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Filmography - Martin Scorsese’s Portraits of America: Democracy on Film: Home

A lesson plan developed by Martin Scorsese and nonprofit The Film Foundation (www.film-foundation.org). Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of March 2017.

Filmography - Martin Scorsese’s Portraits of America: Democracy on Film

Martin Scorsese’s Portraits of America: Democracy on Film

A lesson plan developed by Martin Scorsese and nonprofit The Film Foundation (www.film-foundation.org).
Module 1: The Immigrant Experience
Module 2: The American Laborer
Module 3: Civil Rights
Module 4: The American Woman
Module 5: Politicians and Demagogues
Module 6: Soldiers and Patriots
Module 7: The Press
Module 8: The Auteurs

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of March 2018.

Most streaming videos listed are available exclusively to AU students, staff and faculty after an online authentications.

Module 1: The Immigrant Experience
Introductory Lesson: From Penny Claptrap to Movie Palaces—the First Three Decades
Chapter 1
The Immigrant on The Chaplin Mutuals. 1917. d. Charlie Chaplin. 3 videodiscs (approx. 300 min.) Charlie is an immigrant who endures a challenging voyage and gets into trouble as soon as he arrives in America. DVD 8502 and Streaming video.
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Chapter 2
The Godfather, Part II. 1974. d. Francis Ford Coppola. 2 videodisc (200 min.) Michael Corleone, now leader of a Mafia "family" is in a struggle with Jewish mobster, Hyman Roth. Michael is also clashing with those closest to him, including wife and brother. The alternate plot features Michael’s father, Vito, who is seen as a young man coming to New York from Sicily and locking horns with the neighborhood crime boss. DVD 2542

Chapter 3
America, America. 1963. d. Elia Kazan. 1 videodisc (168 min.) This film is the loose adaptation of the real-life story of Elia Kazan’s uncle who grew up as part of the Greek minority in Turkey. He travels to Constantinople to escape persecution, but dreams of living in America. DVD 7756

Chapter 4
El Norte. 1983. d. Gregory Nava. 2 videodiscs (140 min.) Mayan Indian peasants are tired of being thought of as nothing more than manual laborers. They organize an effort to improve their lot in life, but are discovered by the Guatemalan army. After the army destroys their village and family, Enrique and Rosa, a teenage brother and sister, who barely escaped the massacre, decide they must flee to United States. After receiving clandestine help from friends and humorous advice from a veteran immigrant on strategies for traveling, they make their way by truck, bus and other means to Los Angeles, where they try to make a new life as young, uneducated, and illegal immigrants. DVD 10144

Chapter 5
The Namesake. 2006. d. Mira Nair. 1 videodisc (122 min.) The son of Indian immigrants born in America wants to fit in with fellow New Yorkers, but his family is unwilling to let go of their traditional ways. DVD 3499

 

Module 2: The American Laborer
Introductory Lesson: The Common Good
Chapter 1
Black Fury. 1935. d. Michael Curtiz. on order.

Chapter 2
Harlan County U.S.A. 1976. d. Barbara Kopple. 1 videodisc (ca. 104 min.) In 1973, when the Brookside coal miners voted for the United Mine Workers union, the Duke Power Company refused it. Barbara Kopple documented the struggle between the miners and the company, causing a big uproar. DVD 2032

Chapter 3
At the River I Stand. 1993. d. David Appleby, Allison Graham and Steven Ross. This documentary unravels the complex historical forces that turned a strike by Memphis sanitation workers into a national conflagration, ultimately leading to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Reconstructing two eventful months in Spring, 1968, the film brings into sharp relief issues that have only become more urgent with time: the connection between economic and civil rights, debates over strategies for change, and the fight for dignity for all working people. Stirring historical footage shows the community mobilizing behind the strikers, and retired sanitation workers recall their fear about going up against "the white power structure" when they struck for higher wages and union recognition. Streaming video
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Chapter 4
Salt of the Earth. 1954. d. Herbert J. Biberman. 1 videodisc (94 min.) Dramatization of a mine worker’s strike in New Mexico in the 1950s where the issue was one of equality between the Anglo and Mexican-American workers. Depicts the attempt of a New Mexican mining company to break the strike. The strike ultimately succeeds because the wives of the miners take over the picket line after their husbands are enjoined by the court from picketing. DVD 5560

