Paul Robeson narrates a mix of dramatizations and archival footage about the bill of rights being under attack during the 1930s by union busting corporations, their spies and contractors. In dramatizations, we see a Michigan farmer beaten for speaking up at a meeting, a union man murdered in an apartment in Cleveland, two sharecroppers near Fort Smith Arkansas shot by men deputized by the local sheriff, a spy stealing the names of union members, and a dead Chicago union man eulogized. In archival footage we witness police and goons beating lawfully assembled union organizers, and we see men at work and union families at play. The narration celebrates patriotism and democracy.
By the start of World War II, Paul Robeson had given up his lucrative mainstream work to participate in more socially progressive film and stage productions. Robeson committed his support to Paul Strand and Leo Hurwitz’s political semidocumentary Native Land. With Robeson’s narration and songs, this beautifully shot and edited film exposes violations of Americans’ civil liberties and is a call to action for exploited workers around the country. Scarcely shown since its debut, Native Land represents Robeson’s shift from narrative cinema to the leftist documentaries that would define the final chapter of his controversial film career.
In an intriguing documentary that wants to trace the notion of liberty and its application and abuse over the course of American history, actor/singer Paul Robeson lends his distinctive voice over narration. We see stories involving the murder of sharecroppers, the torture of men by the Ku Klux Klan, and the incredibly incendiary activities of an anti-union corporate spy. While all of these sequences are dramatic recreations, they are based on actual fact. Indeed, these incidents were reported to the Senate Civil Liberties Committee in 1938. Throughout it all, Robeson sings, and suggests ways to avoid this obvious “fascism” at home.
Extra: “The Story of Native Land,” a video interview with cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, son of Frontier Films cofounder and Native Land codirector Leo Hurwitz. In English with no subtitles. Framerate is the best possible constant framerate, as all the new sections are shot in pure NTSC video.
1.83GB | 1h 28m | 720×540 | mkv
Subtitles:English, English HOH