Look to the Land (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #856 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This very unusual Encyclopedia Britannica film from the 50s deals with the widespread environmental problems that were starting to emerge in the US mid-century. This is unusual both for its time and for Encyclopedia Britannica, which usually steered clear of political issues. It’s narrated by a folksinger, who breaks into song during transitions. He tells us about how the land has changed in many ways since the country got started, and shows us examples of farmland that has deteriorated into unusable wasteland, due to erosion, poor farming practices, and cut-and-run logging. Then it starts to tell us the story of an African-American farm family in the South, which is again unusual for its time. The father had inherited his farm from his father and hoped to pass it along to his son, but that dream was shattered when a new dam flooded his land. He got a good price from the government for his place, but it forced him and his family to completely change their way of life. Unfortunately, the film is incomplete and cuts off at this point, so we don’t get to hear the end of the story. It’s too bad the entire film wasn’t preserved, because it has lots of historical value in being way ahead of its time both in terms of its environmental concerns and its willingness to portray African-Americans in a positive light.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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