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The Land

The Land(1942)

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Although the viewed film contained a 1941 copyright statement by Robert J. Flaherty and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the title was not included in the Catalog of U.S. Copyright entries. A September 1947 New York Times article stated that The Land was filmed over an area of 25,000 miles in the South, West and Southwest portions of the United States. The Variety review noted that the film, which the Agricultural Adjustment Administration of the Department of Agriculture had commissioned Flaherty to make in 1939, was already outdated by the time it was first shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in April 1942. Variety called the film "confused" in part because it was initially intended to promote the underdevelopment of American fields at a time when American agricultural needs were beginning to require the opposite to supply the war effort. According to the Variety review, the completed film was shelved for months by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration because it did not convey the proper message. Only after Flaherty re-edited The Land "with a concept entirely different from that with which he shot it" did the film have its first public showing. Although an October 1941 New York Times article on Flaherty states that the filmmaker was "summoned by [documentary filmmaker] Pare Lorentz and the then existing United States Film Service to make The Land," the extent of Lorentz's participation in the film has not been determined. Production on the picture began in the summer of 1939, and by the time it was ready for editing, Flaherty had shot 100,000 feet film. The article also quotes Flaherty as having said of the film, "the most amazing thing about it [was] that could be made at all. It shows that democracy can face itself in the mirror without flinching." The film, according to Flaherty, was begun without a preconceived story: "They gave me a camera and threw me out into the field to make a film about the land and the people that live by it." According to the Variety review, 16mm and 36mm prints of the film were made available by the United States Department of Agriculture, free of charge.