February 19, 2019
Awards

How One Oscar-Nominated Doc Made the Most of Its Archival Footage

A Standing Room Only event that will have you knocked to the floor.

Billed simply as a "Pro American" Rally, 20,000 anti-Semitic, Nazi enthusiasts descended upon New York's Madison Square Garden 80 years ago tomorrow (February 20th, 1939), to celebrate their world views and particular hatreds. Men, women, and children gathered for the event, all with the hope of having their troubled beliefs validated and vindicated. 

If you've paid any attention to the news lately (or watched Spike Lee's Oscar-nominated BlackKklansman this past summer), you might realize that nationalism is still very much a coded word. Just a few months after the Pro American Rally of 1939, the Nazi Army invaded Poland, kicking off World War II. What could "Pro American" rallies of the future (and present) prompt?

Marshall Curry's Oscar-nominated short documentary, A Night at the Garden, reflects on this evening from 1939 with amazing clarity, thanks in large part to archival footage of the event itself.

But context is key, and watching the film in 2019 presents an event that was foreshadowing of both a major war (WWII) and a cultural one (still ongoing to this day). What was normalized then—bigotry—is, by certain top politicians in power, still the soup du jour.

Curry slows down certain footage (a man in the crowd rushes the stage in an attempt to put an end to the proceedings) and denormalizes it. This should not be the "new normal" Curry's editing is informing us, and by using existing material to make a statement on the issues of today, A Night at the Garden is, in two ways, a film of its time: the time in which it was shot (1939) and the time in which it was presented (2019).

In and out in seven minutes flat, Curry's film is almost a literal sight to behold: would you believe this event took place if you didn't see it for yourself? Watch it below. 

Have you watched A Night at the Garden yet? Let us know in the comments below.      

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