Chapter 5
Norma Rae. 1979. d. Martin Ritt. 1 videodisc (118 min.) Norma Rae, a textile worker in a small Southern town, discovers that she has a social conscience when a labor organizer arrives at her mill to establish a union. DVD 440

 

Module 3: Civil Rights
Introductory Lesson: The Camera as Witness
Chapter 1
King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis. 1970. conceived & created by
Ely Landau. 2 videodiscs (181 min.) The life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama, and culminating with his assassination in Memphis in 1968. Including archival footage, this film is an indispensable primary resource of a pivotal moment in American and world history. Originally screened in theaters for only a single night in 1970. DVD 2801 and Streaming video
http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://american.kanopystreaming.com/node/114212

Chapter 2
Intruder in the Dust. 1949. d. Clarence Brown. 1 videodisc (87 min.) In a small Mississippi town, only a young boy and an old woman stand between an innocent black man and a lynch mob. DVD 8854

Chapter 3
The Times of Harvey Milk. 1984. d. Robert Epstein. 2 videodiscs (88 min.) Documents the life, career, and assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to public office in San Francisco. Milk was shot to death, along with mayor George Moscone, by city supervisor Dan White on Nov. 22, 1978; White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was paroled in 1985. Examines Milk’s life leading up to his assassination, his successful efforts to politically represent San Francisco’s gay community, and the city’s reaction to the assassinations through extensive news footage and personal recollections. DVD 1267

Chapter 4
Smoke Signals. 1998. d. Chris Eyre. 1 videodisc (89 min.) Story of the journey of two Coeur d’Alene Indian boys from Idaho to Arizona. Victor is the stoic, handsome son of an alcoholic father who has abandoned his family. Thomas is a gregarious, goofy young man orphaned as an infant by a fire which Victor’s father accidentally started while drunk. Thomas is a storyteller who makes every effort to connect with the people around him; Victor, in contrast, uses his quiet demeanor to gain strength and confidence. When Victor’s estranged father dies in Arizona the two young men embark on a journey to recover his ashes. Along the way the two learn a number of life lessons from each other and those around them. DVD 1657

 

Module 4: The American Woman
Introductory Lesson: Ways of Seeing Women
Chapter 1
Through a Woman’s Lens:
Suspense. 1913. d. Lois Weber. (10 min.) “A servant leaves a new mother with only a written letter of notice, placing her key under the doormat as she leaves. Her exit attracts the attention of a tramp to the house. The husband has previously phoned that he is working late, the wife decides not to ring back when she finds the note, but does ring back when she sees the tramp. Her husband listens horrified as she documents the break in, then the tramp cuts the line. The husband steals a car and is immediately pursued by the car's owner & the police, who nearly but not quite manage to jump into the stolen car during a high-speed chase. The husband manages to gain a lead over the police but then accidentally strikes a man smoking in the road, and checks that he is OK. Meanwhile the tramp is breaking into the room where the wife has locked herself and her baby, violently thrusting himself through the wood door, carrying a large knife.” – Wikipedia entry. Out of print but available on YouTube.
https://youtu.be/zfgiUvBaosg

Where Are My Children on Treasures III: social issues in American film, 1900-1934. Program 2, New women. 1916. d. Lois Weber. DVD 5439

Dance, Girl, Dance. 1940. d. Dorothy Arzner. 1 videodisc (89 min.) "Bubbles loves to dance. But she also likes to eat. Her friend Judy may choose to suffer for her art, but not Bubbles. She swaps her ballet shoes for a G-string...and turns patrons’ fantasies into dollars as burlesque sensation Tiger Lily White. Directed by Dorothy Arzner, classic Hollywood’s sole major female director." -- Container. DVD 5487

Chapter 2
Imitation of Life. 1934. d. John M. Stahl. 1 videodisc (236 min.) The story of two widows and their troubled daughters. In the search for success as an actress, Lora neglects her daughter. Lora’s black housekeeper’s daughter repudiates her mother by trying to pass for white. As the years pass, each of the four women realizes that she has been living an emotionally fruitless existence. Includes both the 1934 and 1959 releases. DVD 1061

