Survival of the Fittest

Though these films were meant to consider the moment, they are often concerned with issues that irascibly linger. Here contradictions between Man, nature, and social byproducts duke it out.

Ant City (Almanac Films, 1949). Recut from a captured German science film, Ant City abuts images of the social life of ants with surreally dissociated narration. The effort to describe ant life in anthropomorphic terms leaves us feeling that such attempts to "humanize" other species are bound to fail. (9:56 mins, B&W)

A Nation at Your Fingertips (Audio Productions for the Bell System, 1951). For many, freedom to communicate instantly over a wide area didn't begin with e-mail, but with the telephone. This film dramatizes the exciting impact direct long-distance dialing had on isolated families. (10:19 mins, B&W)

Freedom Highway (Jerry Fairbanks Productions for Greyhound Lines, 1956). A bus transports us on a mysterious journey through the landscape of American mythology, overlaid with roads, battles, and Manifest Destiny. Its passengers, who include Tommy Kirk, Angie Dickinson, and Tex Ritter, learn that the space we inhabit can't be separated from the events that occurred there. (34:45 mins, Color)

Perversion for Profit (Citizens for Decent Literature, Inc., 1964-65). Banker Charles Keating and several others founded CDL in the early 1960s, producing "film essays" as part of their effort to influence anti–pornography legislation. Perversion for Profit shows examples of everyday erotica, reaching new heights of prurience in its efforts to censor offending body parts. (29:23 mins, Color)

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