THESE AMAZING SHADOWS – Opens Friday at the Sundance Kabuki Theater

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

What do the films Casablanca, Blazing Saddles and West Side Story have in common? Besides being popular, they have also been deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and listed in The National Film Registry, a roll call of American cinema treasures that reflects the diversity of film, and indeed, the American experience itself. The current list of 550 films includes selections from every genre – documentaries, home movies, Hollywood classics, avant-garde, newsreels and silent films.

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THE BIG PARADE, 1925

These Amazing Shadows is an 88-minute documentary rich with imagery, interweaving clips from America’s most-beloved films (and many rarer treasures) with moving personal tales of how specific films have reflected our culture and changed lives. The film includes interviews with the Librarian of Congress (Dr. James Billington), famous directors (including Christopher Nolan, John Lasseter, Rob Reiner, John Singleton, Amy Heckerling, and John Waters), producers (Gale Anne Hurd and James Schamus), archivists, admired actors (Tim Roth, Debbie Reynolds, Peter Coyote), and members of the National Film Preservation Board. Shot on HD and imparting a warm film look, the documentary explores the cultural impact and historical significance of American films. These Amazing Shadows shows us how American cinema is truly our “family album.”

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LOVE ME TONIGHT, 1932

These Amazing Shadows documents the passage of the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 and how this law set in motion a system to identify notable films. The Librarian of Congress, with input from the public and advice from the National Film Preservation Board, selects twenty-five films each year to add to the Registry. These Amazing Shadows goes behind the scenes to show the discussions, the debates and the drama that surround this selection process. As stated by Dr, James Billington, the Librarian of Congress: “American film really transformed the way in which a young nation learned to express itself, express its exuberance, expose its problems, and reflect its hopes. It wasn’t simply a form of entertainment; it was living history – audio-visual history of the Twentieth century.”

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THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, 1921

The impact that films have had on the “national memory” and on American attitudes is explored in These Amazing Shadows. The tumultuous and still unsettled history of race relations is reflected and examined in such disparate films as D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, John Ford’s The Searchers, and John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood. The important role of women in filmmaking is revealed from the pioneering work of Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner to the recent work of Amy Heckerling and Julie Dash. In addition, Rick Prelinger takes a humorous look at the influence and impact of such cold war propaganda films as Duck and Cover and The House in the Middle.

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LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, 1962

These Amazing Shadows shows how films create deep emotional connections with audiences. As the film critic, author and National Film Preservation Board member Jay Carr states: “Stories are profoundly important to human beings.” Inter-cut with key film scenes, interviewees share the nearly universal experience of being swept away by a film. Liz Stanley, archivist at the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, Library of Congress, recounts, “I got involved in film archiving because I saw Gone with the Wind when I was twelve – and, to think that I might have a part in some other 12-year-old girl seeing a movie that changes their life is really exciting to me, just making sure that those images are around for generations after I’m gone is very, very exciting.”

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MIDNIGHT COWBOY, 1969 — GRAND HOTEL, 1932

The documentary explores why film endures as one of the most important mediums of art and entertainment and describes what is being done to preserve America’s film heritage.For over a century, American movies have forged emotional connections with millions of viewers, providing a portal to our past, defining our present, and imagining our future. American films helped shape a global cultural language, connecting audiences across borders and different belief systems. And, just as our ancient ancestors shared stories to connect and thrive, we too share stories – retelling in our movies the mysterious experience of being alive. These Amazing Shadows shows us how movies are part of our history, part of our culture, and part of ourselves.

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THE WOMEN, 1939

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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