16 / 11 / 02 – 15 / 12 / 02
Exhibition / Films / Talks / Performance

Film Screening:
Noël Burch

Noël Burch Biography
Interview with Noël Burch, Mai 2002
What do those Old Films Mean?
Rome is burning (Portrait of Shirley Clarke)

Red Hollywood
90 min., color and b/w, documentary (1995)
Written and directed by: Thom Andersen and Noël Burch


The documentary Red Hollywood deals with the McCarthy era and the subject of filmmakers victimized by the so-called ”witch hunt”. Andersen and Burch describe their re-evaluation of these directors in the following terms: "At best, innocent - but untalented - victims of the "excesses" of the Cold War, at worst, naive - but untalented - martyrs of an illusory cause, the Hollywood communists never had good press in the USA. In France, where numerous victims of the black list - Dalton Trumbo, Michael Wilson, John Berry and Jules Dassin - took refuge in the fifties, they were the object of genuine sympathy, but the work they did in America, as left-wing artists, remains little-known among film buffs. Red Hollywood examines these films to show the extent to which the Hollywood communists were sometimes able to express their ideas in the films they wrote and directed."

Red Hollywood is a thesis documentary whose form and content are informed by the exactitude and argumentation of scholarly research. Moreover, it uses, as supporting evidence, clips from other films, films often underrated, even scorned, arrogantly dismissed as they are by critics and film buffs. The film's purpose is twofold: rehabilitation and reevaluation. First, to show how the blacklisted writers and directors were not only victims of a sort of reactionary, anti-communist harassment, but also that their films were not devoid of talent and interest, even if they were (and still are) met with a certain indifference. Secondly, to emphasize the fact that the means of subversion were not reduced to pacifist or antinazi political rhetoric, but could also transpire more subtly in more social registers, be it in a critique of the American Dream or in a predisposition for ordinary people and daily life. In this perspective, Red Hollywood demonstrates how communist writers and directors helped break numerous dominant taboos of Hollywood ideology: a film like Salt of the Earth, directed by Herbert Biberman and written by Michael Wilson, is one of the first films to dramatize a strike from the workers' viewpoint, describe it as just and rational and use Chicanos as dramatic protagonists. Class oppression, the emancipation of women, the critique of the accumulative logic of ultra-liberal capitalism are the themes given priority treatment by communist artists and sympathizers, even as they were prey to the moral and professional censorship, such as the biased, hasty judgments of the Hollywood establishment.