Five African-American Films Added to 2019 National Film Registry

DVD cover of Madeline Anderson’s 1970 documentary “I Am Somebody”

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced this month the annual selection of 25 of America’s most influential motion pictures to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Selected because of their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage, the films in the class of 2019 range from Prince’s 1984 autobiographical hit “Purple Rain” and Spike Lee’s 1986 breakout movie “She’s Gotta Have It” to Disney’s 1959 timeless fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” and this year’s biggest public vote getter, Kevin Smith’s 1994 “Clerks.”

“The National Film Registry has become an important record of American history, culture and creativity,” said Hayden. “Unlike many other honors, the registry is not restricted to a time, place or genre. It encompasses 130 years of the full American cinematic experience – a virtual Olympiad of motion pictures. With the support of Congress, the studios and other archives, we are ensuring that the nation’s cinematic history will be around for generations to come.”

A musical biopic, a heartwarming tale about man’s best friend, early black cinema, a notorious real-life crime drama and the anatomy of war represent the diversity of the 2019 registry. They include blockbusters, documentaries, silent movies, animation and independent films. The 2019 selections bring the number of films in the registry to 775, which is a small fraction of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of more than 1.6 million items.

The 2019 registry selections span a century of filmmaking, from 1903 to 2003. The oldest film in this year’s class depicts footage of immigrants arriving in New York at Ellis Island, and the newest film on the list is the documentary “Fog of War,” in which former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reexamines his role in shaping American military and foreign policy.

An unprecedented seven motion pictures directed by women are on this year’s list, the most in a single year since the inaugural registry in 1989. They include the 1984 documentary “Before Stonewall,” directed by Greta Schiller; Claudia Weill’s 1978 “Girlfriends”; Gunvor Nelson’s 1969 avant-garde film “My Name is Oona”; “A New Leaf,” which in 1971 made Elaine May the first woman to write, direct and star in a major American studio feature; the 2002 indie “Real Women Have Curves,”directed by Patricia Cardoso and starring America Ferrera; and Madeline Anderson’s 1970 “I Am Somebody,” which is considered the first documentary on civil rights directed by a woman of color.

“The film documents the story of 400 black hospital works in Charleston, South Carolina, who went on strike in the spring of 1969; 388 of the strikers were women,” said Anderson. “They won the hundred-day strike, and the induction of “I Am Somebody” into the registry is a tribute to their courage and perseverance.”

Read more here.

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