Two documentaries capture a decade’s impact

By Sean Donato

Most people are used to documentaries that are highly informational, yet visually less than stunning. However, students have a chance to see two eye-pleasing documentaries next week. The two films, local filmmaker Tom Spain’s America in the Forties and Connie Field’s The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter both attempt to venture above and beyond where most documentaries go.

America in the Forties takes a look at the country during the tumultuous decade that was shaped by World War II. According to Spain, the film is “an editorial tour de force.”

It uses stock footage from the decade — including footage from the war — as well as interviews from those who lived through the 1940s. All of the various sections of the film are phenomenally edited together with the most evocative music of the era, said Spain.

“We used different stock footage from different places, which is why it’s kind of wacky,” he said.

Spain, who has been filming documentaries since the early ’60s, was asked by Reader’s Digest and PBS to direct the documentary. The film is split into three parts in order to focus specifically on three distinct times during the 1940s: the events leading up to the war, the events during the war and the aftermath.

The men and women interviewed for the film explain that in the early ’40s, people were still feeling the effects of the Great Depression and many Americans were struggling. Once America became involved in the war, many men, young and old, were drafted or enlisted in the military.

In the documentary, veterans of the war tell their own stories about their military service. Women who lived during the era tell of how soldiers who came back home were sometimes changed so much by the war that they were almost different people.

Spain will touch more upon editing and his films on Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the Sweigart Auditorium as part of the Movies in America guest speaker series.

The second film, The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, centers upon how the 1940s were a milestone for women’s liberation. Women in the films tell their stories about how making munitions and materials became their first jobs. This surge of females into the American workforce and how they contributed to America’s success in the war is the focus of the film.

This movie uses many of the same editing techniques as America in the Forties does to tell the story of how women were recruited to work during the war, yet discouraged to work after it had ended. Vintage government propaganda is used to illustrate how the American government supported women working and having their own jobs during the war but not afterward. The women in the film also tell of the prejudice that they experienced and witnessed in the workplace during the ’40s.

Both films will be shown on Monday, Oct. 1, in Sweigart 115. The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter will be shown at 6:45 p.m. and America in the Forties will follow at 8 p.m.

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