Chapter 3
Woman of the Year. 1942. d. George Stevens. 2 videodiscs (114 min.) "George Stevens’ Woman of the Year, conceived to build on the smashing comeback Katherine Hepburn had made in The Philadelphia Story, marked the beginning of the personal and professional union between Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who would go on to make eight more films together. This tale of two newspaper reporters who wed and then discover that their careers aren’t so compatible forges a fresh and realistic vision of what marriage can be. The freewheeling but pinpoint-sharp screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin won an Academy Award, and Hepburn received a nomination for her performance. Woman of the Year is a dazzling, funny and rueful observation of what it takes for men and women to get along--both in the workplace and outside it"--Container. DVD 8511

Chapter 4
Alien. 1979. d. Ridley Scott. 2 videodiscs (116 min.) A mindless, savage, and merciless alien is attacking the crew of an intergalactic freighter and it must be stopped before they are all killed. DVD 885 and Streaming video.
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Chapter 5
The Age of Innocence. 1993. d. Martin Scorsese. 1 videodisc (ca. 133 min.) A ravishing romance about three wealthy New Yorkers caught in a tragic love triangle, the ironically-titled story chronicles the grandeur and hypocrisy of high society in the 1870’s. DVD 1371

 

Module 5: Politicians and Demagogues
Introductory Lesson: Checks and Balances
Chapter 1
Gabriel Over the White House. 1933. d. Gregory La Cava. 1 videodisc (86 min.) U.S. President Judson Hammond, a corrupt politician, survives an auto accident to miraculously become virtuous, proclaiming himself dictator, curing the Depression, subduing organized crime, and attaining world peace. DVD 13308

Chapter 2
A Lion is in the Streets. 1953. d. Raoul Walsh. on order.

Chapter 3
Advise and Consent. 1962. d. Otto Preminger. 1 videodisc (138 min.) "A Senate subcommittee meets to confirm the President’s controversial nominee for Secretary of State." DVD 1450

Chapter 4
A Face in the Crowd. 1957. d. Elia Kazan. 1 videodisc (126 min.) Larry Rhodes is a hobo with a powerful personality and a mean streak as wide as the Mississippi River. He is ’discovered’ by Marcia Jeffries, who christens him "Lonesome" Rhodes, and makes him the star of her morning radio show, "A Face in the Crowd." Listeners are enthralled by his down-home, folksy charm, and after developing a large following, Rhodes begins a journey to national fame and TV stardom. A powerful business tycoon realizes that he can use Rhodes’s popularity to change the course of a national election in his favor--provided that he can keep the star from self-destructing under the weight of his own megalomania, narcissism, and contempt for his audience. Marcia’s journey, by contrast, is a long and painful one. From a rather innocent young woman to betrayed loyal ally who recognizes the monster she has helped to create and knows she must destroy, she finally reaches her limit and rejects his emotional blackmail. DVD 7753

 

Module 6: Soldiers and Patriots
Introductory Lesson: Movies and Homefront Morale
Chapter 1
Sergeant York. 1941. d. Howard Hawks. 2 videodiscs (134 min.) Story of a boy drafted into the military who begins his career as a pacifist and then soon sees the justification for fighting. DVD 10210

Chapter 2
Private Snafu’s Private War—three Snafu Shorts from WWII. Available on-
The complete uncensored Private Snafu. 1943-1946. d. Chuck Jones. 1 videodisc (130 min.) Private Snafu cartoons released on newsreels, 1943-1946. DVD 13229

Chapter 3
Three Came Home. 1950. d. Jean Negulesco. on order.

Chapter 4
Glory. 1989. d. Edward Zwick. 1 videodiscs (124 min.) Based on the true story of the first black regiment to fight for the North in the Civil War. Robert Gould Shaw and Cabot Forbes are two idealistic young Bostonians that lead the regiment; Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins is the inspiration who unites the troops ; Pvt. Trip is a runaway slave who joins the regiment. DVD 1171

Chapter 5
Saving Private Ryan. 1998. d. Steven Spielberg. 2 videodiscs (169 min.) The story begins with World War II’s historic D-Day invasion of Normandy beach. Once the men move beyond the beach, Captain John Miller must take his men behind the German lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have already been killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders. Why are eight men risking their lives to save just one? Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage. DVD 1313

 

Module 7: The Press
Introductory Lesson: Degrees of Truth
Chapter 1
Meet John Doe. 1941. d. Frank Capra. 1 videodisc (122 min.) A genial homeless unemployed baseball pitcher is hoaxed into protesting against existing social evils as a newspaper circulation stunt. He pleas to the "little man" for brotherly love and democratic good will and John Doe clubs are formed. Because of his simple sincerity, he becomes a national hero, but he is shocked when he discovers that it’s all a plot by the owner of the paper, who plans to use the voting strength of the clubs to bludgeon his way to power. DVD 191 and Streaming video.
http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=103247&xtid=57132

