The Library of Congress has chosen a documentary by a former Occidental College professor as one of 25 American films to permanently preserve in its National Film Registry as cultural, artistic and historical treasures.
"Fake Fruit Factory," a 1986 documentary by late Oxy professor of film emerita Chick Strand about the lives of young female Mexican factory workers, was selected by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. The documentary exemplifies Strand's experimental style that deftly blends documentary, avant-garde and ethnographic techniques. Using a moving camera at close range to create vivid images that verge on abstraction, Strand takes an expressive look at the everyday lives of the female workers, who create ornamental papier mache fruits and vegetables. The film's audio captures snatches of conversation to evoke, in her words, "the spirit of the people."
"I want to know really what it is like to be a breathing, talking, moving, emotional, relating individual in the society," wrote Strand, who died in 2009 at the age of 78.
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, the Librarian of Congress annually names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. The other 24 films Billington picked span the period 1912-1944 and range from Hollywood classics and blockbusters to animation and home movies. They include Forrest Gump (1994), Bambi (1942),Porgy and Bess (1959), and Charlie Chaplin's The Kid (1921). This year's selections bring the number of films in the registry to 575.
"These films are selected because of their enduring significance to American culture," Billington said in a written statement. "Our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams."
Strand joined the Occidental faculty in 1970 to create the College's first filmmaking program, and taught at Oxy for 25 years. She eschewed the Hollywood film industry and delved into ethnographic documentary and avant-garde filmmaking. A co-founder of the San Francisco experimental-film venue Canyon Cinema, she worked exclusively in 16-millimeter film and sometimes incorporated found audio and footage in her films to create a collage effect.
The result is a catalog of 18 films that document and explore the lives of Mexican and Venezuelan Indians (Anselmo), the loss of innocence (Guacamole), and sensuality and sexuality (Fever Dream and Soft Fiction), among other themes. Her work has been exhibited at the Cannes International Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian.