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February 1993


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 24 Feb 1993 11:52:49 EST
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On Wed, 24 Feb 1993 01:33:02 -0500 Jon Nealon said:
>Cal,is changing people's awareness futile. Films cannot change the world
>but they can change people's awareness--isn't that a start?
>Jon Nealon, Ithaca College-Film
I suppose "Changing people's awareness" would be a good thing if it didn't
also serve as self-justification for not doing anything that is personally
inconvenient.  "I must be one of the good guys since I'm aware -- I read
the New York Times every day and sympathize with [insert calamity of the day].
A classic illustration of the futility of trying to change things with a
film otherwise unsupported by political action is David Loew's HARVEST OF
SHAME.  (Yeah, I know Murrow was in it, but he came in very late; the real
work was done by Loew.)  The film was premiered the day after Thanksgiving
in 1960; such scheduling was a shocker coming so close to the day when
American abundance is celebrated.
The film was shown originally on CBS; ten years later, NBC made a follow-up
film using foootage from HARVEST.  Guess what?  Nothing had changed.
Ten years after that Jack Willis made a film about migrants; you know the
answer to what has changed.
Recently there was a film (title and other provenance un-remembered) that
reached the same conclusion.  Migrant laborers are still as exploited as
they were in 1960, 1970, 1980.  One of the ironies that has struck many
people is that Belle Glade, the winter quarters, so to speak, of the migrants
in HARVEST OF SHAME is in the same county as West Palm Beach -- one of the
richest cities in America.  Does any of this make any difference?
So long as we all benefit from the migrant labor system and as long as
migrant laborers have no other constituency, things will not change.
I'm not usually in the business of prediction but I'll bet that ten
years from now, twenty years from now, our successors will be arguing
this point.  But nothing will have changed for the migrant laborers
except perhaps that they will have been thrown out of work by machines.
To end on a more upbeat note: My point is that political organization is
necessary; films can help, perhaps.  But change takes more than "awareness."
Cal Pryluck, Radio-Television-Film, Temple University, Philadelphia
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