Chapter 2
All the President’s Men. 1976. d. Alan J. Pakula. 2 videodiscs (138 min.) The true story of how Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered the White House involvement in the Watergate break in. DVD 1789

Chapter 3
Good Night, and Good Luck. 2005. d. George Clooney. 1 videodisc (93 min.) Takes place in the 1950’s America, during the early days of broadcast journalism. It chronicles the real-life conflict between television newsman Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. With a desire to report the facts and enlighten the public, Murrow, and his dedicated staff - headed by his producer Fred Friendly and Joe Wershba in the CBS newsroom - defy corporate and sponsorship pressures to examine the lies and scaremongering tactics perpetrated by McCarthy during his communist ’witch-hunts’. A very public feud develops when the Senator responds by accusing the anchor of being a communist. In this climate of fear and reprisal, the CBS crew carries on and their tenacity will prove historic and monumental. DVD 1870

Chapter 4
An Inconvenient Truth. 2006. d. Davis Guggenheim. 1 videodisc (69 min.) "[P]rovides a critique of an increasingly free-market driven education system, the undermining of teacher unions and overall faith in the idea that charter schools are just what the country needs. The film highlights the real life experiences of public school parents and educators and takes a holistic look at education reform"--www.imdb.com. DVD 2360

Chapter 5
Ace in the Hole. 1951. d. Billy Wilder. 1 videodisc (111 min.) Chuck Tatum, an amoral newspaper reporter caught in dead-end Albuquerque, happens upon the story of a lifetime-and will do anything to ensure he gets the scoop. DVD 2976

 

Module 8: The Auteurs
Introductory Lesson: Film as an Art Form
Chapter 1
Modern Times. 1936. d. Charlie Chaplin. 2 videodiscs (83 min.) A devastating satire on the effects of mass production on the lives of factory workers. Shows Charlie as a factory worker, jailbird, night watchman, and a singing waiter. Primarily a silent film with music and sound effects, but voices emanate from TV sets and radios. DVD 3795 and Streaming video.
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Chapter 2
The Grapes of Wrath. 1940. d. John Ford. 1 videodisc (129 min.) The migration of the Joad family to California from their dust-bowl farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. DVD 3486 and Streaming video.
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Chapter 3
Citizen Kane. 1941. d. Orson Welles. 2 videodiscs (119 min.) An all-powerful press magnate, Kane, dies in his fabulous castle Xanadu, his last word being "Rosebud", which leads a reporter to seek the meaning behind the word and find the meaning of Kane. Prominent publisher, William Randolph Hearst, saw the film as a thinly disguised version of his career and attempted to suppress it. DVD 434 and Streaming video.
http://digitalcampus.swankmp.net.proxyau.wrlc.org/american313771/watch?token=eba427055e048bbfb6d09a4c67ed3d55a1ba902b5891e4886b3b24234e2a080e

Chapter 4
An American in Paris. 1951. d. Vincente Minnelli. 1 videodisc (114 min.) Charming love story set to the melodies of Gershwin. Jerry Mulligan, an ex-G.I., has stayed in Paris to paint. He falls in love with a lonely French shop girl who is due to wed a successful entertainer; ultimately, the painter and his French beauty are happily united. The film is known for the seventeen-minute ballet sequence featuring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. DVD 273 and Streaming video.
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Chapter 5
The Aviator. 2004. d. Martin Scorsese. 2 videodiscs (ca. 170 min.) Follows the life of Howard Hughes as the twentysomething millionaire, having already made a fortune improving the design of oil-drilling bits, who comes to Hollywood with an interest in getting into the picture business. It doesn’t take long for Hughes to jump from producer to director of his first major film project, a World War I air epic. The film was a massive hit, and the eccentric inventor became a mogul in Hollywood, making Jean Harlow a star and enjoying a romance with Katharine Hepburn. But Hollywood’s old-boy network never fully accepted Hughes, and in time his passion for flying began to reclaim his attentions. In time he began designing new planes, setting air speed records, flying around the world, and risking his life testing aircraft. Hughes also found time to romance Ava Gardner and founded his own airline, Trans-World Airlines. As his ideas became bolder and more eccentric, he gained many powerful enemies. DVD 1451