Joris Ivens

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Joris Ivens (18 November 1898, Nijmegen – 28 June 1989, Paris) was a Dutch documentary filmmaker and committed communist.


Early life and career

Born Georg Henri Anton Ivens[1] into a wealthy family, Ivens went to work in one of his father's photo supply shops and from there developed an interest in film. He completed his first film at 13; in college he studied economics with the goal of continuing his father's business, but an interest in class issues distracted him from that path. He met photographer Germaine Krull in Berlin in 1923, and entered into a marriage of convenience with her between 1927 and 1943 so that Krull could hold a Dutch passport and could have a "veneer of married respectability without sacrificing her autonomy."[2]

Originally his work focused on technique - some argue that it had that focus at the cost of relevance, especially in Rain (Regen, 1929), a 10-minute short filmed over 2 years which features impressive cinematography and a number of 'characters' but no information about them aside from what was visible, and in The Bridge (De Brug, 1928), which showed a frank admiration of engineering and also featured a number of "characters" but again did not give any information about them. Around this time he was involved in the creation of the Filmliga based in Amsterdam which drew foreign filmmakers to Holland such as Alberto Cavalcanti, René Clair, Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Dziga Vertov who also became his friends.

In 1929, Ivens went to the Soviet Union and, to his astonishment, was invited to direct a film on a topic of his own choosing which was the new industrial city of Magnitogorsk. Before commencing work, he returned to the Netherlands to make Industrial Symphony for Philips Electric which is considered to be a film of great technical beauty [3]. He returned to the Soviet Union to make the film about Magnitogorsk, Song of Heroes in 1931. It was a propaganda film about this new industrial city which was mainly built by forced labourers, who however were portrayed by Ivens as communist volunteers. Ivens later referred to these forced labourers as "weed".

With Henri Storck, Ivens made Misère au Borinage (Borinage, 1933) with, a moving and militant documentary on life in a coal mining region. In 1943, he also directed two Allied propaganda films for the National Film Board of Canada.[1]

U.S. and post-World War II career

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