The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy

This exhibition begins on the 100th anniversary of the day World War I began in earnest, at a time when cinema, still in its infancy, offered an especially effective means of recording events. The movies have provided a great wealth of related material over the past century, far more than this series can encompass. It is difficult to structure this material, but for this series—which comprises some 50 programs—we have tried to break it down into “sub-genres”: prewar activities; espionage; the battlefields in the trenches, in the air, and on and beneath the sea; actualités; and the various homefronts before, during, and after. The August section of the program is predominately drawn from the early years, either during the war or in the succeeding decades. And although many of these films are familiar, there are also some rare gems. The program in September will concentrate (though not exclusively) on later, more contemporary films. One hopes that this series will supplement the vast array of literature on the subject, and will perhaps help us to better understand why, as Roger Cohen recently wrote in The New York Times, “The war haunts us still.” 

Organized by Charles Silver, Curator, with Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film. Special thanks to Cinematheque de Toulouse, Deutsche Kinemathek, Imperial War Museum, George Eastman House, The Library of Congress, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, New York University William K. Everson Collection, David Lugowski, and Cullen Gallagher.