of production Blue espoused and practiced. The film series concludes with “Kenya Boran” (1974) on April 23, presented by the renowned ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall, Blue’s co-director on the film. All films take place at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and start at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
"What is Documentary?,” a conference in Portland organized by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, will be held April 24-26, 2014. The conference will feature a panel discussion on “The March” and its legacy, with invited guests Christina Kovac of the National Archives and UO Professor Daniel Miller, who will discuss his photographic and online work inspired by Blue’s “The March.” Additional screenings and discussions of James Blue’s works and legacy will be developed by the James Blue RIG in collaboration with Anne Richardson, the director of Portland’s Oregon Cartoon Institute and creator of the film blog, “Oregon Movies, A to Z.”
Born in 1930 in Oklahoma, James Blue moved to Portland in 1942 and attended the University of Oregon from 1948 to 53. He achieved local fame with his activities in radio, theater, and film production (including an 8mm “Hamlet” parody), and received a B.A. in Speech and Theater. After two years in military service, he returned to UO for an MA in Theater, producing another film, a western spoof called “The Silver Spur,” before receiving a scholarship to complete his studies at the prestigious Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) in Paris from 1956-58. He traveled to Algeria to make "Les Oliviers de la Justice” (The Olive Trees of Justice), his sole fiction feature film, using untrained actors and a highly realistic presentational mode. Back in the U.S., he made five documentary films for the United States Information Agency, the most well-known being “The March” (1964).
Blue was also an educator and taught filmmaking at the American Film Institute; was a member of the faculty at UCLA where his students included Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Schrader, and Joan Churchill; co-founded the Rice University Media Center, designed to be a laboratory for training students to make documentary films about the conditions and stories of their own communities; and taught in the Media Study Program at the University of Buffalo. With a grant from the Ford Foundation, he began a project of more than 75 interviews with many of the world’s leading directors, including Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini, and Frank Capra. Gerald O’Grady describes the archive of Blue’s recorded interviews as “one of the most important film history projects of the second half of the 20th century.” Blue died suddenly of cancer in 1980 before reaching his 50th birthday.
Cinema Pacific and the JSMA’s James Blue Tribute is supported by a JSMA Academic Support Grant and is cosponsored with the Clark Honors College, UO Libraries, and the UO Cinema Studies Program.
About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public. The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America, Europe and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries. The JSMA is one of six museums in the state of Oregon—and the only university museum--accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.
About Cinema Pacific
Cinema Pacific is an annual film festival based at the University of Oregon in Eugene that is devoted to discovering and fostering the creativity of international films and new media from Pacific-bordering countries, including the U.S. Through onsite and online presentations, the festival connects stimulating artists and ideas with a diverse public, furthering our understanding of world cultures and contemporary issues. The 2014 Cinema Pacific featuring FOCUS: TAIWAN and FOCUS: CHILE is APRIL 23 - 27, 2014.
About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.
Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942, firstname.lastname@example.org
Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, http://jsma.uoregon.edu
Cinema Pacific, http://cinemapacific.uoregon.edu/