Strand Preserved

Nov 12, 2008

Groundbreaking modernist artist Paul Strand (1890–1976) might have been better known for his photography than his filmmaking, but the two films he directed are both extraordinary testaments to his brilliance. The first, his silent 1921 avant-garde masterpiece Manhatta, a luminous visual essay on New York City codirected with the equally renowned shutterbug Charles Sheeler, will be shown this week in a digitally restored print at the Museum of Modern Art, as part of its ongoing film series To Save and Project, an annual film preservation festival now in its sixth year.

And you can see a restored version of Strand’s second film, the popular-front docudrama Native Land, as part of our four-disc set Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, released last year. This striking rarity, codirected with Brooklyn-born artist Leo Hurwitz, with narration and songs by Robeson, was made in 1941 as a call to action for U.S. workers, and is a fascinating dispatch from a troubled time.